12 May By Doing This You Will Avoid Many Conflicts
Conflict is dreaded by most people, but we find ourselves in conflict more often than necessary. The reason for this is that the source of conflict is not the other person, it is within us. Yes, “I” may be the problem! Before you reject this hypothesis and blame other people for why it is so difficult to work with them, I ask you to do some reflection about how you see the world.
We all have values and preferences that we chose for ourselves. Most of these choices are unconscious but are very real. Because we are unaware of these values, we fail to realize how they shape our relationships and cause conflict with others. I am not saying our values and preferences are wrong or evil. What I am trying to point out is that having values and preferences can lead to diminishing the values and preferences of others. Our tendency is to think of other people’s values and preferences (what they believe is right) as wrong and even evil – at least problematic.
For the most part, I am not talking about moral issues. There are absolutes as iterated by the ten commandments. There is right and wrong. But what I am talking about is personality as reflected in behaviors that could be labeled “ridiculous”, “stupid”, “illogical”, “unbelievable” and “uncaring”. When our values and preferences are stomped on by others or someone is trying to convince us to do something that is antithetical to what we believe we should do, we go into conflict. Or we double down on our values and invite the other person to go into conflict.
There is another way. There is a way out. But it requires relational intelligence. Before we jump into the solution, it would be good if we take a deeper dive into the realities of these differences. This blog post is intended to simply introduce the concept of conflicting preferences and how they lead to conflict. I will be posting more specifically about how different personalities experience this internal conflict and how we can escape the trap in our own selves.
Let me give some examples that you might identify with so we can put some flesh on the bones. A team of people are working on a task. Let’s say they are tasked with establishing a school in the inner city for students who don’t have access to good education. The entire team has the same goal. They are in complete agreement with the goal and volunteered to work together. However, it isn’t long before the team is completely conflicted and team members are beginning to withdraw and little is getting done. People who think similarly start factions because they have common solutions and preferences on how to proceed. One person in the group is ostracized from all the others because they continually push back on other people’s ideas. They can’t understand how people can be so disorganized in their thoughts and be so random in their decisions. Another believes that nothing is getting done because this one person keeps blocking the best ideas and slowing everything down. Still others are completely put off by the uncaring way things are spoken of when they meet. The trust of the group begins to tumble as they each question the motives of the others.
I have worked with countless groups who find themselves in this kind of conflict. They desperately want to have peace and accomplish a goal they agree upon but working together seems impossible. There is a common thread of conflict that lives in each of these groups/teams. Each person on the team has values and preferences that are not fully expressed or understood by themselves or the others on the team. Unconsciously, they then devalue the other team members and may even accuse them of being dysfunctional or even unspiritual. The problem and solution lie within themselves, but they are not aware of it.
Corestrengths teaching about Relational Intelligence has as one of its foundational premises that “filters influence perceptions”. A filter can be illustrated by a person wearing a colored lens. If I wear glasses with red lenses, then I will see the world as red. Red lenses color our world and influence how we see others and assess their behaviors. This is true of all the different colors of lenses (blue, green, HUB, red/blue, blue/green, and red/green). Let me illustrate the red lens and its impact on how they might interact with a green person. Green, or people who are highly focused on process and doing things the right way are extremely detailed and analytical in their approach to thing. The red lens is focused on performance and accomplishment. They want to get things done quickly and often move without a lot of analysis. Getting into motion is more important that getting everything just right. They have learned that this works for them most often. When a green lens person encounters a red person, they perceive them as foolish, illogical, and impulsive. They might accuse the red lens person of not thinking or failing to follow the right path. The red lensed perspective of the green person might accuse them of being nit-picky, argumentative, and petty. They may accuse them of being difficult and stubborn or even trying to block them from being successful.
We all wear colored lenses, and they influence our perceptions of others. We tend to judge other people by the color of our lenses. This often will be received by the other person as an attack on their being and result in conflict. Perceptions are a key ingredient in the conflict cake. We want others to agree with us about what is most important to us and when we see it differently. We perceive others as wrong and troublemakers.
You have the ability within you to address the problem of perceptions in the formation of conflict. Adjusting your filter to better understand yourself and others and how to communicate with respect and integrity will help you avoid countless conflicts.
- Recognize your own lens and how it influences your perception of others. The first step to minimize the impact of perceptions is to thoroughly understand your own lens. Lenses are largely unconscious impulses on how we see the world. Bringing them to conscious focus will enable you to understand the world can be seen in different ways. Your perspective is valuable, but it is not the only perspective.
- Understand the lens of others and how your response to them can be seen as an attack on their being. It is likely that we have been assigning motives to the behaviors of others that is not accurate or helpful in our relationships. Our lens colors our perceptions, so we need to see things with their lens. How might they experience us? How might this be problematic for them based on what is most important for them?
- Adjust your filter. Adjusting your filter means simply to change your perception and not be stuck only seeing things through your own filter/lens. Take off your “red” glasses and wear “green” glasses for a moment.
- Communicate in the right style. Once you have adjusted your filter you will need to communicate in such a way that addresses the lens of the other person. This takes some skill and practice. Our tendency is to revert to our own values and style. For instance, a blue lens is highly sensitive to relational issues so when communicating to a blue lens person, you will not want to be direct in your speech and you will want to be very careful about not speaking poorly about other people. We all have preferred communication patterns, but we must learn to make an adjustment if we desire to hurdle the conflict obstacles.
In the next several blog posts, I will unpack the primary lens of people and how they can be understood and how you may grow in your ability to adjust your perspective. I am passionate about seeing marriages, teams, and communities work together in harmony and in appreciation of the diversity of people God has placed in our paths. I trust these posts will be useful in your circumstances and you will experience great joy in serving together.