Dr Bev Smallwood

Articles Library: Conflict

How To Be a Peacemaker

Would you like to be able to resolve interpersonal problems and bring real peace to a situation? People with this skill are valuable contributors to teams that get things done.

Understand first that there is a difference between peacekeepers and peacemakers. Peacekeepers usually try to avoid conflicts, maintaining the status quo and not rocking the boat. On the other hand, peacemakers are active. They deal with situations directly, honestly, yet respectfully.

Consider these “Ten Commandments for Peacemakers”. (You can remember them by spelling PEACEMAKER.) Putting these into action will greatly enhance the likelihood of achieving lasting resolution to the inevitable conflicts that surface in every relationship.

1. P: Pick a private time and place.

Many potentially productive discussions have been disrupted by interruptions, after which it is difficult to regain momentum. Other ways to sabotage success are the fear that someone can overhear or actual embarrassment because of lack of confidentiality of the discussion. Head off those problems by arranging a quiet time in a private place without distractions.

2. E: Establish an appointment to discuss the issue.

When you want to discuss something, approach the person respectfully, say what you’d like to talk about, then set a time to do so. You might say something like this: “Janet, yesterday in the meeting we seemed to be having a difference of opinion that turned negative. I’d like for us to talk about this and see if we can work through it and get it cleared up. When do you think would be a good time for us to do that?”

3. A: Avoid labels, name calling, and emotionally-charged words.

Describe the behavior rather than labeling it. For example, instead of saying, “You’re insensitive,” say, “Yesterday in the meeting, several times when I was talking, you interrupted with a reason you felt I was wrong.” Emotionally charged words only serve to escalate bad feelings. Identify words that are likely to fan the flames of hostility and avoid them.

4. C: Create mutual benefit.

The goal is to work for a “win-win” solution. Both people need to get many of their needs met in order for the solution to last. Therefore, each should work to address the concerns of the other person as well as one’s own.

5. E: Empathize.

Walk a mile in the other person’s shoes. Make a real attempt to see the world as he was seeing it and try to feel what he might have experienced. Make a statement about that. (e.g., “I can see how it might have looked that way to you, and how you could have thought that I was trying to take over your job. In a similar situation, I would probably have felt angry, too.”) When a person feels that you are trying to understand, this goes a long way toward inviting their understanding and cooperation.

6. M: Make a distinction between needs and preferences.

Identify real needs in a situation (e.g., I want to feel involved in decisions that affect me). Distinguish these from your preferences about the ways those needs can be met. State your underlying needs clearly, then be flexible on your preferences about specific strategies for meeting the your needs as well as those of others involved. Brainstorm together to devise a plan that works for everyone.

7. A: Actively listen.

Give the person your full attention. Make a real commitment to try to understand exactly what he or she is communicating to you. Check for understanding by verbally summarizing and paraphrasing.

8. K: Keep away from a focus on the past.

Your problem solving will be much more successful if you focus on the present instead of the past. Of course, sometimes you need to put things in a historical context so that the person understands how your thoughts and beliefs and attitudes toward a situation have developed. However, using more recent examples is better because everyone will remember them more clearly and because current happenings present more potential for current change.

9. E: Establish a specific action plan.

Don’t walk away from the discussion, relived that you’ve talked about something, only to find the next day that the people involved really did not have a common understanding about what was to take place. Be specific about the part each person is to play in the solution to the problem. What specific things will each person do, when, and in what circumstances?

10. R: Response-ability of each person eliminates denial and blame.

When people are in a win-lose conflict, they tend to deny their own responsibility and blame the other person. This destructive pattern can be eliminated if each person will take “response-ability”. “Response-ability” is this: each person has the ability to respond differently in some way so that the situation can be better. If each person focuses on and acts on those things within his or her control, the situation will definitely improve.

Dr. Bev Smallwood is a psychologist and professional speaker who is the author of “This Wasn’t Supposed to Happen to Me.” Visit her website, www.DrBevSmallwood.com; or contact Bev at 601.264.0890 or by email, Bev@DrBevSmallwood.com. Also connect with Bev on Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, and her blogs, Shrink Rap and New Morning Devotionals.

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