Yesterday we talked about Relational Communication Skills – essential skills for blogging relationships (ironically the picture I used in the post caused some to question whether I had some poor communication skills going on).
Today I want to turn my attention to conflict resolution, another essential skill (closely related to communication skills) for relational bloggers.
As a basis for this post I want to share a 10 point process that I share with couples (which comes out of a resource by the ‘Prepare/Enrich’ marriage counselling program). These steps are designed for couples working through specific areas of conflict in an ongoing relationship – as a result some of them are much more applicable for blogging relationships which tend to be more short term and between people not really in relationship (ie – this won’t be perfect, but lets see what we can get out of it).
Here are the 10 steps with a few thoughts on each:
1. Set a time and place for discussion
In most cases blogging conflict happens in posts and comments between bloggers. This is something I actually enjoy (if done well) but is also something of a problem for constructive resolution (due to its public nature and the fact that conflict rarely stays between two people). If a comment thread is becoming destructive I generally attempt to take the discussion to a more private setting either via email or IM. Doing this tends to take some of the sting out of the interaction. Also to set up a discussion for some point in the future helps to give each party a little space to calm down and approach the interaction more reasonably.
2. Define the problem or issue of disagreement
Many online conflicts tend to spill out into related topics to the point where parties end up not really knowing what they’re fighting about at all. Attempting to keep a discussion to one main point (at a time) can mean you’re more likely to move through it and then tackle another issue.
3. How do you each contribute to the problem?
Conflict is rarely a result of one person solely being at fault in a situation. Communicating to each other not only what the other person has done wrong but identifying your own failings can be a humbling experience and usually brings you a long way closer to resolving the issue.
4. List past attempts to resolve the issue that were not successful
As blogging conflicts don’t usually come out of longer term relationships this might not be as relevant. However there are occasions where the same issues surface again and again and it can be helpful to identify previous occasions and look at what the resolution was. Identifying patterns of conflict can be quite illuminating (you might just learn a thing or two about yourself when doing it).
5. Brainstorm. List all possible solutions
When people fight they generally push one argument or solution upon others and are not willing to entertain the idea that there might be other possible solutions. Listing the alternative opinions and solutions can help both parties to find compromise.
6. Discuss and evaluate these possible solutions
Talking over the alternatives in a neutral and objective way helps both parties to see the pros and cons of different ways of thinking. This is where the assertiveness and active listening skills that we unpacked yesterday come to the fore.
7. Agree on one solution to try
In some cases there is no ‘solution’ needed (other than to agree to disagree and to move on) – however in some cases there might be more. Agreeing how and when to finish the conflict is important and stops those lingering flame wars where neither party is willing to let the other one have the final word.
8. Agree on how each individual will work toward this solution
If there’s some sort of agreement on the resolution to agree to how each person will contribute to it is important so that there is accountability around it.
9. Set up another meeting. Discuss your progress
I actually find that when you’ve had a blog conflict with someone and have moved to some point of resolution that it can be helpful to privately contact the person later on to debrief on it and to see if there is any further resolution needed.
10. Reward each other as you each contribute toward the solution
Positive affirmation goes a LONG way in all types of relationships and in blogging it’s just as important.
The above process isn’t ‘perfect’ for bloggers but I suspect that if we (I definitely need to work on it) used it as a basis for our interactions with each other that we’d be a lot more productive. Once again, it takes a commitment to all parties involved to move through conflict in a positive way (something I find only some people are willing to do).
PS: Conflict isn’t a Bad Thing
Lastly I want to finish with the thought that conflict can actually be a good thing. While I know I avoid it (my family was always a very calm and conflict avoiding type environment) I also am learning to see conflict as an opportunity to grow.
Conflict in blogging actually can result in some really wonderful eventualities. I can think of a number of times that great ideas and great new friendships have come out of conflict with other bloggers for me. While it isn’t always easy – it’s definitely worth entering into conflict with a willingness to learn and grow.