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Resolving Conflict
is Worth the Effort

by Leslie Yerkes

Buffet (buff’it): To force one’s way by struggling.

According to Top Gun pilots, there is nothing quite like the experience of flying faster than the speed of sound. The air is calm, there is virtually no noise, and the serenity achieved makes the effort worthwhile. In flying, this feeling is called buffet.

During buffet, pilots say the plane itself shakes so hard that it feels like it’s going to break up and fall apart. But once they force themselves and the plane past the buffet point, they exceed the speed of sound and everything becomes glorious.

The point here is that the wonder of flying beyond the speed of sound can only be achieved by going through buffet. Relationships and conflict work in much the same way.

I like to think of conflict in my life as being just like buffet. Every relationship I have has some conflict. It’s unavoidable. Conflict is, in fact, natural, predictable and inevitable.

When I find myself in buffet, I realize that if I can force my way through the conflict, I will experience the calmness of resolve on the other side. I will then have a relationship that is traveling at the speed of sound.

What that means is that conflict can be good for you if it gets resolved. Conflict unresolved tends to continue to rear its ugly head. If a pilot comes up against buffet and follows his natural tendencies to back off, buffet will recur the instant he increases speed again. There is no way to reach the calm of faster-than-sound speed without going through buffet. Just as there is no resolution without conflict.

What’s really interesting here is that if you are a person who tries to avoid conflict, conflict seems to be everywhere. Conflict unresolved hangs around your head like ground fog. The only way out of the fog is through it. And the only way through it is to experience buffet.

Here are five tips to help you navigate the buffet of relationships so you can reach the calm on the other side.

1. You don’t have to confront every issue. Not every issue or situation is worth confronting. You don't want to spend all your time in buffet. Often the best way to fly is slower than the speed of sound. Pick and choose the conflicts that need to be resolved. You’ll know which ones they are because they’ll keep coming up again and again.

2. It takes two to tangle. And two to untangle. If the other person in the relationship isn’t interested in resolving the conflict, you can’t do it by yourself. It’s hard to be in buffet with someone who doesn’t want to be there so you’ll have to find closure by yourself, pull back on the accelerator stick and go on. It may be difficult, but it’s probably the best you can do at the moment.

3. The emotion you bring into buffet is the emotion that comes through to the other side. If you come with anger, then anger is what comes out. If bitter, then bitterness; if hurt, then hurt. Try, then, to ground yourself in the positive feelings of love: love for the person involved, love for the company, love for the working relationship, love for the future. What you bring to buffet is what comes through.

4. Time heals. It’s a cliche because it's true. True if you have gone through buffet and resolved the conflict. In the process of resolving, whatever hurt has been exposed will heal. There is a magic elixir on the other side of buffet that makes the pain of transition go away. Unaddressed conflict, however, does not get better on its own it usually gets worse.

5. “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” Steven Covey's fifth principle is one I find to be constant in all things. If your first goal is to understand, you will find the conflict far easier to resolve, the buffet easier to go through because you are understanding it and not fighting it. And you will discover on the other side that you will be understood.

Life if full of challenges, of barriers to be conquered. The lessons learned in going faster than the speed of sound, of going through buffet, can be applied to our everyday relationships.

Life really is better after you go through buffet.

Leslie Yerkes is President of Catalyst Consulting Group, a change-management company specializing in training, personnel motivation and organizational development. She can be reached by phone at 216-241-3939

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