Saturday, April 13, 2013

Negotiating Conflict

Probably one of the hardest things to do, for so many reasons.

First, there's always intent vs. action and how wildly we can feel certain that other people take actions with the strong intent to produce the precise reaction we felt.  This is reasoning backward at its finest.  We feel an emotion, then ascribe a causal narrative to preceding events based on it, and then we at times viciously defend our interpretation of the story.

My rejoinder: what else can we possibly do?

The response: understand all sides as thoroughly as possible.

But that takes time, and conflicts often flair unexpectedly, not yielding to concise units of analysis, when intuition accounts of meat of the matter.

Second, there's the correct interpretation problem.  Are you as the receiver responding to a statement that you just heard, or the one you wanted to hear, or the one that was in between, or the one that simply wasn't accurate?  When conflict happens, shared understand by definition fails, and all interpretations seem possible.  People can be malicious.  When things are good, we give the benefit of the doubt; when bad, we doubt everything.  And doubting everything means all statements can be construed as purposeful and basically evil.  Even (or especially) omissions can be seen this way.  If you didn't, for example, say hello, this may be obvious evidence of your standing.  In short, signaling gets all screwy.

Third, there's the problem of amnesia and withdrawal.  Once a conflict happens and the parties have been separated, they tend to reinforce their view and ignore all other views over time, even when they feel really bad about a situation.  This is especially weird to me.  If you feel bad, shouldn't it be the case that you find the person you had a conflict with and resolve the conflict, even if it means taking a hit to the old pride?

Fourth problem: Ego.  Admitting wrongness is basically inhuman without public or perceived public shaming.  I don't mean shaming on the news, but damaging social circle perceptions are enough.

Fifth problem: it just hurts.  Damnit.  It just hurts, and who wants to show their wounds to the open world, ever?

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