When Conflict Can’t Be Resolved | The Zebra Blog

When Conflict Can’t Be Resolved

two people fighting

I have received a number of private notes about my recent series on conflict. It seems there are many of you who have unresolved conflict with people in your lives and are not sure how to take the first step. These people you are dealing with are what I call “dragons”. They breathe fire. They may yell. And they insist on steadfastly standing their ground, regardless of the outcome. They will likely blame you for the entire situation and they have no intention to have a meeting of the minds.

Some dragons just need to vent for a little while, then they are ready to move forward towards solution. However, there are just some dragons you will run into in your life who will never be able to see their part in a conflict, who don’t think that they have done anything wrong, or cannot see the toxic effect they have on people. In the event you have a run in with someone like this – or even have someone like this in your personal or family life – you could follow the conflict resolution formula to the letter and it might seem that you cannot break through this wall no matter what. And that is exactly what it is – they have a conflict wall that they hide behind because they don’t know how to behave any other way during a conflict.      

Often this is a person that has a rich history of conflict –  in fact their life is usually plagued with conflict. What you have to remember is, it is NOT about you or even about the issue at hand. The way they choose to handle conflict is about them.

Consider a person who learned from an early age that making a mistake is absolutely not acceptable and faced harsh punishment when a mistake was made. Or the child who learned they could deflect punishment for something they did by making another person a scapegoat. Those are lessons that are learned early in life that will ultimately have an effect on how someone handles conflict when they are an adult. How we handle conflict as an adult almost always goes back to what we were taught about conflict as a child. And those lessons are hard to unlearn.

So how do you spot someone who is not capable of resolving conflict? The first thing to remember is there are these types of people everywhere – at work, at play, and probably even in your family. The best way to spot them is when you have given them grace, offered a solution, or you have even gone above and beyond to try to resolve the conflict and it is NEVER GOOD ENOUGH. These individuals will only go down with fight and they will never admit any wrong doing.

But you have a role to play in this as well. When you were growing up, what were the lessons you learned about conflict? Did you have a parent who handled it in a very cool, matter-of-fact way, or did you have a parent who yelled and punched holes in the wall? Did you have a parent who left for days on end whenever there was conflict or reacted like a turtle retreating into its shell? These lessons you learned about conflict growing up have an effect on how you handle conflict and your reaction when dealing with an unrelenting dragon.

The sad part is that conflict with an unrelenting dragon is very bad for your health, your mental energy and your business. I have seen so many agents that have had their energy crushed by someone who they have had unresolved conflict with. Whether it is conflict in their personal or professional life, it affects every aspect of their being. And it assuredly changes the way they approach their business.

Think about a transaction or real estate situation that went awry where people walked away angry because of something that went wrong. Whether it happened five weeks ago or five years ago, I bet you can remember the sting and that feeling in the pit of your stomach. It might have taken the wind out of your sails temporarily, or it might have caused you to retreat away from your business for a while. You might have even lost your mojo – your confidence that you are a good agent and you are a problem-solver. Usually this is temporary, but for some agents it can knock them right out for weeks, months, or even years.

Remember, we all only have so much energy. You need to protect your energy. To waste it on unresolved conflict and behavior that you are not responsible for is not the best use of your energy. You can’t expect to rehabilitate unrelenting dragons. Their long history and pattern of conflict didn’t start with you and it won’t end with you. They will hold on to their grudges and you may never be able to make it right with them even after you have given them all the grace and solution options in the world. It is not resolution that they want … it is conflict and unrest that they crave.

So protect yourself! Make sure that you always do the right thing, and offer the other side options, solutions, and compromises. It doesn’t mean you have to roll over and give in on every point of your disagreement. Just focus on doing the right thing. That way when you go home at night, you can sleep, you can run your business without any distraction, and you can move on from the conflict knowing that you did the best job to try to resolve it. Then don’t spend any time in your future mulling over it because it is truly resolved for you. The other person may still complain about you and the conflict for years to come because they don’t get over it, have no desire to get over it, and revel in the drama the conflict brought on. For them, it is like a favorite movie they replay time and again in their head.

Remember, conflict is a gift, a time for you to bring out the best in yourself and to handle every conflict with facts, grace, and solutions. And let go of the unresolved conflict with the unrelenting dragons. It is not worth your energy.


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