We can fight it, try to ignore it, or learn to deal with it effectively; but conflict is inevitable in outdoor recreation. Club members disagree; users butt heads on trails; large organized groups don’t like what another group is doing, or turf battles have been going on for years. It is just human nature that we ModernJeepers will not always agree with each other and sometimes it results in conflicting actions and ideas. I’d like to offer some ideas for dealing with conflict in recreation, and making your life easier, while saving our favorite forms of recreation.
Conflict is unavoidable
At some point in your busy life you will run into conflict with another person. It’s life. Whenever we share opinions or ideas, conflict is bound to surface. People just plain disagree on many things, especially when it comes to something we are passionate about. If your opinion is different than mine, then we might just be in conflict.
Conflict is a part of recreation.
Just like it is life and relationships, sometimes we just cannot avoid conflict. I am going to suggest ways to embrace it and make it useful. It might surface its ugly head at a trail intersection. Or maybe during a meeting involving t-shirt color. Or who knows. It is like a snake in the grass; you never know when it might strike.
Conflict is not always bad.
It just is. It’s how you react to it that gives is a flavor of good or bad.
As you read these tips, remember that much of what I suggest here has to do with you having the power to choose how you react to things, and not allowing someone to dictate your happiness or peace of mind.
“Choose” and “allow” are two of the most powerful words in the dictionary. For example, you might hear me say, “I choose not to get caught up in your garbage. And I am not going to allow you to ruin my day.” Unfortunately, the policeman I tried this on didn’t think it was funny! (just kidding). But you have the choice as to how your react to something in your life. Do not let someone else tell you how you feel or how you should react. You choose. You allow. Right there that starts reducing the opportunities for conflict.
Conflict can be viewed as powerful.
It means people are sharing ideas and opinions that don’t agree. It means new doors are being opened and new opportunities are being presented. It also might mean a few sleepless nights for you if you don’t take some steps to harness the power of conflict.
Now I’m not suggesting that all conflict is “good.” Conflict can twist up our guts, cut into our sleep; and make our face turn pretty darn red from frustration. But that is not what any of us want. Let me share with you some tips for dealing with conflict and turning it into something useful.
The 7 Master Secrets
→One, accept the fact that when people share opinions, there’s bound to be differences (conflict). Heck, there’s no way we could all think alike or we’d still be carrying clubs and living in caves. Recognize that conflict is natural and use it as a learning experience. I compare conflict to fear — we will always have some of both to deal with; it’s all in how we allow ourselves to react.
→Two, try to stay objective and clearly express your expectations (or ideas). Clear communication is essential to avoiding unnecessary conflict. There’s no use getting your knickers in an uproar over something you really didn’t mean. So make sure what your listener is hearing is what you meant to say.
→Three, never lose sight of your objective and try to maintain the “high ground” as they say in the military (and politics). During political conflict (meetings, hearings, conventions, etc.), take notes like an attorney. Get your key points jotted down for your “come back” and stick with them. Make your points over and over again if needed, until the listener clearly hears your ideas (or rebuttals).
Further, don’t get caught up in emotions. When you feel like you’re about to explode, back off, take a breath, and tackle the conflict head on, but with as much objectivity as you can muster. Break out your notes (like the attorney busily jotting things down during a court proceeding), and review your key points.
→Four look for the root of the problem (conflict). If it’s purely a political agenda with no real foundation other than making a show, well, then you may have to accept the fact that all the logic in the world won’t sway that. In this case, the conflict is phony and attention-gathering. Call it for what it is.
→Five, assuming the conflict is real, try to agree to some ground rules during the conflict resolution process. For example, if two people who know each other are arguing, it might be good to agree that both will avoid each other’s well-known “hot buttons” that merely escalate the emotional intensity of the argument. Agree to that up front. Agree to a fair fight, if you will.
→Six, trust your instincts and the instincts of people you respect. If your instincts tell you to hang in the fight (conflict), then hang! If that little voice in your head says, “if I give up now, then I will lose much more in the long run,” then don’t give up.
→Seven, in recreation, there is that reality, just like in politics, when nothing makes sense and there is no real answer because there is no real question. That’s when we need to stay very focused and tuned into your message (bullet points, 5×7 cards, notes, etc.). Don’t spend time wondering why someone would dress up like a coyote and wander down the dusty streets of some Texas cow town in front of the Longhorn Saloon on Saturday night trying to make some sort of political statement! If your conflict involves this type of showmanship, then realize your logic will probably not change anything. Just move on.
In the leadership training I offer (RLTC at www.rltc.biz), I really emphasize the idea of keeping notes and having your message on 5×7 cards or whatever works for you. Public speaking and dealing with conflict both benefit from having our key points right in front of us. If you find yourself at a loss for words, then you simply refer back to your key points (notes, expectations, and ideas). It works!
Conflict is not always bad and sometimes it is unavoidable. Learn to trust your instincts and do not run from it. Conflict can help us grow or improve a club. Be clear as to your objectives and keep your key points handy. When engaged with showmanship conflict, you may get to the point of succumbing to tactics you don’t ordinarily like, then realize that you have changed the game and the ground rules. You may also have given up some of your high ground. I’m reminded of what my Mom used to tell me, “Just because Johnny does it, doesn’t mean you get to do it.” Oh, by the way, in those days, Johnny was sticking his head in a bag of airplane glue, and I’m sure glad I listened to my mother. 🙂
Conflict can keep us on the fence if we do not solve it; suspended from action. If you can recognize conflict for what it’s worth, and learn to harness the power of it, you will find many new doors open to you. Opportunities will surface that you may have not seen before. And hopefully, by employing the tips presented here, you’ll not lose any more sleep.