I watched a verbal argument over a parking space this weekend. Both parties involved were angry. The conflict was never resolved, and each party left angry. The argument did not need to happen. The fix is fairly simple, and I want to share it with you.
Here is what happened. Parking spaces were severely limited, as more than the normal number of people were out shopping. The parking lot is cramped. Only one of the drivers had the opportunity to observe the future conflict in the making.
Vehicle one followed a couple from the store side of the parking lot to their vehicle. Driver one turned on their blinker signaling there intent to park in the soon to be abandoned space.
Vehicle two arrived as the car that occupied the parking space was about to vacate the space. Vehicle two assumed they had the right to the parking space for whatever reason.
The manner in which the space was vacated made it possible for vehicle one to slip into the parking space while vehicle two could not move forward to claim the space.
Driver of vehicle two was irate, and pulled up to the rear bumper of vehicle one fuming and flipping the bird through the window at the driver of vehicle one.
The driver of vehicle one took offense to the actions of the driver of vehicle two and went to the driver side window, The driver of vehicle two rolled down the window, and a very childish act was performed by both drivers.
Both drivers were talking loudly, both at at once, and pointing fingers at each other. The driver of vehicle two was offensive in their speech. Two sum up the conversation nothing was resolved and some ugly words were spoken.
What went wrong and how should the situation be managed? We all have experienced frustrating moments where we wanted to yell and scream at someone for something. We also know these type of actions rarely solve anything, and have learned not to employ them. Except that is when we are overwhelmed and not keeping things in perspective.
The parking lot incident aside there are some simple ways to correctly manage interactive conflict. Generally we manage our lives from three separate states of being, according to Dr. Eric Berne which I have found to be useful.
The first state is called the child. In the parking lot indecent both parties were acting through their child. Making a show of the situation by raising voices, calling names, and pointing fingers. Nothing is ever resolved in the child state.
The second and preferred state is the Adult state. This is where conflict of any type is best managed. The adult state is calm, quiet, and high level communication. The goal of communication through the adult state is to arrive at an end point, and gain resolution to a conflict or problem.
When two or more people are managing conflict with all three communicating from the adult state, the talk is calm, and measured. Conflict is resolved in a peaceful manner. Everyone may not happy with any conflict, but no one is left to feel they did not receive at least partial resolution. Possibly, all involved are equally unhappy with the end state.
The third and final state is the Parent state. The parent state is the authority in an interaction. The parent state works okay when dealing with children, who of course live in the child state. The parent state guides and nurtures.
Keeping these three states in mind, it is easier to see why hurtful conflict happens, and how you can resolve conflict to the satisfaction of all parties involved.
Going back to the parking space story, both participants were acting through their child state. Yelling, name calling, finger pointing and not listening. Of course the situation ended with both people angry, and not satisfied with the outcome.
If they had known what you now know, they could have avoided the level of anger and hurt they felt and displayed. Both people should have tried to move themselves into the adult state.
Failing that, on of the two people should have tried to move themselves into the parent state, remaining calm, and waiting for the other party to change states and catch up by changing from the child state they were in.
The process is really very simple. When entering a state of conflict try to mange the conversation from the Adult state. If the other party refuses to change to the adult state, you can not force them.
You can stay in the adult state yourself, suggest they calm down and change states. You can jump into the Parent state and try to manage the conversation. This only works if the other person is willing to listen to parental advice. This does not happen often.
If you find you can not influence the other person to raise themselves to your state, your options are limited. You can continue hoping they will change into the adult state. You can end the conversation as there is no reason to continue in the moment.
Or you can change to their state and come what may. When the other party is in the Parent or Adult state, changing to the same state will not help the situation. If it is obvious no resolution will happen, changing to the other persons state will allow you to vent, call each other names, and point fingers.