Peacemakers vs Peacekeeping: Dealing with Conflict

Do you cringe at the thought of conflict? Do you often go to great lengths to avoid conflict at all costs? Do you tend to appease when you probably should confront? You may be a peacekeeper.

There is a difference between the peacemaker and the peacekeeper. Peacekeepers will go to great lengths to avoid or appease bullies and the chronically grumpy. They will rationalize the unhealthy behavior of an individual to maintain a counterfeit peace in the community. This peace is no peace at all! Truth be told; those involved live on egg shells trying not to poke the bear, even when their behavior is hurtful and destructive. This way of dealing with conflict is unhealthy!

Peacemakers, not content to be intimidated by a potential conflict, will wade into conflict to attempt to resolve differences, get thoughts and feelings into the open, work for compromise and reconciliation and then move on! The peacemakers are not content to merely pretend conflict isn't happening. Peacemakers understand that when conflict is addressed in healthy ways, it leads to deeper relationships and understanding. It is also instrumental for greater innovation and creativity in relationships, teams, and communities.

For many of us, we have been taught that conflict is a sign of an unhealthy relationship. However, conflict is a reality in every human relationship; marriage, family, the workplace. The way we deal with conflict has more to say about how healthy the relationship/community is than the conflict itself. Dealing with conflict in healthy ways is freeing, and empowering. Dealing with conflict in healthy ways also helps by bringing the emotions, perceptions, fears, egos, misunderstandings and offense into the light so it can be dealt with instead of simmering under the surface of tense relationships and interaction.

Steps to Healthy Conflict:

  • Identify and Address the Conflict - Pretending, avoiding or tiptoeing around a problem to avoid conflict will only create a toxic environment and greatly diminish life, innovation, creativity, work flow and team work. What’s the issue? A task issue?  A personality issue? A mistake / misunderstanding?
  • Emotions are natural but in your Anger don't sin - Look, we are wired to have emotions.  Even strong emotions can be completely healthy but sometimes the way we express those emotions can be unhelpful.   In healthy relationships, the goal is not to hurt the other but to solve a problem and overcome an issue, and carry on in relationship for profitability, success, common mission, healthy marriage, etc.  To this end, watch for emotional triggers and resolve to stay calm.
  • A Mediator may help us translate and communicate - Sometimes a third party can help us navigate conflict.  A good mediator can help us re-focus on larger common goals, help us address the specific issues, “fight fair” and help us leverage the conflict into healthy outcomes.
  • Being right or achieving the goal? - We can be right all day long but be dead-right!  We need to understand that healthy conflict is not possible when we feel we have to be right at all costs.  This small, selfish position is more concerned with how we feel or view ourselves over the health of a relationship, the success of a task or mission or the well-being of the team.
  • View Conflict as an Opportunity -  When conflict is handled in healthy ways it can become a powerful catalyst for change!
    • On the personal side, it can help each party identify issues in themselves that may need some work.  This makes us healthier.
    • Relationships that practice healthy conflict resolution tend to be stronger, more rewarding and fruitful relationships.
    • Conflict around tasks can help us achieve our common goal in the best way possible.  Wrestling with different perspectives can help us see our own point of view under scrutiny.  It also happens that a third way may become known in the midst of conflict.  It is very common for healthy conflict to produce new insights and creative solutions.

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