Conflict resolution can be a solo act

“Conflict resolution” is generally understood as a joint exercise, something that involves the person or persons we’re in conflict with. When we hear the phrase, we’re likely to imagine it as some kind of conversation or negotiation with another person. That would not be inaccurate. But it would be incomplete.

Person meditating peacefully at a lake

What happens when the negotiation you most need to have is with yourself? What happens when the thing you most need to understand, address, and move on from is something only you yourself have the key to unlock? I’ve discovered that many conflicts, small and large, do not require conversation with another person to address properly. Neither do they require months of counseling. For many of them, the only conversation you need to have is with yourself — provided you know the right conflict resolution conversation to have.

It is a good thing to be able to problem-solve collaboratively and there are many good books on the subject, even some that help you navigate a conflict jointly despite the other person being a somewhat unwilling negotiation partner. You should read those books. If you do what they tell you, they’ll help you have a better life and probably have a positive effect on your career advancement.

But sometimes, you can do those things and joint resolution of the conflict remains as elusive as a pickpocket in Times Square on New Year’s Eve. Conflict is a slippery sucker, filled with the complexities of human emotion, psyche, and behavior, ever unpredictable. Great negotiation, great conflict resolution, even great mediation cannot resolve all conflicts you experience with others in your life. When that happens, you’re stuck unless you have another way out.

Add a dollop of blame to the problem and you can get pretty stuck for a long time. When you make the resolution of a conflict the job of the other person because, dammit, they started it, it’s their fault, they blew it, they did something bad to you, they don’t take enough responsibility, they’re selfish or mean (you’re getting the idea here, right?)…you hand a lot of your power to them. Why are you doing that?

I want you to take your power back and do what you need to have a good and happy life, perhaps even with the person who’s most frustrating you at the moment. I want you to be able to get your peace of mind back without relying on the other person to give it to you.

That’s why I’ve been writing my latest book, The Conflict Pivot.