CONFLICTS: LESSONS FROM ROMEO AND JULIET
If you have been following this blog, you will have noticed that for the past few weeks I have relied heavily on humor to teach some of the main principles of conflicts (see for examples, ANGER: A COMIC STRIP LOVER’S GUIDE and INSULTS: A COMIC STRIP LOVER’S GUIDE.
But a blog such as this, if it is to be a source of wisdom, must keep the reader aware that although there is much humor in conflicts, there is tragedy as well. Comics typically emphasize the humor. To avoid completely losing our balance, we must, from time to time, directly take on serious themes. At such times, in the words from Shakespeare’s Henry the VIII’s prologue—
“I come no more to make you laugh; things now,
That bear a weighty and serious brow,
Sad, high, and working, full of state and woe…”
In the deepest heart of all of us there is a corner in which life just happens to work sadly. Any discussion of conflict cannot completely ignore this. Nevertheless, I will attempt to keep our forays into the profounder bass-notes of life fairly brief, and use humor as our main educational tool.
Assisting People to Deal with Conflicts
From time to time you will be asked to assist people with conflicts. A situation involving friends may erupt. Problems at school or work will naturally pop up on regular occasions.
You will find that as you begin to engage the parties involved in the conflict, some in the midst of it will angrily start to tell you what has been happening by going on and on until it begins to strain the patience of everyone listening. Others will speak of the conflict in such vague generalities that listeners are left scratching their heads.
In this blog post you will practice using a model to assist you in coming up with a description of a conflict in a few sentences that not only will prove helpful, but will also enhance your reputation.
Consider the following three pictures created by Lois Hubertz:
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. In the tragic comic above there are three pictures. Need I provide three thousand words to verbally describe them? What if I wanted to describe briefly the conflict they portray? To do so, I would be wise to first discuss with each of the parties what they view as causing the strife, and then after hearing them out, combine what I had learned with what I observe in the pictures.
Suppose that in my discussions I find out that the story of the two lovers in the first box and the two lovers in Shakespeare’s magnificent play, Romeo and Juliet are similar. As in the Shakespeare play, the lovers in the tragic comic are called Romeo and Juliet, and their families are terribly bitter with one another because of angry memories of previous conflicts.
After my information gathering, what if I attempted to briefly describe the conflict from Juliet’s point of view as follows:
Juliet desires to marry Romeo, but interfering with this, her father has made it clear to her that he does not want to give her the legally required permission. Although she recognizes that her father, if he were to consent, would be in hot water with the rest of their family, Juliet feels that he is guilty of being wrong because for her sake he should have the guts to stand up to them.
Are these sentences sufficient?
Obviously, compared to a Shakespeare play, my two-sentence summary, just like any two-sentence summary, must ignore the subtleties and related conflicts that are revealed by a fully crafted play. But there are many times when we can sufficiently grasp a situation without using a style of language that many find hard to grasp or by sitting down for hours to study an insightful narrative. Using an easy to learn pattern of constructing two sentences from each party’s perspective may very well serve to set the stage for the creation of a plan that will resolve the conflict at hand to the satisfaction of all the involved parties.
A Definition of Conflict
When we attempt to come up with a brief description of a conflict, it helps to have a good definition of the word “conflict” at hand. On this blog we will be using a definition derived from what I refer to as the DIG Conflict Model.
A conflict exists whenever the following three conditions exist:
- Party A desires an act will occur.
- Party A perceives that another party is likely to act in a manner that interferes with the desire.
- Party A perceives that the other party would be guilty of doing something wrong if he or she carries out the interfering act.
Notice that each of the three conditions has a key word italicized—desire for the first condition, interference for the second, and guilt for the third. If we take the first letter of each of these key words and put them together, they spell DIG; hence the DIG Conflict Model’s name.
Party A, in the above definition, indicates the individual who is theoretically engaged in a conflict and from whose perspective the conflict will first be described.
The Pattern for Describing Conflicts
In earlier blog posts, I’ve described how to use the word DIG to help craft a brief summary of a conflict and we have practiced this method a few times as well (see, for example, DIG FOR THE CONFLICT). To get to be an expert at this method, it helps to review some of the ideas from time to time.
The conflict statement I used to describe the conflict Juliet is having with her father is in a form that doesn’t assure that a conflict exists; rather, it provides us a standard pattern that allows us to briefly describe the situation as best we can with each of the three conditions of a conflict in a familiar place–first the desire, then the interfering act, and then the guilt.
When there are only two parties involved in a conflict, the pattern can be described as follows:
First select an individual who appears to be one of the parties to the conflict and make him or her Party A. Then create a sentence that identifies who Party A is, Party A’s desire, the other party involved, and the act that is interfering with the desire. Then fashion a sentence that puts forth the theory that Party A perceives that the other party would be guilty of doing something wrong if he or she carries out the interfering act.
The first two sentences are composed, as best you can, from Party A’s point of view.
Why do we Bother to Break up the Concept of a Conflict?
So far, we have seen that the DIG Conflict Model breaks up the concept of a conflict into its three conflict conditions (desire, interference and guilt). In future blog posts we will find this helpful because some conflicts are confusing to understand all at once.
Very simple conflicts can be looked at as a single unit with little difficulty. However, more complicated conflicts will leave us scratching our heads. The skill to break up the conflict into its three conditions allows us to familiarize ourselves with smaller, more easily understandable parts. Then, when we join the parts together, the whole becomes easier to grasp.
Moreover, sometimes we can come up with an idea to make a change in just one of the easier to understand parts that then leads to the rest of the conflict becoming easier to manage. That is, one strategy to resolve a conflict we are struggling with is the following:
1. Look at each easier to understand part, either just the desire, or the interfering act or the guilt.
2. Think about making some change that will affect just that part.
3. Then think about how that change will impact the whole conflict.
By doing this, we frequently find a resolution that we would have otherwise missed if we kept wrestling with the entire conflict as one huge unit. In future blog posts we will see many examples of this.
Using the DIG Conflict Model in Real Conflicts
In a real conflict, after you do your best to summarize the conflict, it is important to check with the different people involved to see if they agree with you. As you discuss this with them, you will find that this often leads to those who are involved clarifying what the issues are. As you assist them in going through this process, there is an excellent chance that they will find this helpful. In time, people will come to respect you for this.
I know some of these ideas are new and you may feel confused about some of the issues I have been discussing. If you keep following this blog, you will get more and more comfortable with these ideas. In time, you’ll see more clearly how helpful they can be.
Some people will enjoy reading this blog by beginning with the first post and then moving forward to the next more recent one; then to the next one; and so on. This permits readers to catch up on some ideas that were presented earlier and to move through all of the ideas in a systematic fashion to develop their emotional and social intelligence. To begin at the very first post you can click HERE.