Recently we had some building work done on our family home. During the work accidental damage was caused by an unknown ‘somebody' on site. The main contractor immediately took a confrontational position and appeared reluctant to accept responsibility for the damage.
Of course, I wanted the damage repaired and the other party wished to avoid liability- a perfect setting for dispute, and a classic dilemma. ‘If I give in I will feel I have been treated unfairly and left with a problem; if I push too hard there is real potential for heated conflict.'
Both situations seemed unfair and unproductive and raised the concern: ‘is this the end of a good working relationship?' So what were my choices?
In aikido we learn that conflict has the potential to destroy but also to create. Of course every conflict situation is different but one thing holds true. Both perspectives contain ‘energy'.
Whether physical or verbal, in a dispute the other person invests energy comprising of a mixture of their beliefs, their self-image, drivers, fears and needs. They bring a lot to the table.
In the dojo we learn quickly that: ‘if I give in, I get hurt; and if I fight, somebody gets hurt, often both of us'. So what do we do? The answer is to choose to be involved in the process without buying directly into the conflict. We learn with training not to block an attack but to blend with it and add to the energy of the process to create new outcomes.
So how does this work in our day-to-day lives?
When a dispute arises, make an active choice to be part of the outcome without buying into the emotion of the situation. Be open, honest and true to yourself. Accept their viewpoint is different to yours and consider the possible mixture of factors that drive their perspective as well as the factors behind your own. Look for ways that you can help them meet their needs while having your own concerns addressed.
The answer may not be straightforward or even the one you expected, but by actively entering into a situation with a broader concept of the ‘energies' involved you have a much better chance of a positive, productive outcome.
So what was my outcome?
I have a new windowsill and more importantly, a productive ongoing relationship with my builder. He has a happy customer and improved brand reputation.Oh, and a nice bottle of rum on the way...