It is not easy to fully understand someone.  People are not telepathic.  A colleague accused another colleague of sabotaging his work because on many occasions, it seems like actions that were taken somehow caused trouble.  The end of the story was that there was no sabotage involved, and we were able to convince the accuser of that.  Finally, the colleagues shook hands, and the problem was at least for the moment resolved.

In any heated confrontation, the main idea is to reduce the intensity of the tensed situation.

Phase 1: Pause the situation. 

This is not the same as trying to explain to the two sides to completely stop their upset right the way.  Actually, it is often counterproductive to target the endgame too quickly.  The two individuals are not going to make a 180 and go from trying to tear each other’s throats out to hugging it out in a matter of minutes.  Trying to make that happen often turns both sides against you.  At this stage, it’s best to just separate them.

Simply interrupt the situation, and be the culprit of giving them an excuse to stop.  Since the conflict has already started between these two individuals, the ego of showing “I am correct” usually takes over. Therefore, at this moment, backing down voluntarily means to both sides that they are admitting the other person correct.  But if you are stepping in and separating them, this gives both of them an excuse to stop the fight temporarily, because they can tell other people, “hey, I was going to keep going after him.  Only because he stopped me by standing in the middle, I couldn’t keep going.”

Phase 2: Connect to each of them separately.  

To help to resolve the conflict, you need to understand the problem first.  Maybe it is “He ate my candy.”   Maybe it is “He backstabbed me in front of the boss.”  Maybe it is “He cheated on the exam,” but really it is that he is just jealous.  Whatever it is, you won’t be able to find out if the individuals don’t talk to you.

To connect to them, you need to make them believe that talking to you will help the situation.  In my story above, I convinced a group of people that there is a possibility that the accuser may have merit, so as to initiate an investigation.  I was dead wrong, but by keeping an open mind, we were able to connect to the accuser, and then subsequently convinced him that there was no foul play.

Phase 3: Gather the information. 

First-hand information is always good.  Each side can give his/her interpretation of what happened, based on his/her point of view.  This type of information is usually very subjective. Therefore, this is going to involve a lot of detective works.  In most cases, you cannot find out what the complete story is going to be with only this type of information source.  But this helps us understand how each side interprets the situation and what their personality traits are.

Besides that, it also lets us figure out what they are now looking for.  The combatants are either looking for some action that they want the counterpart to take, or a third party to get involved to resolve the situation in their favour.  Sometimes, they actually only want to sound off to someone, and they are already okay.  At this stage, if the two combatants are no longer in mutual disagreement, everything becomes fine, at least for now.

However, this is usually not the case.  A says “he stole my muffin”, while B says “he dropped it and threw it away and now is just finding someone to blame”.  Now what?

Phase 4: Fuse the connection.

You have connected to A, and you have connected to B.  Now it’s time to connect A & B through you.

Suppose you know who’s wrong.  That’s easy.  Justice is always the way to go.  If B stole the muffin, make sure he knows you’ve figured it out.  Obviously, A would appreciate.  B may not be happy for the moment, but keeping him in line is definitely better for his own good.

The hard part comes when you don’t know who is wrong.  Explain to the two of them that this time, you cannot tell the truth, yet emphasize that you will be watching the two of them and will be able to figure out the next time if something similar happens.

The major point is to make sure the good guy understands that it’s because even after trying your best, that you are still incapable of figuring out the truth, but you assure him that although you cannot truly resolve the situation today, you are putting in your best effort to ensure that you will be able to figure it out on future occasions.  Conversely, you are also letting the bad guy know that you will watch more closely from now on, so he won’t be able to get away with it the next time.


With love,

Cecilia Or

Always Remember Why Inc.

Always Remember W.H.Y.

Be Well, Be Happy, Be You