Texas CHL Student Notes
III. Conflict Avoidance and Dispute Resolution
Every person who carries a gun, with or without a permit, should sit down and give deliberate consideration to what being armed means; and what restrictions the armed person must place upon themselves. You must understand that because you have chosen to carry a handgun you must maintain better control of your emotions than the average citizen. You cannot allow yourself to lose your temper over minor difficulties, and you cannot allow your judgment to be impaired by anger. There are no such things as 'fighting words' to a legally armed citizen.
It is your responsibility to avoid conflicts and resolve disputes whenever possible. This is not only to reduce your risk of physical harm, but also to protect your liability if the conflict esclates despite your efforts. Remember the question 'what else could I have done to prevent the situation from escalating or the conflict from occurring?' If you don't ask it of yourself at the time of the conflict you may find a prosecuting attorney asking it of you in court. Always remember that your actions will be judged after the fact by 12 'reasonable people' on a jury. If they determine that you had less violent options other than use of force or deadly force or that you were responsible for the conflict escalating you could find yourself convicted of aggravated assault, murder, or other felonies, and headed for prison.
Ego States and Conflict Resolution
In 1964, Dr. Eric Berne wrote in his book, 'Games People Play' that we are composed of three separate ego states: Parent, Adult, and Child. The Child is emotional and selfish, and acts without thinking of the consequences. The Child throws tantrums and becomes angry when things don't go his way. The Parent wants to control the situation and exert his authority over others. The Parent judges and tries to change the behavior of others through verbal commands or force. The Adult responds with autonomous, objective appraisals of a situation, and states the thought processes and conclusions in a non-prejudicial manner.
In the Parent ego state we often take on the gestures, expressions, and other behaviors of our own parents; in the Child state we revert to our childhood behavior. In a conflict situation, our Parent and Child states become more dominant. We become concerned with ourselves, and use personal pronouns such as 'I', 'Me', and 'My'. These pronouns tend to cut out any Adult behavior, which is characterized by the pronouns 'We', 'Us', and 'Our'.
A typical transaction that nearly instantly results in conflict is when something scares, startles, or catches us off guard. After the initial alarm, we get angry and protective. We say things like 'Hey! You shouldn't do that!' or 'You should know better than that!' When anyone is spoken to like that, the natural (without thought) reaction is childlike. We say things like 'I'll do what I want' or, 'None of your damn business'. When the Parent is spoken to in a manner that it perceives as rebellious or resistant, we tend to become more Parental. The more Parental we become, the more Childlike they become. This is true conflict. The Parent can only win by making the Child lose.
The best way to resolve conflict is to speak in an Adult-to-Adult mode. This diffuses the situation by not allowing the other person to get on the defensive and by letting them keep their self-respect. This allows both sides to 'win' even if some compromises are made.
Conflict Avoidance vs. Dispute Resolution
There are two primary techniques for staying out of situations in which force or deadly force might be used. Conflict Avoidance is simply the 'art' of keeping your temper and accepting that often the best tactic is simply to retreat. This requires you to stay in Adult mode and resist your Parental or Childish urges to 'win' an avoidable conflict. Dispute Resolution is to be used in those situations which cannot be avoided and are not immediately violent. As in Conflict Avoidance your job is to remain in Adult Mode, but now you must also deal with an emotionally disturbed person in Parent or Child mode. This is more difficult and often requires a great deal of emotional control on your part. Remember - at all times - that as a concealed handgun permit holder your behavior will be judged to a higher standard than an average citizen because of your training and the trust the state has placed in you to carry a handgun in public.
Signs of Impending Emotional Disturbance
In a potential conflict situation, there are several signs people exhibit that indicate stress. The most common signs of emotional stress are:
- Clenching fists
- Rapid breathing
- Reddening of the face and complexion
- Violent verbal outbursts or total silence
- Tantrum-like behavior (throwing things, hitting walls, etc)
- Body tremors
- Stuttering speech
- Intense or fixed eye contact on a target or focal point
There are many more individual signs that people under stress exhibit, but all of the signs come from two sources: Physiological (body) and Psychological (mind). In a stressful situation the body releases adrenaline, which affects both our physical and psychological states. The stress can result from an unexpected physical threat, like a car accident or criminal attack, or from personal interactions, business dealings, or other psychological factors.
Conflict de-escalation Techniques: 'PACE' and 'LEAPS'
Four elements in a confrontation which must be understood can be remembered through the use of the mnemonic PACE:
- Problem - What has brought the conflict about? Are there underlying circumstances that have generated conflict?
- Audience - Who are the players? Where are they from? Are there cultural differences and similarities? What roles do they play in the community? What signs of impending stress do they exhibit?
- Constraints - Are there any obstacles to effective communication such as weather, time of day, location, ego or mental states of others, language, bystanders, etc.?
- Ethical presence - This is an expression of self-control. Words should only be used to state purpose from the Adult or behavior perspective, not to express personal feelings, opinions, or value judgments, which are Parent and Child. These only polarize and escalate conflict.
Five tools which should be used to redirect negative behavior using verbal persuasion are included in the mnemonic LEAPS.
- Listen - One of the most important skills. In the Parent and Child states, we become very self-centered. We want to talk and force our viewpoint onto others. Talking is natural, Listening is not. Talking requires only reacting. Listening requires responding. In all situation other than immediate life and death, we should always respond rather than react.
- Empathize - Empathy means to put yourself in another's shoes. When you empathize, do it out loud. Empathize directly with their problem, if you can truthfully do so, or indirectly so they believe you are trying to see things from their side.
- Ask - Ask Questions. Who, what, where, when, why? Asking questions builds a rapport and tends to ease a situation because it redirects people from reaction to response. It solicits their input rather than expressing your own viewpoint.
- Paraphrase - Paraphrasing is a way to put the other person's meaning into your words and give it back to them. It is the only way to interrupt a person in mid-sentence and not generate resistance. It makes the other person a better listener because they are hearing their own perspective, not yours. It creates empathy and generates a 'fair play' response. You have listened and made an effort to understand the other person.
- Summarize - When we summarize, we move toward closure. Our tone and words are specifically decisive and authoritative. 'Based on what you've told me, here's what we should do'. 'Let's do this..' or 'Why don't we do this...'. Move the verbal encounter towards resolution using as much win-win strategy as possible. Adult to Adult, or 'I'm OK, You're OK'.