Last year there was an unfortunate incident at a military base in the United States. I am talking about Fort Hood. An individual started shooting people. Within hearing range of the shooting a graduation ceremony was taking place. Attending the graduation were medics and other trained personnel. In the midst of this sad crisis, something interesting happened. Many of the participants in the graduation ceremony heard the gunfire and dropped everything and ran towards it. Maybe it was their training, maybe it was their instinctual reactions (I think both); but not everyone ran toward the gunfire. That is not a statement that is meant to speak either for or against the people who did not run into the situation. (I believe most of us are conditioned to run away.) It is merely an observation.
Some people will run willing towards a situation of violence and try to intercede. We need all of us, those who run forward and those who do not. We need those of us who do not, to call for backup and remain unharmed to deal with the aftermath. I am talking about different approaches and different forms of courage.
When it comes to conflict, you have a natural response. I hope your natural response is not tested in the same way as the graduates at Fort Hood. I hope your response is put to the test in non-violent everyday workplace scenarios.
In the middle of a meeting, two co-workers get in a verbal dispute. One person insults the other. You’re not the boss and your boss is not present.
What do you do?
I’m asking you to muster up your courage (if you don’t love handling conflict) and to step in and say to both parties “Hey, let’s stop the name calling, let’s back up here, let’s cool off and let’s revisit why we’re having this dispute.”
Step in and work to bring people back from unhealthy to healthy conflict and get them to a place where they can have a calm, logical conversation.
If they can’t and the conflict does not have to be resolved right now, suggest that everyone take a break and reconvene at another time. Now you think about the situation, approach others, ask their opinions and help to select the right way to resolve the conflict.
When a conflict arises someone also needs to rise to the occasion to ensure the conflict does not go unresolved. Why can’t that person be you?