What is the key to managing conflict? Let me tell you a story, an old story, recounted in a book that has been printed in every language on the planet and has sold continuously for 81 years. The thesis running through this enduring manuscript is one that influenced me in my adolescence and dictates much of my approach to business.
So now, the story:
“The Battle of Gettysburg was fought over 3 days of July in 1863 … President Lincoln ordered General Meade not to convene a council of war but to attack Lee immediately.
What did General Mead do? … the very opposite of what he was told …
Lincoln was furious. In bitter disappointment he sat down and wrote Meade this letter.
My dear General,
I do not believe you appreciate the magnitude of the misfortune involved in Lee’s escape. He was within our easy grasp, and to have closed upon him would, in connection with our other late successes, have ended the war. As it is, the war will be prolonged indefinitely. If you could not safely attack Lee last Monday, how can you possibly do so south of the river, when you can take with you very few – no more than two-thirds of the force you then had in hand? It would be unreasonable to expect and I do not expect that you can now effect much. Your golden opportunity is gone, and I am distressed immeasurably because of it.
What do you suppose Meade did when he read the letter?
Meade never saw the letter. Lincoln never mailed it. It was found among his papers after his death.
My guess is – and it is only a guess – that after writing that letter, Lincoln looked out of the window and said to himself, “Just a minute. Maybe I ought not to be so hasty. It is easy enough for me to sit here in the quiet of the White House and order Meade to attack; but if I had been up at Gettysburg, and if I had seen as much blood as Meade has seen during the last week, and if my ears had been pierced with the screams and shrieks of the wounded and dying, maybe I would not be so anxious to attach either. If I had Meade’s timid temperament, perhaps I would have done just what he had done. Anyhow, it is water under the bridge now. If I send this letter, it will relieve my feelings, but it will make Meade try to justify himself. It will make him condemn me. It will arouse hard feelings, impair all his further usefulness as a commander, and perhaps force him to resign from the army.”
So, as I have already said, Lincoln put the letter aside, for he had learned by bitter experience that sharp criticisms and rebukes almost invariably end in futility. …
Do you know someone you would like to change and regulate and improve? Good! That is fine. I am all in favour of it. But why not begin on yourself? From a purely selfish standpoint, that is a lot more profitable than trying to improve others – yes, and a lot less dangerous.”
What does this all mean?
You see, the key to managing conflict is change. Start with yourself and consider the others’ position and situation. Empathy and self reflection will create greater positive change than any emotively charged email or text message describing how poorly your child’s other parent has acted or behaved.
My book, ‘Stop Fighting Today’, is an ode to a very old book. With any luck, my composition may influence just one family to alter the way they communicate and start managing conflict to change their lives for the better. But this I know, it will never rival the epic “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie, first published in 1936.
If you would like support to start managing conflict in YOUR life, reach out! Don’t keep doing the same things you have always done. Seek support to look at things differently, from other perspectives and through other value systems. We’re all different. Conflict doesn’t have to be negative – it’s all in how you manage it. Discover a new way with the 52 Tips Program – one tip every week for a year. Or if you’re wanting hands on support or a certificate for Court, come to our Co-Parenting Workshop. Managing conflict doesn’t have to be difficult and overwhelming. Maybe for you, it’s just one little thing done differently. Are you ready to find out?