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Fear and Loathing Near Las Vegas

Institute for the Study of Conflict Transformation

I haven’t seen it done in a while but in the past if a business wanted to draw attention to itself for a big event, it would bring in a huge spotlight that would illuminate the night sky and grab the interest of everyone from miles around. I think that particular visual is a great analogy for what sometimes happens in a conflict. The issue starts out being about one person and ends up with the focus—or the spotlight—on the other. And, surprising, how the spotlight moves its focus from one to the other isn’t always due to the first person trying to blame shift.

We’ve all dealt with people who have plenty of excuses about others. Add in some victim-like speak and you have blame shifting at its best. But that’s not what I’m talking about here. What I am talking about is how the other person responds and how that response can morph them from being the innocent bystander to the one with the gigantic spotlight focused squarely on them. Oops!

When one over-reacts, refuses to talk, goes around/over/behind the chain of command, or flails around like a five-year-old, they run the risk of making themselves the problem and shifting the focus of attention. In the blink of an eye you can go from minding your own business to having the powers that be all up in your business. So, how do you avoid such a thing? Do the opposite of overreacting, refusing to talk, or flailing around. Show concern for any issues (no matter who brings them) and talk the situation through in a way that keeps the spotlight aimed in the other direction. Then, move on in the shadows until the light shines on you for the right reasons (like for your amazing ability to handle conflict!).

                        author

Dan Simon

Dan is a leader in the field of transformative mediation. He is the author of the chapter on divorce mediation in the Institute for the Study of Conflict Transformation's ("ISCT") TRANSFORMATIVE MEDIATION SOURCEBOOK. He is a Past Chair of the Minnesota State Bar Association's Alternative Dispute Resolution Section. He served… MORE >

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