Otherwise known as: lessons my mama taught me.
If you work with a group of people in any capacity, there is a nearly 100% chance that occasionally, someone’s feelings get hurt, someone tries to manipulate a situation, and sometimes people just don’t budge for the good of the group.
I love people. I’m a true extrovert – which doesn’t actually mean I want to be around people all the time, I need alone time just like everyone else, but what it does mean, is that I’m energized by interactions with others, as opposed to introverts, who are energized by time spent alone. That said, I often find myself in groups, and many of the times, as an organizer or leader within them. I really like leading the charge and rousing the troops, so to speak.
In high school, I was first secretary and then vice president of the student body (nerd alert!). In those positions, decisions were made that not everyone was happy with, some more loudly than others. I came home one day totally overwhelmed, feeling like I had made the right decision (on tablecloths for the senior dinner or some other super important task), but so drained that I wanted to give in to the loudest people. My mom (bastion of wisdom and good food), taught me the lesson between peace keepers and peace makers.
A Peace Keeper: someone who has a predetermined idea of what peace for a particular situation or group of people looks like. There is no discussion concerning what is best or why there is a conflict to begin with. Peace Keeping is based in fear and/or control. Peace Keepers are willing to suppress in order to keep the peace above all else.
A Peace Maker: allows conflict to be unpacked, offering individuals an opportunity to express their pain and concerns. A peace maker challenges opposing stakeholders to find common ground and negotiate peace as an investment in everyone’s lives.
To sum up, peace keepers defend peace at the cost of people, peace makers open the conflict in order to defend people and create lasting peace.
Below are three ways to be more peace maker-like:
- Look beyond the conflict. It’s easy to be reactive to a situation, especially one that threatens your group, tribe, or family, but if you can look at why the conflict is happening, and address those causes, as opposed to the anger/hurt/pain on the surface, you’ll find the root. Empathy is my mantra. It doesn’t mean I agree with you, but it does mean that I try to put myself in your place and I expect you to do the same for me.
- Aim to achieve mutual benefit. I know, it sounds like a fancy way to say, compromise, but that’s not really what we’re talking about. Mutual benefit means doing what’s best for the group, as opposed to giving in to strong personalities or just doing the easy thing.
- Take the time to know your words. It’s so easy to fire off text messages, emails, rants and other things that we don’t take the time to really see what our words mean or how they affect others. Write in anger if you need to, then set it aside, practice empathy, think about the mutual benefit, and then see if your words align with that end. If not, edit and rewrite.
Conflict is part of the mutual creative, business, and life process. The way you handle it can strengthen your bonds, or breed mistrust.