For about twenty-one years now I have watched people try and resolve conflict. I start to notice that some are better than others at it. Others don’t resolve it at all. Everyone has their own ways of dealing with it. I grew up in an interesting generation where most my age would resolve conflict using the internet, hiding behind their monitors. I have resolved my own conflicts using e-mail before. In fact, one of my favourite stories to tell is the time back in the beginning days of high school when I was helping a friend of mine break up with a girl. So he took my words and copied and pasted it in his conversation with her. As soon as the break up started, this girl messaged me and was sad because the guy was in the middle of breaking up with her. Here I was comforting this girl while breaking up with her through some other means. The internet brings an entire new way of dealing with conflict.
I have noticed though that as humans we always want to deal with conflict the easiest possible way, and many times we are willing to be skimpy on other important things like respect, common-sense, and relationship and even sometimes a sense of professionalism. For instance, back in the day I was organizing an event for some people and the plans were on their way. A local leader got whiff of the event that was being planned (a youth retreat for all the youth, not just one church) and then I received an e-mail. I was eighteen at the time; the e-mail was coming from someone at least double my age. It was full of assumptions, accusations, bold letters and lots of exclamation marks. After reading through it again a few minutes ago, the word ‘wrong’ was written out in capitals with exclamation marks splattered all over the page. I printed off the e-mail and within a few hours I was at his door asking for an explanation and to talk about it in person. Things were sorted out and dealt with accordingly. I have a feeling that if I would have just responded to the e-mail it would probably still be an issue today.
Rachel was listening to a radio show tonight and she heard them talking about a new study that was done (I think by Havard) in conflict resolution in the business place and with partners. After an intensive study they concluded that e-mail was the absolute worst place to resolve conflict and it almost never gets done properly and that face-to-face resolution is a quick and effective approach. Next time a conflict comes up, it would be wise not to default to e-mail or some sort of messenger to deal with it. Go to where they are and talk to them face to face, behind there barriers of 1’s and 0’s and the easy-breathing of not having to see their facial reactions. This isn’t just to resolve conflicts but any sort of important conversation or information or apologies; it’s not human to do it any other way.
I have a folder in my e-mail program called “AHHH” that has been growing since 2001. It is full of e-mails that I have sent or have been sent to me that were life-changing, made me laugh in pain or probably never should have been e-mails. Hopefully with time that folder won’t grow anymore. Unless I decide to propose by shooting my girlfriend an e-mail, then I might throw that one in there.