Conflict Management Coaching Blog by Cinnie Noble
This quote gave me a smile because I often hear situations from clients in my conflict management coaching practice about interactions that happened long ago with the person they are currently embroiled with in a dispute. They can easily describe the details as though it happened yesterday. This is often while saying that these matters had been resolved. For instance, clients might use this expression – ‘buried the hatchet’ – to indicate the previous dispute is over and yet, the same feelings seem to prevail. It sounds as though that hatchet didn’t really get buried!
In some research I did a few years ago, I found that the initial altercation or even a set of circumstances that started tension between many people can begin a trajectory that escalates over time (even if no external conflict occurs). That is, once irritated about certain behaviours, words or attitudes, we often tend to continue to react to similar or even different triggers with that person and build on our annoyances until they turn into disdain.
At these times, it is evident that attributions about the person’s motives often become increasingly negative such that they have little chance of redeeming themselves. At some point we may engage in a discussion in which our (mutual) feelings are shared, and the issues are seemingly resolved. But it happens for many that things aren’t fully resolved, and the hatchet is not always buried.
If you can think of a situation about which the hatchet has not been yet buried, this set of questions might be helpful to reflect on: