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Sunday, August 28, 2011

Waiting Out the Pain of Conflict

There are times of conflict that lay, for periods—a day, a week, longer in some cases, and so on—in abeyance. The pain is excruciating and all we can do is seek to rationalise the dissonance. How do we successfully wait out the pain of conflict?

Conflict is a strange thing in that what we said at the time—or what they said—made sense to us (or them) in that situation. We rationalised it in the moment. The hurt that spewed out of our mouths, or theirs, or both of ours, came from an irrational mind that was neither reasonable nor loving at the time. The heart beneath came upon vulnerable, rocky ground.

1. Accepting the Status Quo

We cannot do anything about the conflict, bringing it around to a positive outcome, unless we first accept the status quo—where we’re at. This often requires one of two things; perhaps both. First, we must more or less completely understand their situation, which involves the skills and compassion of empathy unusual to the vast majority of us. All it takes is humility, but when we find ourselves at conflict humility can be scant.

Second, we can acknowledge our part in conflict in complete truth, and even add some interest—which means we own just a little bit more of the conflict than we are responsible for. (Of course, this all depends on who we are dealing with; if trust is low and they are unlikely to reciprocate we just own what is ours or what we contributed to the conflict.)

Now, it may take some serious reflection to get to a point where either first or second (or both) options present viably.

Hence how important waiting out the pain of conflict is. If we don’t first accept the status quo we might exacerbate the conflict and progress negatively.

2. Enter into Negotiation

When a full acceptance of the status quo has been achieved, and this may take some time, we have waited out long enough. Conflicts don’t necessarily get better the longer we are in conflict—‘time heals all wounds’ may be a fallacy in many intents of purpose. Conflicts don’t get better, and trust is not repaired or grown, unless there is a meeting of minds.

Negotiation is about facilitating a meeting of minds.

At some point we must be prepared to enter negotiation for the healing of the relationship, if it is important to us.

Waiting out the pain of conflict has its purpose in one thing alone. This is for the preparation of healing: for reflection and for opportunities of time that transform the dispositions of mood: ours and theirs. Waiting out the pain of conflict is only necessary until we are ready to enter negotiation—for the re-railing of the relationship.


Waiting out the pain of conflict is the wisdom of patience, the courage of honesty to reflect in humility, and the vision of unity: bringing back to peace the relationship in turmoil.

© 2011 S. J. Wickham.

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