Allowing the Answer in Conflict Resolution

What do you do when you do not like someone’s answer? Or the answer seems unclear? Remembering these five truths may help: 

1) I cannot control how or whether someone responds. Sometimes, not liking an “answer” leads to conflict. Whether it is spouse (or soon to be ex-spouse) responding to the other spouse, an employee responding to a supervisor, a parent responding to a child (or in-law), or any family member or friend to me, people get to give whatever response they wish (or none at all). I cannot make someone answer a question, and certainly cannot make someone give my preferred answer. I may choose to request a time frame for receiving an answer, and say what no answer will lead me to do (“If I don’t hear from you in 24 hours, I’ll offer the tickets to someone else,” or “If you choose not to arrive for planned dinner time and do not let me know of the change, the family will eat dinner without you.” 

2) An answer meets a need. How someone behaves to any given situation, including making a request or giving a response, meets the person’s need for something. Even people who avoid conversations tend to be meeting a need for “ease,” although it often only lasts temporarily. Being curious about what need someone may be trying to meet may go a long way in bridging any misunderstandings. The naming needs list helps clarify underlying needs. Knowing the need opens dialogue and helps people start creating ideas about how to meet the need and resolve the conflict.

3) I am responsible for meeting my needs. Just like the other person is responsible for meeting his or her own needs (unless a child or otherwise incapacitated), I have a duty to meet my own needs. This means being clear about where my responsibilities begin end and knowing my own boundaries and limits. I may have a responsibility to other people when I am driving to follow the stop signs and speed limits, but I do not have a responsibility to clean someone’s car windows or fill their gas tank. When people are clear about who meets which needs or responsibilities, it prevents misunderstandings and conflict.

4) No one can make me feel or do anything. People often say, “S/he made me….” No one makes me feel a certain way and no one makes me follow the rules or misbehave. As an adult, I make decisions each day about when to get out of bed, whether to exercise or eat healthy, when to do my house work, how to conduct my business, and generally who I show up as in the world. While I may be inspired or influenced by different people, at the end of the day, every feeling I feel, each word I say, and all my actions are on me. I choose them all.

5) I always choose how I show up. If I think about how I want to show up each day, I am more likely to be the person I want to be.
Consciously choosing thoughts, feelings, and actions means the difference between positive healthy life experiences and negative, unhealthy life experiences. This means deciding who I am going to be no matter how someone else behaves. Knowing my own answers to number 3 (my own needs), also helps clarify where and with whom I will choose to spend my time. If someone wants to engage in violent behavior, I may say I care about the person and will continue the conversation conversation when the person behaves in a respectful way, and for now I am going to walk away. This lets the person I know I still care, but also makes my boundaries clear. If someone did not do the work they agreed to do, I may feel disappointment, but blaming or shaming the person helps no one. I will simply be clear about what that means for what I am willing to do, and how it might impact how we collaborate in the future. I may always choose to show up with curiosity, compassion and clarity and my choice to do so need not be impacted by anyone’s “answer” or behavior.  

Are you willing to allow whatever answer you receive? Who will you be in each moment regardless of how those around you behave?

A civil and family mediator, peace builder, and educator, Sherry Ann Bruckner lives in Alexandria, Minnesota. Visit to learn more or call Sherry at (320) 808-3212 for help to transform conflict and create peace.

As always, be gentle with you. Be gentle with all. Be the peace.