Let’s rule out matters of life and security before proceeding: If your life is in imminent danger, call 911 now – Do Not Wait!.
Many people have experienced, or will experience conflict in business or personal relationships. Sometimes these escalate to a crisis moment that is difficult or impossible to resolve without outside intervention. The crisis moment may have been triggered by a singular major event or the slow “drip-drip-drip” of many chronic irritations. In either case, a person’s security, identity and emotional stability is thrown into a whirlwind, taking the injured relationship to the slippery edge of the proverbial cliff. What the individuals involved do next will become a pivotal moment for all involved.
Let’s start with the obvious. Do people or organizations in conflict readily collaborate with one another in a manner that results in peaceful agreement? If life were only that easy. Moving on…
People in severe conflict may flat-out oppose outside help. People turn to sympathetic extended family, friends, colleagues, etc. who, despite their best intentions may unwittingly sabotage conflict resolution efforts or even exacerbate the conflict. We’ve all heard of relationships where one party in the crisis demands outside intervention while the other party digs their heels in as though they were asked to volunteer for a quadruple root canal? Who is right? Maybe both, or neither, or one of them depending on the proposed solution.
Asking for help takes courage and there are many factors that inform a person’s readiness to do so. These may include, perceived efficacy of the proposed solution, past experience, individual expectations, fear, anger, mental health and economics, just to name a few. Nevertheless, reaching out for help is something we all must do at various moments of our lives. Doctors seek help, lawyers seek help, and therapists seek help. But when we encounter the wrong help, disaster can ensue. Let’s look at a couple of the potential hazards that await those who muster up the courage to seek outside help.
The incompetent and unsafe third party.
Possessing credentials doesn’t in and of itself make one competent. If that were the case, no lawyers would be disbarred, no faith-leaders would be fired for their conduct, and no doctors would be sued for malpractice and no patient would ever seek a second opinion. Assuming the party you turn to possesses the necessary credentials for the help you seek, ask yourself if they’re equally safe for both parties and competent to handle your particular crisis. Will that third party remain impartial and neutral toward the issues being discussed and the parties involved? Or will they draw conclusions, make unwanted or premature recommendations, or pick sides in the dispute? These questions apply not only to those seeking help but to the mediator or counselor who is providing services. Ask them if professional ethical standards require them to recuse themselves from providing services if they are perceived to advocate for one party over the other. I coach my clients to listen to that inner voice and when they have concerns, voice them. Ask questions. Don’t just go along because there are large certificates hanging on the wall behind the provider.
The busy third party.
Individuals in a crisis, generally require help now. Not next week, Thursday at 4:00 pm, until 4:50 pm! Being placed in a scheduling queue may work for the third party but does this work for the parties in a crisis? Crises develop over time and time will be necessary to achieve reconciliation. It would be a disservice to a client to bring them into the office, open old wounds and then send them home with a similarly scheduled appointment the next week. This often occurs to people who are referred for counseling services. I recommend they seek out alternative service providers who can perform the triage that their particular case requires. The last thing you need now is to risk making things worse!
The tough smart lawyer
If it were you, I’d ask you this – are you absolutely sure that you need your friend’s recommendation for their tough smart lawyer who is “guaranteed” to help you? Reacting out of desperation may very well begin a litigious cycle that resembles all-out-war, right after the other party in your conflict runs out and lawyers up too. When this occurs, it does not take long before parties have spent their children’s college funds and reduced their existence to paycheck-to-mouth living. In this mode, parties destroy each other with self-oriented positional thinking, accusations and endless drama. But did it have to end that way?
What if you found another approach?
There is always something worth salvaging from a relationship even if parties wish to part ways; things like respect, a sound reputation, a secure professional and personal future, health and peace-of-mind. What is the value of peace-of-mind? This is what I call being in congruity with yourself and others. That is, making the smile on the outside match the joy that is inside. Is there anything more important than this kind of contentment in life?
How do people in a conflict-crises protect themselves from disastrous outcomes and who should you trust when it’s you who is in crisis? Let’s tell the truth here. There are no simple answers. I’d argue that anyone who offers simple solutions should be viewed with thoughtful suspicion. The myriad of individual and relational needs are almost guaranteed to be beyond the scope of any single person or organization. But this doesn’t mean there are no good answers.
I launched In-Congruity to help people maintain or restore congruity within themselves, and with others. We understand that many factors inform conflict and peace. We are not just mediators – there are countless numbers of them, many who are very good at what they do. However, our trichotomic approach allows for relationship coaching, advocacy or mediation. We may have clients who come seeking mediation services only to walk out with an innovative plan to salvage their business relationships or marriage in a manner that actually works – It happens! When there’s congruity, things fit together in a way that makes sense. If a team has congruity, the players work together well, even if they don’t win. In-Congruity starts by giving hope, then helps people negotiate and navigate the complexities of conflict so they arrive at a solution they can live with. No single human approach to crises intervention can cure all ills. However, you can stack the odds in your favor. When it is you in a relational conflict-crisis, be sure that the organization or person you turn to does not precipitate Armageddon.