Conflict resolution skills vital to presidents


By Steven DeSalvo

After four years of careful research on relationships, one required skill seems more pronounced in this presidential race than ever before: Conflict resolution. Where candidates fail or succeed tends to be more and more dependent on their ability to engage in constructive conflict resolution with results that achieve a win-win more often than conflicts that end in win-lose or lose-lose.

However, instead of resolving conflict, many of the presidential candidates are propagating deeper divides from ongoing issues between the candidates in a given party, between the candidates and various segments of the American people, or straight along the Democratic and Republican lines. We see more issues created in this coming election than we see actual solutions to real problems.

The dynamics of this coming election make it different from the dynamics of presidential elections in the past. Presidential candidates historically have run their campaigns based on platforms, not overinflated and unresolved conflicts. These platforms included a candidate’s view for the future based on their values and beliefs, and how to tackle some of the major issues facing our country. We all know that our country’s main issues include: a need for healthcare; a growing homeless population; gun control; overcrowded prison system; and the ever-increasing financial divide between the 1 percent and the 99 percent. However, instead of focusing on these issues, we find ourselves distracted by big egos creating bigger conflicts.

In 2016, the presidential candidates appear to be more focused on creating conflicts and the related drama that arises, rather than stating a clear platform and clear path for what will be accomplished if they are elected president. It is hard to say at this point, in this election, what most of the candidate’s platforms are going to do for American people or how they are going to solve these issues. Instead of people hearing about what they will achieve while in office, their division extends outward from each other, to targeted segments of the American people like immigrants, gay people, women, and varying races.

It is becoming clear that the presidential candidate who is going to stand out will need to have more conflict resolution skill than ever before. If elected, they will need this ability to navigate the increasing tensions in various part of the world, negotiate with world leaders, and resolve the obstructive behaviors we see occurring in our own government. Obstructionism results from the complete failure to engage in constructive conflict resolution. The elected president will also need to handle the deep divides that are occurring here on American soil between American people as well as the division from the rest of world. A president who can resolve problems skillfully will accomplish more than a candidate who creates division and separation.

How do you resolve conflicts? Conflict Resolution begins with each party acknowledging that an issue has occurred, and their showing up willingly to engage in the resolution process. Once the conflict is clear, and both parties have heard each other’s side and taken responsibility for their actions, they should apologize and come to an agreement on how to move forward. No president has ever gotten everything they wanted, but those who have had these skills have gotten very close. More cohesion is what America needs and the ability to resolve conflicts amicably is what will lead to less division and more collaboration.

Unfortunately, the animosity that we see with the Republican candidates is something that was built over time and is directly related to unresolved conflicts that have continued to grow into anger and resentment. This public bickering, rather than honest debate, takes us to a new low in presidential campaigns with no value in helping us cast our vote. The use of divisive, demeaning or derogatory language during the debates has shown us exactly what we don’t want in a presidential candidate, instead of clearly defining the platform we do want.

The real question is who is winning when it comes to conflict resolution and it looks like the Democratic candidates are clearly leading the pack. Why? Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton resolved the DNC server breach of voter file access respectfully with each side taking responsibility and each side willingly taking personal responsibility to correct it with agreements and apologies for how to proceed.

Our new president and leader will require even greater conflict resolution skills to solve the big problems we face in America and around the world. Conflict resolution skills will determine our next president and our assured leader.

Steven DeSalvo is author of “Relationships Dynamics,” the first in a series of books exploring how relationships are created and sustained.

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