Point Lookout: a free weekly publication of Chaco Canyon Consulting
Volume 8, Issue 27;   July 2, 2008: Peace's Pieces

Peace's Pieces

by

Just as important as keeping the peace with your colleagues is making peace again when it has been broken by strife. Nations have peace treaties. People make up. Here are some tips for making up.

In modern, fluid society, when toxic conflict corrodes relationships, we're often more likely to move on than to patch things up. But as we have become more specialized professionally, our worlds have shrunk. And as you move up in the organizational hierarchy, the number of places to which you can move declines. For many, moving on is no longer as easy as it once was.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, chairman of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of the Union of South Africa

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, chairman of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of the Union of South Africa. The TRC is widely regarded as having been responsible for guiding the nation along a path from truly toxic conflict to peace, following the end of Apartheid. The principles they created and followed have provided a model for truth commissions around the world. Person-to-person reconciliation is more intimate than national reconciliation, and in many ways, more complex, but the TRC model is still a valuable and inspiring guide. Read more about South Africa's reconciliation experience. Photo courtesy Mogale City, South Africa (Tutu's home town).

Between people, coming to peace after heated, venomous disagreements is a valuable, if undervalued, skill. How can you come to peace if you're engaged in a long-running feud with another? Here are some suggestions.

Have realistic expectations
Sometimes we can't imagine ever getting back to comity, and even if you would like to, it might not be possible. But go as far as you can for today, and building on that, strive to go a little further tomorrow.
Build on mutual respect
Each party must find a way to respect the other. It isn't really peace if one side grovels while the other triumphs. Such a peace is just war continued by other means.
Acknowledge what's happened
You can't undo what's happened. Your experiences were real. Instead of denying the past, find ways to acknowledge the truth of what happened between you, as honestly as you can. Truth is essential to forward progress.
Realize that Now is not Then
Work together to find a path that works for Now. Agree that whatever happened in the past happened Then, and that it isn't happening Now.
Consider your Self
Whatever path you find has to fit for both of you, and one of you is your Self. Value your integrity and your sense of ethics. Trying to walk a path that you simply cannot walk doesn't work. Forge an agreement you can live with.
Honor confidentiality
Confidentiality between
the two of you can
provide a strong bond
How the two of you work out your difficulties is your own business. Offer (and ask for) confidentiality if you need it. Confidentiality between the two of you can provide a strong bond that can be part of the basis for going forward together.
Look for the amazing
Find things you each can contribute to build a strong foundation for your new relationship. Use the amazing test: if you were a third party, and you somehow found out the terms of the new agreement, would you be amazed at its inventiveness and mutual generosity of spirit?
Apply the durability test
Try to build an enduring relationship. If you cannot imagine a peace enduring for a year on the basis you're about to agree to, it won't last. Make the foundation stronger.

Peace is more achievable if you both focus on what you can gain, both individually and together. On your own, maintaining that focus can be difficult. Consider the possibility of asking for help from a neutral third party. Go to top Top  Next issue: Approval Ploys  Next Issue

101 Tips for Managing Conflict Are you fed up with tense, explosive meetings? Are you or a colleague the target of a bully? Destructive conflict can ruin organizations. But if we believe that all conflict is destructive, and that we can somehow eliminate conflict, or that conflict is an enemy of productivity, then we're in conflict with Conflict itself. Read 101 Tips for Managing Conflict to learn how to make peace with conflict and make it an organizational asset. Order Now!

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See also Conflict Management and Emotions at Work for more related articles.

Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout

Prof. Tom PettigrewComing February 21: The Ultimate Attribution Error at Work
When we attribute the behavior of members of groups to some cause, either personal or situational, we tend to make systematic errors. Those errors can be expensive and avoidable. Available here and by RSS on February 21.
Daffodils of the variety Narcissus 'Barrett Browning'And on February 28: Narcissistic Behavior at Work: I
Briefly, when people exhibit narcissistic behavior they're engaging in activity that systematically places their own interests and welfare ahead of the interests and welfare of anyone or anything else. It's behavior that threatens the welfare of the organization and everyone employed there. Available here and by RSS on February 28.

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