Steps 3 & 4: AGREE, then DO

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(Last in a series on “How to LEAD Your Way Through Conflict”)

I interrupted this series yesterday so I could share some thoughts about the events of January 6. 

My goal was to summarize what I’ve learned in the past year about Conflict Transformation using the acronym LEAD, which stands for …

Listen 

Explore

Agree

Do. 

Let me repeat the disclaimer I made at the beginning of the series: This is not a substitute for a trained mediator if you’re dealing with a long-standing, intractable conflict (especially one with legal/financial ramifications).

Also, there are some cases where conflict resolution is NOT APPROPRIATE. If you’re being abused, you do not need to “Listen” to your abuser. You need to get out and get help.

If someone is robbing you, you don’t need to “Explore” the feelings behind their crime.

If someone is intent on hurting you, you don’t need to “Agree” with them that you deserve to be hurt.

And, I’m sad to say, there are some situations where there is nothing you can “Do” to get the other party to work with you. In those situations, you may just have to walk away. But if it comes to that, do it honorably (that’s another blog post).

Those things being said, I do believe that there are MILLIONS of interpersonal, organizational–and yes, even political–conflicts that can be transformed into something better if the parties are willing to do the hard work of peace building.

The work is not easy, or simple, but the basic principles are not as complicated as one might think.

It starts with Listening. After you’ve listened deeply, you Explore what’s really behind the conflict–and the options for moving forward.

Then you ask this question: What CAN we agree on?

Options for Agreeing:

1- You might agree to a COMPROMISE. Compromise is a word that some people detest, but I think it gets a bum rap. Sure, compromise is a bad thing if it means compromising your morals, your values, your spiritual commitments.

But if we’re talking about giving up things that are LESS IMPORTANT than the relationship that’s at stake,  then a compromise–an agreement based on mutual concessions–can be a very good solution.

2- You might AGREE TO DISAGREE–a phrase I love because it was coined by John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement.

(And actually, I like the way Stephen Covey rephrased it even better: “Agree to disagree agreeably.”)

The idea here is not to say, “We’ll never agree, so let’s keep fighting.” The idea is to agree on how you are going to live with the disagreement in a way that is healthy, honorable, and non-destructive.

That might mean saying, “We’re not going to talk about this anymore. It only leads to arguments that harm our relationship.”

It might mean saying, “Let’s come back to this in a month and see if anything has changed.”

It might even mean saying, “This disagreement means that we can not go forward together. Let’s craft a separation agreement that is fair to all parties involved.” (I highly recommend bringing in a mediator at this point.)

3- The best option for agreement, however, is CO-CREATION. That means you create something new that satisfies the desires and meets the needs of all parties. You dream–together–of a better future, and you find ways to remove the obstacles that keep you from getting there.

Co-creation can’t always happen. But it’s wonderful when it does.

(Click here to read a recent article from Forbes that describes this process in the context of a workplace.)

Doing: Where the Rubber Meets the Road

The final step in this process is to DO whatever it is you agreed on.

If you agreed to stop talking about it, then STOP TALKING ABOUT IT.

If you agreed to give something up (to make concessions) then GIVE IT UP. Now.

If you agreed to talk to someone, or change a behavior, or perform an action, then DO IT without hesitation or delay.

You see, doing what you said you would do is one of the most important ways to build TRUST.

And trust is the bedrock upon which healthy relationships are built.

******

OK, that’s enough for now. If you’ve read this far, THANK YOU. If you need help transforming a conflict, CALL ME (or use the form below).

Most of all, I pray that you will value PEACE. Not false peace, not coerced peace, not peace-through-avoidance, but true, healthy, Christ-centered peace–which I believe we can have, if we’re willing to work for it.