How to get rid of leftover tension from a conflict

Leftover Emotion from Conflict

“Conflict, whether we like it or not, involves another. And so, by definition, conflict involves a partnership – a good partnership or a bad partnership is up to you. It is a relationship that begs for collaboration.”
– David Baum, Ph.D. and Jim Hassinger

Lingering effects of conflict

Conflict. It can add tension to a meeting or throw a spoke in the progress toward a milestone.  Even after a conflict is resolved, leftover emotion can interfere with your ability to see a member of your team clearly, affecting your judgment when listening to their ideas and concerns.

There is plenty of advice on how to address conflict, but how do you handle the feelings that you may have toward the other party when the current issue is resolved?

A Change in Focus

As Baum and Hassinger write in The Randori Principles, some Native American tribes had a conflict management process that they called “Kill the Enemy.” If they had a conflict with an individual or a group, they would meet with others who knew them and talk about them. So far, so good – this is what human beings do.

The difference was in the focus.

The Native Americans met to…
…name all the characteristics they liked or admired about them.
…speak on the similarities they had with the enemy.
…speak on the ways the enemy was liked by others.

Eventually, they would find it difficult to have ill will toward the enemy. If they couldn’t think of anything else nice to say, they would keep the conversation going until their feelings changed.

The authors write that killing the enemy meant “killing off the feelings that stood in the way of a peaceful solution. As a strategy, it’s a powerful technique for resolving outer conflicts by focusing on the internal ones caused by the tension.”

Changing Your Half of the Partnership

Now I’m not saying you need to sit down with a group of folks from your project and hold a “kill the enemy” meeting.

You could hold an internal “kill the enemy” meeting:
…Ask others for positive feedback about the person
…Think of things that you like or admire about the person
…Look for things they do well.
Stay with it until your feelings change.

While it may not change the situation immediately, it will affect your half of the relationship.  Rather than being driven by any leftover tension in the relationship, you will have a new place to start from when dealing with new issues.

When deadlines are tight and everyone’s plate is overloaded, I have found this helpful in staying clear-headed and calm. What techniques have you used to diffuse tension after issues have been resolved? Leave a comment or send me a tweet, my id is jgodfrey.


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