Persons often get into angry outbursts and escalations with each other because they don’t know how to resolve conflicts. Often, one person sees himself/herself as the victim which justifies retribution, retaliation, or “getting even” with the other, who also sees himself/herself as the victim.
No where was this more clearly demonstrated than on a recent episode of NBC”s dateline which chronicled a retired, affluent, church-going, community leader engineer who utimately shot and killed a neighbor and his wife, and then felt quite justified in doing so.
The conflict started several years Â earlier over needing to repair a common very small bridge access to both their properties. Â
They had a disagreement over payment of the work which gradually escalated over several years ending in the tragic double murder. It was a classic “Hatfield and McCoy” conflict which has been going on for generations in, I believe, West Virginia.
Why couldn’t two, educated, mature men work out their differences without violence?Part of the reason is that they both lacked skills to do so and both saw the other guy as the problem from which they needed to defend themselves. Netiher man had anything close to a criminal or violent history, yet both became violent and aggressive.
There are many ways to resolve conflicts. In our local anger management classesÂ as well as our online anger classes, we teach the anger tool of “empathy” as a starting point for conflict resolution. As we define it, empathy is not only the ability to feel what others must be feeling, but also being able to see things from their point of view. Sounds simple, but it is far from easy, because we tend to think that others see things as we do, or if they don’t, they should!
We teach that our behavior is much more determined by how we individually see things, than how they “are.” Having the ability to transpose ourselves into the eyes, ears and hearts of the other guy takes a lot of practice and patience. Yet, it is crucial to conflict resolution to first able to see where the other guy is coming from, even if you don’t agree with it.
In later blogs we will discuss other conflict resolution tools. For now, practice empathy and see if it makes a difference in your life. But, if you don’t have time to do it right now, I understand!