Give It Time

Conflict can happen when two people don’t see things the same way and can’t come to an agreement. They aren’t on the same page. There are lots of things (sometimes good and helpful things!) that we can do to try to get onto that same page. We can listen carefully to their side of things (“Tell me more about how dogs are better than cats, I’d like to listen…”). We can ask clarifying questions and try to understand their viewpoint (“So when you say that you hate cats can you explain why?”). We can make suggestions of alternate solutions (I hear you saying that you don’t ever want to get a cat, but could we talk about cat-sitting sometimes?). Sometimes these work to move us forward to greater understanding and compromise. Sometimes they don’t.

One thing we often don’t do in conflict? Give it time. We want the other person to see it our way, right away. We want a solution right there and then in that conversation. But, consider that when you bring up an important issue with someone it’s probably because you’ve been thinking about it for a long time. You’ve probably considered it from many angles. You’ve probably thought about the best ways to discuss it, making arguments and rebuttals to yourself in your head. You may have even already consulted a trusted friend or family member to get their opinion on the issue. By comparison the other person may have only just heard about this issue the moment you brought it up. They’ve had no time to consider it the way you have. It’s not fair to expect them to catch up to where you are within moments, or even within a few hours or days.

In my experiences in mediation I see that when people are pushed too quickly about something that their responses are often negative and more likely to be entrenched in one opinion. They are more likely to be disagreeable and contrary in an effort to deflect the thing that they’ve been given no time to think about. I have seen people raging, spitting mad about something and vowing that they will never change their mind, but when we leave the topic alone and revisit it 2 weeks later they’re reasonable, rational, and conciliatory. They’ve had the time to consider things and craft a well thought out response, rather than a knee-jerk reaction.

So the next time you’re in conflict give the person some time and see what difference that might make when you return to the issue.

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