Four Tips For Handling Conflict with Dignity

As a lifelong educator, and now an ombuds of almost eight years, I have always been a huge proponent of respect being a key to success in our lives. Then when I heard Donna Hicks speak on the concept of dignity at the 2022 International Ombuds Association annual conference, I was inspired to learn more! 

While respect could be defined as an admiration of or appreciation for someone based upon what they do or because of specific qualities they possess, dignity is different. Dignity is, in Donna’s words, “an internal state of peace that comes with the recognition and acceptance of the value and vulnerability of all living things.” 

 Ombuzz first published two posts on this topic back in 2018 and 2021. You can read them here:  Why Dignity & Respect Matter and Be a Guardian of Dignity- For Yourself and For Others  Maybe now, in 2023, more than ever, we need to recognize the dignity that lies within others and ourselves as we navigate unprecedented challenges and opportunities for conflict resolution within our settings. 

In this article, I want to revisit a section of Donna’s updated edition of Dignity: Its Essential Role in Resolving Conflict. The book provides simple, yet profound information on the ten elements of dignity, along with the ten temptations to violate dignity. (We may visit more of this list in future publications!) We are reminded throughout the book that because dignity is a birthright, so to speak, no one can take it from us. We must guard and protect our own dignity as carefully as we guard and protect the dignity of those around us. Thankfully, even when our dignity has been damaged, or a relationship we are in has suffered dignity hurt, there are steps we can take to heal it.

When I read chapter 16, Avoiding Conflict, it deeply resonated with me, as I am always exploring new ways I can support visitors to my office. When our dignity is harmed by another person, especially someone who is threatening or powerful, it can be tempting to avoid conflict. However, successfully handling conflict can preserve our mental, emotional, and even physical health. Here is what I learned to do when conflict impacts my dignity:

  1. Clarify internally what I want to gain from confronting another party.

While I may want multiple outcomes from a confrontation, be willing to accept small victories and appreciate being heard.

  1. Separate the individual from their behavior.

Assume the best about the offender and address the offense – NOT the individual.

  1. Recognize that some personalities may prevent others from hearing and acknowledging an offense.

If another party is incapable of receiving negative feedback, recognize that I may need to make more changes than originally planned, which may include separating myself further from the other party.

  1. Practice and honesty are the two qualities that will best help me successfully confront others.

Use a variety of scripts with my practice party. During the actual conversation, avoid the temptation to deflect or avoid questions; rather, answer honestly and openly – and hope for the best!

This four-step approach is going to help me personally, and it gives me specific steps to share with visitors to my office!

By: Amy Hartman, Ombuds at Sinclair Community College

8 thoughts on “Four Tips For Handling Conflict with Dignity”

  1. I enjoyed reading this. The reminder to allow others to leave the Ombuds space with their dignity in tact is important even when the initial presentation of the person was unplesant. As Ombuds, we owe it to ourselves to maintain our own dignity while ensuring we are not taking it away from others. Assuming the best about the visitor and focusing on the behavior and not the person will enable the dignity of the Ombuds as well as the visitor to remain in tact. I appreciate the reminder Amy and thank you for your thoughtfulness.

    Tanneh Kamara, Ombudsperson

    1. Thanks for the comment, Tanneh! We appreciate you reading Ombuzz and hope you will share it with your visitors.

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