My First Lessons in Conflict Resolution

I first learned about conflict resolution in the United States Army. They didn’t call it conflict resolution in the army, they called it combat. The idea was that you win or you die. Confrontational? Yes. It has proven effective enough to make people think that their nation is doing something to be the go to tactic for many nations.

The army was where I learned that conflict was something to be resolved. I learned that there are strategies and tactics available to deal with, and emerge victorious from, conflict. It was where I discovered the works of Sun Tzu and von Clausewitz. It was where I first learned to that to be successful in conflict you have to prepare yourself long before you start looking for your foes.

Now I can safely say that I understand conflict a little better than I did as a nineteen year-old private in the army. In many of the conflicts I have observed over the years (including my own, often enough), the people involved did not have any clearly defined reasons for getting involved in that conflict in the first place. Most of the time they were just angry at something; something that may or may not have had anything to do with the conflict they had involved themselves in.

One of the keys to being successful in conflict is knowing and understanding what your objectives are. If you don’t understand what you are attempting to accomplish, all the wisdom from every strategic genius in the world will do you little, probably no, good. It will be difficult even to judge whether you won that particular, and probably pointless, battle.

The army did teach me how to prepare for battle; how to fight and win. The only problem is that in the army somebody else picks your battles for you. If you are fighting someone else’s battles, only they can tell you if you have won, or not. As an individual, there is no way to win these battles; you are only along for the ride.

There is a lot of wisdom in the idea of choosing your battles. Choosing your battle involves calmness, preparation, and a healthy dose of self awareness. If you lack these things you can easily be drawn into battles that get you nowhere. Battles that distract you from your own objectives.

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