I attended a personal relationship workshop once and one of the topics addressed resolving conflicts productively. It is such a happy set of circumstances that I sometimes recall these bits of minutiae from years ago because it gives me pause to consider how to process circumstances that trouble me now. As I have gotten older, I’m more at peace with taking my time around suboptimal circumstances. There’s always more to the picture than my view permits, but often, even within my view, there are probably things I don’t see because I fail to look closely enough. Taking extra time helps me focus more clearly.
Often, when faced with a conflict, I am tempted to focus largely on the perceived failings of the other individual in the conflict: the things that they are neglecting to do or say, the things that are inaccurate, unrelated, perhaps even fictitious. I am likely to take personal offense, and unfortunately, adopt a slightly (dare I say it?) rigid attitude as a result. My skills of perception start to shut down as the flashing-red-light-buzzer begins sounding in my head, a warning that conflict is approaching.
Back to the workshop. The relevant lesson is: how many of the perceived failings, of which I am quick to assign to the other party, are also true about me? Probably more than I care to admit.
I’m having a bit of a conflict with my boss at the moment. Actually not so much of a conflict as a falling-out. We are communicating less and less. She is busy-busy-busy. I perceive that her lack of attention to my work indicates that its importance has diminished in her opinion, and even worse, in the opinion of the rest of the organization. She praises the quality of my work but doesn’t read it, doesn’t provide the substantive feedback and direction that I need to make progress in this highly conceptual task.
I am having a difficult time seeing the larger picture since my inclination is to focus on my perceptions of her negligent management skills, where my personal job is concerned. Because, naturally, it's all about me, right?
Is her busy-busy-busy schedule affecting the other staff members that report to her? Well, yes.
Is there anything about my behavior that might be contributing to the circumstances? Well, maybe.
Is there anything that I could be doing that could possibly lead to improvements? Well, probably.
But I don’t know exactly what. Yet. I need to go back and reflect on that question from the workshop.