Conflict, by its nature, is disruptive. Conflict usually interferes with enjoyment of life. One area that suffers most due to conflict is relationships. Knowing the differences between conflict resolution and relational restitution can help you understanding how litigation has a negative effect on some individuals iives.
Conflict resolution is the process by which two parties with inconsistent and interfering goals reach an agreement whereby the goals no longer interfere or are no longer inconsistent with each other. The process of conflict resolution only works so long as the parties are willing to submit to it. An example of a system in place which resolves conflict is the civil court system. Parties are willing to submit to the civil court system because it is mandatory for all those that wish to live in the nation which sponsors the system and because the failure to participate would lead to serious consequences which parties would want to avoid. Conflict, by its nature, is disruptive. Conflict resolution can take a long time.
Most conflict resolution processes, particularly the civil system, deal in civil rights of parties and do not pay much attention to relationships. Relational restitution is the process by which a relationship is restored and parties are reconciled in a manner that best suits them going forward. Relational reconciliation is important in situations where parties must continue to work together, and for individual mental health, even if there is no goal to see or deal with another party again. Oftentimes parties will have moral or ethical values which loathe the destruction of relationships. When litigating a case, an attorney must advocate for a client’s cause zealously, even at the cost of the relationship with the opposing party. Conflict resolution and rights-driven resolution methods usually work against relational reconciliation, but sometimes a client wants to strike a balance between pursuing their rights and a desire to abdicate certain rights in order to preserve or restore relationships. These desires are not always mutually exclusive.
Conflict, by its nature, is disruptive.
If conflict is disruptive by its own nature and can destroy relationships, then the process of rights-driven conflict resolution can further destroy relationships, and not just with the opposing party. Usually a client is willing to enter into rights-driven conflict resolution against another party because they believe that party has harmed them in a way that has damaged the relationship beyond repair already. As is explain below, conflict can consume you, and the process of trying to resolve the conflict may only feed that fire, destroy you, and harm those around you.
Stages of Reaction to Being Wronged
Learning how conflict and its resolution may affect you is the first step to keeping a perspective which can preserve relationships around you, including with your closest friends and family. With the right perspective, and sometimes with divine intervention, even a relationship with an opposing party can be reconciled. The following describes the stages many go through when reeling from an incident that has wronged you (restated from The Cure by Thrall, McNicol, Lynch):
- Preoccupation with the issue. Living and reliving the event and obsessively rehearsing it in your mind, leading to disruptive sleep and misappropriated focus from other activities.
- Case building. Spinning words and actions to fit into your side of the story, or to advance your story in a manner that is logical sometimes only to you, globalizing accusations which may be unrelated to the issue, and rewriting the history of relationships.
- Double down on the commitment. Obsessive pursuit of “justice” and “accuracy” in a nickel-and-dime fashion. Memorization of exact words, sentences, and actions, recapitulated out of full context, and judgment and demand for swift and severe punishment of the one that committed a wrong.
- Neglect of usual activities. Inability to love well, falling short of meeting the needs of others. Extreme preoccupation of self turns into neglect of others attention, care, and protection. Those previously reliant on you may learn to do life without you.
- Loss of perspective. The obsession of being right and demanding wrongdoers to admit fault eventually leads to a bad memory on one’s own actions, and any wrongs in one’s own reactions are brushed off as a reasonable entitlement for someone who was harmed.
- Loss of joy. Until justice happens, you can not be happy. In fact, everyone in your world should live as captivated on the injustice and be as miserable as you are.
- Progressive unhealthiness. Growing bitterness turns to hypersensitivity. Hypersensitivity leads to rationalizing. Over rationalizing leads to irrationalizing. Bitterness, hypersensitivity, over rationalization, and irrationalizing lead to withdrawal of closest friends and family. Inability to lead with stress over long periods of time will lead to a shortened life span. The addition of coping mechanisms such as alcohol or drugs will accelerate the process and augment weaknesses.
- Broadcasting. Rehearsal of the events and injustice lead to projection of the issue onto others in order to gain buy-in. Selling “your side of the story” becomes a passion and purpose in life.
- Accuracy to inaccuracy. Over time, the perpetual rehearsal of your side of the story and obsession with defending your view of the disagreement and justification of your perspectives lead to an inability to interpret history accurately. Those who objectively witnessed the process or the event realize that your history is warped and spun.
- Alienation. Those that resist taking a side or ask questions that raise faults in your story have their loyalty put in question and thus the hic-up leads to a conclusion that the friendship has ended. Sometimes the friendship ends.
- Questioning higher powers. Does justice prevail? Does good triumph over evil? Does a higher power really exist? One becomes prone to make poor and brash life decisions.
Many of these items are related to conflict resolution, and many of them are not good for relationships. There are an infinite number of rabbit holes to go spelunking through when litigating, and each carries its own emotional toll, and each can destroy a relationship. Always count the cost of litigation by focusing on what is most important to you. What do you hold sacred? Is it family? Relationships? Truth? Justice? Vacation?
Merrill A. Hanson
Law Office of Merrill A. Hanson
180 N. Glendora Ave., Ste. 201
Glendora, CA 91741
Originally Published June 27, 2016
This page is not intended to convey legal advice. You should contact an attorney for your specific situation.