Are Turf Battles and Conflict Going to Kill Our Jeeping?
Land Use Updates January 28, 2023 Del Albright
6 Tips on How to Manage Conflict
(Updated article from ModernJeeper Feb. 2020)
Ever since the upside-down world of 2020, the author has noticed a hefty jump in club and group conflict in our Jeeping world. Of course, human conflict is unavoidable when you gather people who are passionate about what they do. But these last three years feel like they have been stolen from us, and the aftermath shows. So, we must ask ourselves if this enhanced club/group conflict will make our Jeeping a thing of the past.
Young people feel robbed of the good times they could have enjoyed were it not for 2020 ruining the last nearly three years. Old Jeepers feel robbed of what might be their last years of good Jeeping. All of this exacerbates opportunities for conflict in our lives.
There is no use running from it or trying to pretend it doesn’t exist. Club and association 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 will not always agree with each other, sometimes resulting in conflicting actions and ideas. I want to offer some ideas for dealing with conflict in recreation and making your life easier while saving our favorite forms of recreation.
Finding ways to manage conflict will help ensure we get to do this in the future!
Conflict is a part of recreation, just like life and relationships. I am going to suggest ways to embrace it and make it worthwhile. Conflict is not bad; it just is. How you react to it gives you 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.
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. But, unfortunately, it also might mean a few sleepless nights if you don’t take steps to harness the power of conflict.
Conflict can twist our guts, cut into our sleep, and make our faces turn pretty red from frustration. Of course, that is not what any of us want. So let me share some tips for dealing with conflict and turning it into something useful.
Working together and finding common ground is the best way to get past conflict and save our sport.
Tips for Dealing with Conflict
First, accept that when people share opinions, there are bound to be differences (conflict). Recognize that conflict is natural and use it as a learning experience. Start by being nice. Yes, be nice to those with conflicting ideas and try to help the other person understand that you can be in conflict without being mad at each other.
Second, 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 didn’t mean. So make sure your listener hears what you meant to say.
Third, never lose sight of your objective and try to maintain the “high ground,” as they say in the military (and politics). Take notes like an attorney during political conflict (meetings, hearings, conventions, etc.). Get your key points jotted down for your “come back,” and stick with them. Make your points repeatedly, if needed, until the listener 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.
Fourth, look for the root of the problem (conflict). If it’s purely a political agenda with no real foundation other than making a show, you may have to accept 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.
Fifth, assuming the conflict is real, try to agree to some ground rules during the conflict resolution process. For example, suppose two people who know each other are arguing. In that case, 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 with that upfront. Agree to a fair fight, if you will.
Sixth, trust your instincts and the instincts of people you respect. If your instincts tell you to hang in the fight (conflict), then hang! On the other hand, 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.
In recreation, there is that reality, just like in politics, when nothing makes sense and there is no honest 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!
I’ve heard many access advocates tell me that you can’t argue with emotional political scene-making. I think they’re right. So we learn to argue the facts, stay with our bullet points, label the scene-making for what it is, and keep the high ground.
It’s all about keeping our trails open and our sport alive for this very view! (photo by Stacie Albright)
Lastly, I will admit that there are times when your attempts at conflict resolution may not work, and you may have to accept that the other person is not in the same game you are. In that case, you may have to step back and change your tactics. Again, I suggest you trust your instincts and advisors (friends). You may have to resort to scene-making or emotions, not that I recommend that. But if you change your tactics to make a point, make your plan first — be clear as to your objectives. Brainstorm the consequences. Then if it’s the right thing to do, proceed with gusto!
If you get to this 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. My mother 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. 🙂
If you can recognize conflict for what it’s worth and learn to harness the power of conflict, you will find many new doors open to you. Opportunities will surface that you may not have seen before. And hopefully, by employing the tips I’ve presented here, you’ll not lose any more sleep.