A real life learning on conflict management. Little kids, through their simplicity and honesty, can give us important lessons to help us solve our disagreements.
‘Child is the father of man’ – This beautiful proverb by William Wordsworth has a deep meaning. If you have an open heart and an observing eye, you can learn life’s biggest lessons from kids through their simple and innocent acts. I got an important learning on conflict management from my two daughters.
We are social beings, interacting with each other all the time; whether it’s a project at work, an upcoming start up, a festival, a family function or key decisions to be made. Every time, we connect with each other, seek opinions and share our thoughts. So, it’s normal to have disagreements or differences. Usually, we avoid discussing our differences. This baggage not only causes suppressions but can also lead us to having wrong notions about each other. Instead of living with bitter memories, it is sometimes better to take a step to solve them.
Coming back to my 2 little teachers; here’s what happened:
Their point of conflict – a ‘Toy Ring’ – Yes, even a small, brightly colored and cutely designed plastic can create conflicts. Well, not the ring as such, but too much importance given to it. Mostly, the root of conflict is not the object/situation, but the perceived value of that object/situation in our eyes.
At first, arguing, snatching and crying started. The elder one reached out to me and complained. I said, “I will not get involved, this time you figure out a solution. Just remember, there are two rules to be kept in mind: No shouting and No use of physical force.”
They quietly sat down on the sofa and a discussion started. Both of them shared their anguish and that their respective behaviour had hurt the other.
Now, that’s a big first step, it is important to free ourselves from inner baggage. We tend to judge others very quickly and feel that they are doing things deliberately. As a starting point we need to give the benefit of trust to each other. Why would anyone want to make your life difficult for no reason? For all you know, he might not be even aware that his action or words have affected you so much. Don’t carry any baggage, have trust and take the first step to initiate a discussion.
My elder daughter started “I brought this ring for me, it is my favourite, you know it. It got lost amongst other toys some time back and I kept searching for it. Can you please let me have it now?”. The younger one replied, “It got lost and you were ok without it then. But now I found it and I love it too. Since I found it, can you please let me have it?” They were now witnessing a crisis situation here. Both of them were right in their own view. A middle ground had to be sought.
As a second step, both the conflicting parties should share their viewpoint and try to arrive at a mutually acceptable common ground. Both need to have an intent to solve the problem instead of clinging on to their respective egos. True solution means having to sacrifice a bit for the benefit of both, a win at the cost of other’s loss is not right. True solution can only be obtained when we are ready to let go.
After crucial minutes of intense discussions both were still not able to arrive at a solution. Wisely enough, they called in for my help. This time I stepped in.
When both the parties are not able to arrive at a mutual solution then its better to involve a third party. Someone who is neutral, unbiased, has no vested interest, is well respected and trusted by both. An observer’s view brings in a different way of looking at the issue. They can be like a mirror, in a detached way. Involving a trusted third party can sometimes bring an unbiased perspective.
I said “Ok, since we have only one ring, we need to learn to share it. There’s no other way. One of you can play with it till lunch time and then hand it over to the other from lunch to dinner time.” Though the elder one readily agreed but the younger one showed some resistance.
If the third party is not able to influence a decision, then it is prudent to leave it for sometime. Take a break! Take out time to reflect, introspect and weigh its importance in an honest manner. Tell each other “let us give each other some time to ponder. Let us not argue about it for sometime and instead explore possibilities.” That does not mean that you start bad mouthing each other or start brewing negative feelings towards each other. It’s not worth spoiling a fruitful relationship. Maybe your pragmatism can win hearts and create better situations for you in future. Differences should be respected. Don’t be clingy to your own thoughts.
It is important to assess your level of attachment with the issue vis-à-vis its real value. Every small thing cannot become a matter of life and death. Extremist attitude heightens our emotional rigidity and lowers the possibility of having a solution. There is a phrase called ‘My way or the highway’. The beauty is, that we have been bestowed by a right to ‘freedom of choice’. But, then we should be prepared for the consequences we might face because of our choices.
Finally, my younger one agreed and both of them gave each other a chance. It should be known, however, that exactly 15 minutes later, I saw the toy ring lying on the floor while they were busy playing with other toys. Sometimes in the heat of the moment we forget the beautiful memories we create while building relationships.
Life is a beautiful gift, not sure how much space would you want to give to conflicts. So, take a step now and rekindle the connection with your friend and resolve them.
I picked up the ring, my wife noticed it and we smiled. While my daughters were playing, I slid that ring in my pocket. My lovely teachers were busy creating happy memories and I became the Lord of a Ring!
– Darpan Jha
This disclaimer informs readers that the views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the text belong solely to the writer, and not necessarily to any organization, committee or other group or individual.