56. Conflict Resolution
I was angry with my friend: I told my wrath, my wrath did end. I was angry with my foe: I told it not, my wrath did grow.
William Blake (18c English poet and mystic)
Real or perceived transgressions are the most common cause of transpersonal conflicts. However, whether such conflicts will be destructive or contribute to improving the relationship depends on the way they are resolved. Bearing this in mind, here we will examine a number of common scenarios.
If you accept that you have transgressed
If people feel wronged, they get angry and this easily leads to being aggressive. Responding with defensiveness may come naturally, but this only creates a vicious circle. In fact, the best way to prevent an escalation is to avoid being defensive. The following steps can be helpful in this respect:
- Acknowledge the other person’s feelings, and if you sincerely feel sorry, say so and apologise.
- You may want to explain your intention and actions (e.g. ‘I am sorry you feel hurt, I didn’t mean to upset you’) but avoid making excuses, as they leave the impression that you are more concerned about yourself than the other person’s feelings.
- Take responsibility for your part in the event and accept (fair) consequences for your actions.
- Consider together what to do in similar situations in the future. This may turn the conflict in something positive. Whatever you come up with has to apply to both parties (you may check by asking ‘does this apply, from now on, to both of us?’). For example, you may both come to the conclusion that it is okay, in exceptional circumstances, to raise your voices. You both then have to accept that you may occasionally end up on the receiving end of shouting. On the other hand, if you both come to the conclusion that it is never good to shout at each other, you both need to work on avoiding shouting, no matter what.