Interpersonal Relationships and Conflict Resolution

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Dealing with interpersonal relationships is a complex subject that is often given inadequate attention by communities. Each individual in a group has a particular and unique personality style that has been shaped by the lifetime of their experience. There are driver types and quiet folk, expressives, analyticals, reserved, shy, reactive and many others. After you have been working together for awhile, an attentive person with training will recognize members personalities and styles and then use that understanding to predict how the group will react to different situations. As the group gets into conflicts, the elements of group dynamics and personality style need to be taken into account by the facilitators of the group. Getting to know yourself

It is important to make, even at a surface level, some determination about yourself and how you are likely to affect the group dynamic. Ask yourself : Do I talk a lot, or very little? Am I confident about myself and my ideas? Do I listen to others well, or am I impatient having to listen to others? Am I empathetic to others or do I care mostly about getting the task done? When others speak, am I listening to what they say, or thinking about what I am going to say? Am I quick to anger? Am I defensive or accepting when someone talks about my behavior? Do I ramble or am I a bulleted list sort of person? What makes me annoyed? What makes me feel good? As you define yourself as a member of the group you will find your strengths and areas that need improving. A good exercise in community building is to share how you perceive yourself. There are a number of personality style tests that are available and offer huge value to group understanding. Getting to know each other

Getting to know one another is not a fast process, and the more the group changes and the larger it gets the longer it takes. It is hard to trust strangers and community demands a great deal of trust. Many groups neglect this, assuming that the "business" is more important than their relationships. It can be easy to incorporate social activities as part of business meetings, but the group should also hold purely social gatherings, where the point is to have fun. Share stories of where you grew up, important turning points in your life, people who you admire. Another way is to write up biographies of each other, one member interviewing another and then keeping these in a notebook for future members to read and add to. Go out for a weekend retreat and spend time talking and learning about one another. Working with personality style conflicts

One of the most common sources of conflict and angst in all types of intentional communities is the friction between the "doers and the talkers". This dichotomy between task and process is very common and is often a source of conflict and frustration in community. A healthy community has a balance between task and process. Think of task and process like the wings of a bird. If one wing is shorter than the other, the bird flies around in circles. If there is mostly task and little process, the friction's between people will erupt into communication problems and the resulting conflicts keep tasks from moving forward. Conversely, too much process, and everybody spends much of their time in feelings meetings and the tasks that need doing languish. However, when task and process are balanced, both wings are working at maximum efficiency to carry the community in the direction it wants to go. You need process to determine the direction to go and how to work together, you need task orientation to accomplish all the jobs needed. Often the conflicts that arise from process and task chafing come from personality styles. There are a number of tests, such as Meyers-Briggs that measure how a person reacts to events and people. The sum total of these reactions are called your personality style. Personality style characterizes how you approach group work and can and usually does effect your...
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