Conflict Management in an Argumentative World
Reasons for Lack of Productivity
After a productive start to the year when I was writing around two hubs per week, I have suddenly found myself in, for want of a better term, a writing rut. I can't really blame this malady on writer's block or any one thing as there has been a number of contributing external issues.
The major restricting factor to my writing here at HubPages is probably the volume of freelance writing jobs I have been called to do. I am not complaining as these are paid gigs and we all need money to survive, but ghostwriting and editing articles for others is not as personally satisfying as writing for oneself on subjects and issues close to your heart.
Other things that have contributed to my recent lack of activity here include:
- Additional clearing our block of land and renovating the premises
- More travel and extended time away from home than usual
- Donating time to man stalls at markets and trade/craft fairs
- Starting and maintaining a new website
I have become desperate to put pen to paper and be more productive. Should I write a poem, or maybe a short piece of fiction? Each time I would start to write I would lose focus, be interrupted, or be distracted by something else, or just not happy with the writing I produced.
The topic of this hub really just selected itself.
To Mediate or Not to Mediate?
While sitting at my computer screen in the hope of suddenly being visited by my muse and finding the inspiration to write something deep and meaningful, I instead found myself acting as a mediator both here on HubPages, Facebook, and on my other website.
I am used to taking on a mediator role in real life as for some unexplained reason my wife and I often seem to become friends with people who simply don't like each other, but who we get on with fine. That is a difficult position to find yourself in because you often have to deal with gossip from one about another, and vice versa but have to stay impartial.
Usually, when I stumble upon a dispute that involves people I don't know well, I quietly watch on or listen, or will beat a hasty retreat assuming it is none of my business. However if it involves friends or colleagues, or affects something I have a personal interest in, I have no choice but to become involved. This has been the situation I have found myself in recently.
Forum or Debate?
British Dictionary definitions for:
1.a meeting or assembly for the open discussion of subjects of public interest
2.a medium for open discussion, such as a magazine
3.a public meeting place for open discussion
1.a formal discussion, as in a legislative body, in which opposing arguments are put forward
2.discussion or dispute
3.the formal presentation and opposition of a specific motion, followed by a vote
Based on these definitions, forums and message boards are designed for matters of common public interest to be discussed or answers sought and provided. It appears though forums (at least on the Internet) are being used more and more for debate (dispute) rather than just friendly discussion.
Some terms that have been connected to the word debate are "healthy", "spirited"' and "heated". The first two are fine and can lead to interesting discussion, the third however is better avoided as it can lead to unpleasant outcomes. Recently, while visiting certain forums and message boards and expecting friendly discussion I have inadvertently found myself in the middle of all these types of debates instead.
Without it being my intention, I have been forced to assume the role of mediator to try and avert a discussion, between two people I knew, that began as healthy debate but soon threatened to become spirited and then heated.
Is the World Becoming More Argumentative?
It seems that everywhere you look today people are arguing. Turn on the news and you will see politicians continually arguing just for the sake of disagreeing with the opposition. Countries are at war constantly or at odds with how to deal with terrorism, what to do with refugees etc. The general public is constantly at odds over things like gun control, religion, politics, climate change, health, jobs, political correctness, censorship, names of HubPages niche sites, and the list goes on.
Maybe my memory fails me or I remember things through the innocent, non-judgemental eyes of a child, but I recall a time when life seemed more peaceful and care-free, and people enjoyed each other's company more. Now more often than not we communicate by email, text message, chat rooms, instant message, or in Internet forums (Facebook, Twitter etc), and a lot of that results in argument and debate. Even actual phone calls are used less often. Couples often split up via text message instead of having to face each other in person.
Body Language, Voice Intonation, and the Three "Cs"
The very fact that we often cannot see or even hear the person we are speaking to leads itself to miscommunication, misunderstandings, and ultimately, arguments. Body language and voice intonation play a large part in conversation and their absence is often the cause of these disputes. We have to imagine the tone that the other person was trying to convey in their writing. Often we get this wrong and base it on our own feelings or prejudices. I am no saint either and have found myself involved in a couple of online arguments. Fortunately, I was eventually able to resolve these disagreements.
I can't make specific references to the incidents I have tried to mediate, only to say that in most cases (not all) the result has been satisfactory. It has usually required some sort of compromise by both parties concerned. I wouldn't say I have a flare for mediation and would prefer to avoid that role if possible, however, I do seem to be able to find a middle ground in most cases and divert a more unpleasant outcome.
In fact one of the situations I refer to has flared up and become more serious since I began to write this. Once again I have had to step in and attempt to deflame the situation, and put the three "Cs" of Conflict Management into action: COMPOSURE, COMPROMISE, COOPERATION.
"think" before we write.
Despite its deficiencies, online written communication has one advantage over face to face and verbal communication (no, not that we won't get punched in the face for insulting someone). We do have time to "think" before we write. We all need to remember to do that in order to avoid misunderstandings.
Let's approach everyone we encounter, both "online" and in "real life" as a potential friend, and make them have to prove themselves an enemy, rather than the other way around.
© 2016 John Hansen