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WANT TO TALK? CHECK YOUR TIMING AND ULTIMATUMS – THE INTERNATIONAL ARENA IS AGOOD MIRROR OF INTERPERSONAL CONFLICT.

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Two days ago, under the media’s spotlight, Argentinian President Cristina Kirchner handed David Cameron an envelope containing documents regarding the sovereignty of the Falklands/Malvinas. Cameron refused the document having been advised that it was a ‘media stunt’. His reaction has caused a political and diplomatic backlash of harsh words and ‘vigorous’ statements (Cameron’s word).

In a radio interview yesterday with BBC Radio Berkshire I was asked to comment on the situation from a conflict resolution perspective. Was the situation well handled, or has it escalated the conflict? And what of the personality clash, would it better for others to step in and dialogue instead of them?  http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio/player/p00t36qm http:/

Cameron and Kirchner are currently showing us how easy it is for a conflict to escalate, especially  when one feels under pressure to perform the role of defender and advocate for others.

  • Timing – time your request to speak, don’t stage a surprise attack
  • Delivering a message – either/or ultimatums lead to doors slamming. Ask to speak before you say what you want to say; consider also how you say it.
  • When it seems that one party doesn’t want to talk.  Avoidance can equally be a power game; there is nothing more frustrating than one party wanting to talk and the other refusing to or avoiding the situation.   Two powerful roles, the Victim and the Aloof: The victim will talk to everyone else except for the person(s) involved though still delivers messages via others (e.g. Cameron and the Media). The Aloof brandishes one’s power with apparent poise when all others are losing their cool and may walk away with a symbolic  statement of “Talk to the hand!”
  • When ‘allies’ fan the flames of a conflict.  This is seen as much in politics as in interpersonal relations; fans will reinforce the notion of ‘right and wrong’ – quite simply, you’re right and the other party, wrong! With that force and pressure to act in a particular way behind you, you have little room to reconsider your actions and are potentially swept along the current they are generating.
  • Let’s get personal.  When the can of worms has been opened and people involved feel under scrutiny or attack, then personality differences and difficulties get enmeshed with the arguments and detract from the issues at hand.  Kirchner’s and Cameron’s attacks on their nations colonialist stance are as much personal as political, if you consider what other other words they may use to describe each other off-stage!

HOW WOULD THIS BE RESOLVED?

One or other party would need to readdress the situation away from the public eye and suggest to speak directly at a more appropriate time.  Despite Cameron’s initial response, he and Kirchner have one thing in common, they both want to address the issue.

A de-escalating move would be for either Cameron or Kirchner, or both, to suggest that they speak at a later time in a different manner and both agree to avoid the topic with the media. This would reduce the blame of who started the media attention and create a sense of commonality of needing to address the issue.  Staying stuck in blame does nothing to de-escalate the situation; indeed, when a conflict escalates there is equal contribution and blame is not clearly attributed to one or other party.

Be it in international relations or interpersonal ones, people and emotions are always involved; depending on how it is handled, these either fuel or de-escalate conflict.

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