One summer when I was young, I took boxing lessons. We trained three days and sparred two days each week. At first, I didn’t think I was that good, but the trainer at the gym just kept encouraging me. Each day, he would pump me up like I was going to be the next heavy weight champion. We invested in all the equipment to keep me safe, but my Dad finally convinced me that the only reason they wanted me in the program was so the “real” boxers had a real person to hit instead of a punching bag. After several busted lips, numerous black-eyes, and a flattened nose that summer, I realized my Dad was a lot smarter than I had given him credit for. However, the thing I remember best from boxing is which corner I was supposed to go to when the bell rang at the end of a round. Even though 90 seconds in the ring is not that long, I couldn’t wait for that bell to ring. I was safe there.
Similarly to the boxing ring, when conflict occurs in our life, we need to know what corner to head towards. The chart that follows explains several important dynamics to be mindful of as you are preparing for conflict resolution. In conflict, we want to show BOTH high value for the relationship AND address the needs we have personally. This is especially true if the conflict includes personal attacks.
The Boxing Ring of Conflict
The "I Must Win" Corner
Individuals who go to the corner of WIN (Low Value in Relationship + High Personal Needs Met) do not value the relationship, and their own ego needs drive their need to “win” in the conflict regardless of the cost to others. Controlling is essential to this self-serving individual who believes the organization exists to serve him. They make life difficult for others until they get their way. This profile fits the immature leader, the narcissistic boss, or the domineering spouse.
The "I Yield to You" Corner
When a person retreats quickly to the corner of YIELD (High Value in Relationship + Low Personal Needs Met), they highly value the relationship and will relinquish their own needs and desires to maintain the relationship. A person with this profile is likely to feel insecure in their relationships or in their job. They may be enamored with the strong leader type or simply be a highly compliant person even though this corner leaves them feeling unfulfilled in the long term.
The "I Quit/Withdraw" corner
When the conflict reaches a certain point, the WITHDRAW (Low Value in Relationship + Low Personal Needs Met) folks will withdraw and head for the door. This type of person will more easily abandon the relationship and their responsibilities because they find little satisfaction in them and do not value them. They often have a lack of passion for the mission and organization. They are in the classic lose-lose situation. They may sit stewing in silence, or they may slam the door on their way out. In either scenario, they have checked out.
The "I Resolve" Corner
When High Value in Relationship + High Personal Needs Met intersect, you have the best case scenario - RESOLVE. When high personal needs are being met and the value of the relationship increases, the very process of resolving conflict makes you a better person, and your team or family reaps the benefits. Win-win happens best when this corner is chosen in advance. Predetermine that this is the corner where the greatest gains happen. Understand it requires compromise, openness, and integrity to get there. Teams that adopt the “I Resolve" Corner as their preferred choice BEFORE conflict erupts tend to make the greatest gains. High Emotional Intelligence enables this person to thrive in most organizations.
By pre-determining to always head towards the "I Resolve" Corner when conflict erupts, your team will be able to find the best solution to the problem.
Dave Marks has over 35 years of church ministry experience including 23 years as a senior pastor. His consulting experience includes ministry assessment, leadership coaching, and strategic planning. Dave’s degrees include a B.S. in Bible, a M.S. in Organizational Leadership and a D.Min. in Leadership.