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Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Plan for Conflict

If there is anything in life that is inevitable, besides taxes and death, it is conflict. Regardless of how nice you are, it's impossible to avoid conflicts, disagreements and disputes. Why? Because we can only understand life through our own experiences. As hard as you try, it always seems that there is that one person who always brings out the "less-than-best" in you. Having been a behavioral psychologist almost 30 years, I have learned that there is a way to minimize the damage inflicted by someone else. If you know the questions you need to answer, before you find yourself in crisis, you will be fully equipped to manage yourself and perform successful damage control. If you ignore my advice, you will be like the majority of people who end up entangled in a judicial process robbing you of thousands of dollars and years of your life. I am not talking about medical malpractice or blatant negligence. I am talking about the day-to-day events that are physically, emotionally or financially disruptive and make you feel horrible inside. Do you want to know more?

Every morning when you get dressed - make sure you have a pen (because pencils break at the most inconvenient times) and something to write on, like a piece of paper. Make this a daily habit. It is even more vital than brushing your teeth! I actually have a form that I created and saved as a PDF so that I can fill-out, save and print. The form has spaces for me to write all the important information I need when I find myself in a conflict. The form also serves to remind me to ask specific questions and write down specific observations. The reason that you want to gather the information is that it is almost certain that the other party is NOT collecting the information. So, the weight of the world rests on YOUR shoulders.

Now, within 48 hours of the event, you are going to realize that something is not quite the way it was before the event/incident occurred. Good news! YOU have a first hand account documented in detail that will eventually be used to jog the memory of the other party. In most cases, accurate and objective first hand observations are the leading contributor to a timely equitable resolution. If the damages are non-monetary and relatively minor, you will likely benefit most from a Mediator. Even if your situation requires a legal solution, your attorney will be delighted that you were responsible enough to keep helpful information.

Here is the good stuff ... this is what you need to record when ANY incident/event, for which a conflict or dispute, emerges.
  • When?
    Make a note of the day of the week, the date and the time.
  • Who was there?
    If you want names, just say "I'm First name Last Name, and you are?"
    If they refuse to give their name, write down a physical description of the person.
  • What was done?
    Describe the specifics of their behavior
  • What was said?
    Try to be as accurate in writing down their words verbatim
  • What was your reaction to what happened?
    It is important to be truthful, because we are all human and humans make mistakes. It's always better for you if you described what actually happened.
  • Was anything damaged?
    Look closely to see if there are scratches, dents, burns, breaks, pieces on the ground - how about disassembled, defaced, ripped, torn or stretched.
  • Was anyone hurt?
    This applies to animals and humans ... there are going to be immediately visible damages and then there are going to be underlying damages. Something which looks OK on the surface could be life threatening (ie., ruptured organ). 
  • What did you do to manage the conflict/dispute or incident?
    This is where you document that you went to both a health care provider AND a mental health professional  IMMEDIATELY following the event. Even when they say, "you seem OK but I want you to come back later" you will have done what 99% of victims don't. Being proactive is your assurance that if something is wrong - you are going to be diligent rather than just assume it's no big deal. On the other hand, your failure to be proactive will prove costly to YOU when you are seeking a resolution.
The problem with most conflicts and disputes is that either party neglects to document the specifics when they are fresh in their mind. Time goes by and the re-telling of the original event either gets embellished or trivialized. That is why people finally resort to litigation … to restore civility and execute justice. The adversarial process, while helpful in complicated and egregious disputes/conflicts typically results in a costly, delayed and drawn out solution. This is why you need to consider the benefit of mediation, conciliation and negotiation even before an incident occurs.

If you would like the copy of my PDF, just email me and ask.

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