Imagine a scenario for a moment. There are two people who are part of a larger community in conflict.
Different members of the community respond in different ways. Some clearly pick sides; some steer well clear and let things work themselves out; and some decide to intervene.
It is the last group I want to focus on – those who intervene are very rarely truly neutral. They usually have picked a side but want the conflict to end.
Unfortunately those who intervene almost always intervene in such a way as to escalate the problem. They clearly are trying to help the person they favour, but they tend to do this by attacking the other person. The result – fuel to the flames!
The only way to successfully intervene is when you see that a person that you care about is being an ass, and you are able to lovingly set them straight. The only reason the intervention succeeds is because the established trust in the relationship is sufficient to contain the criticism.
Any other approach will fail. No one is going to change their behaviour for the better when they feel threatened.
Gary Zukav in ‘Seat of the Soul’ talks about the importance of intent. A few days ago I found myself grappling with this. I was about to challenge someone on a particular issue. But I realised my intent was to make life easier for a third person with whom I have a close relationship.
Whilst my advice may have been useful, I cannot give it because I know my motivation is not purely in their best interest.
Examining my own intent is a useful guide to me in navigating conflict.