art work by John Ceprano
CINERGY (tm) - Peacebuilding... one person at a time


I found this picture to be so poignant. It made me think of how combustible interpersonal disputes can be – literally – and how the toxicity and negativity can spread so easily. And the spread is not just to the other person in the dispute. But, it is also to anyone who might be near, who might overhear the heated exchange, who might listen reluctantly or even with interest as the people in dispute convey what happened in their perceptions, or it might be anyone else who is otherwise impacted by the dispute.

If we know or learn when and how to step away from escalating conflicts and the “fire” that goes along with them, the chances are we not only curtail the spread of the negativity and irreconcilable damage. We are also able to regain our composure so that we can address the situation with calm and dignity that escape us when we don’t step away from the flames of the dispute. This is whether or not we initiated it in the first place.

In some cases we might need to walk away altogether and not revisit or try to reconcile matters. In other cases, we walk away temporarily as we regain our equilibrium and reflect on how we want to proceed. In either case, there is power in staying in the part of our brain that removes ourselves from the burning words and the atmosphere they create to decide on what we want to do about the dispute.

This week’s Conflict Mastery Quest(ions) blog invites you to consider an escalating conflict you are experiencing as you answer these questions and ponder the power of stepping away.

  • What are the flames of the dispute all about from your perspective?
  • What are the flames about, as far as you can tell, from the other person’s perspective?
  • What are you experiencing right now about this dispute?
  • Who else is becoming impacted by the dispute?
  • What are the advantages to you of stepping away at this point in time? What are the disadvantages of stepping away?
  • What sort of power are you experiencing in this dispute that you want or need to get what you are fighting for (and therefore want to fight it out rather than step away)?
  • How is that power supporting and helping you make your point, win over the other person, etc.? How is the power you have not working?
  • What power might you gain by stepping away temporarily?
  • What might you gain by stepping away altogether on the basis that the relationship is not one you wish to continue?
  • What would help you step away in either case if you think it’s the optimal option for you?
  • What else occurs to you as you consider these questions?
  • What insights do you have now that you didn’t have before you answered these questions?

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