Should conflicts be resolved or transformed?

There has been a certain argument between my parents for years. Each time a family member finally gets tired, they decide to call them to a meeting. In this meeting, words are thrown yet the conflict remains unresolved. Both parties are then told to say sorry- well, to this end, it means a resolution is underway.

So when each of them says sorry, the conflict is resolved, in other words, you have no reason to bring back the past, it has been sealed with an apology. Yet we cannot remove the shame or the dehumanisation that occured between them two parties. Within 6 months, the issue pops up again because both sides were never really heard. The anger between both parties was fueled from that even though they never knew, the weapons in form of words kept saying- YOU ARE NOT HEARING ME!

In Brene Brown’s book, Braving the wilderness, she explains through the words of Dr. Michelle Buck, professor of Leadership in Kellogg school of management at Northwestern university, what agreeing to disagree does to us in conflict resolution. I excerpted this part: People often silence themselves or “agree to disagree” without fully understanding the nature of the disagreement, for the sake of protecting a relationship and maintaining a connection. But when we avoid certain conversations and never fully learn how the other person feels about all of the issues, we sometimes end up making assumptions that not only perpetuate but deepen misunderstandings, and that can generate resentment.(end of excerpt)

I am quite sure that many of us can relate with this, it is in fact funny to me but the best moment I had with a friend of mine was when my friend finally spoke up to say “this is how I understood things to be”. I was hurt, of course, but it was release and if I wanted to cry, I was sure I was crying for the right reasons.

It is amazing to know that some people will not open up their side of the story till they feel they are at the upper hand, that is, you are down and they are in charge of the conversation. In Dr.Michelle Buck’s view, conflict transformation is a better word, as we get to understand the story even if we don’t like the other person’s view. We learn to connect and not condemn because we don’t understand. Conflict transformation is an opening to understand the other person’s side of the story.

No one likes to feel less or vulnerable in an argument/misunderstanding. We all want to be heard and really shutting the issue out isn’t a solution either. I have watched myself pull away from people who shut out issues more than those who open up so we can solve them. To transform arguments it would be necessary to do what you don’t like, to do what you are not comfortable with as that is where courage lies. It is necessary to give that person the upper hand, it is not nice but to maintain connection it is necessary. You have to humbly request to know why the issue upsets him or her.

Transforming conflicts makes you embrace the truth and drop the sorry attitude. Honestly, most apologies don’t come from the heart. This is why the book written by Apostle John states: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9 (KJV) Even God wants to hear us out. He wants us to talk about the issue, to confess it even though he is going to forgive us no matter how large the sin may be.

The “You Are Not Hearing Me-syndrome” can stop when we start talking. If we don’t learn to speak up, politely of course, we would keep pushing the best people in our lives away because they don’t share the same views with us and we are unwilling to hear why. I end with this: You don’t know the whole story till you ask.

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