Conflict Resolution Training:

Take It Or Leave It May Be An Appropriate Strategy


You may be thinking that there are some conflicts where it’s inappropriate to give up the need to be right because, in fact, you do need to be right. And you’d be right!

For example, you may have an employee who is consistently late and it’s simply unacceptable for her to be late. You may have a customer who demands delivery dates that are impossible to meet. You may have a boss who gives you assignments to complete at the last minute and there just isn’t time to complete them by his deadline. You may have a coworker who won’t assist other team members and that behavior cannot be tolerated. You may have children who are continually threatening to quit school even though the law requires that they stay in school.

You may be feeling a lot of frustration about these situations. You probably think you’ve done everything but beg for the other person to change and nothing you’ve done has made any difference.

What makes these situations difficult for you to deal with is that you treat these situations as though they were open to conflict resolution when, in fact, they are not. You keep seeking commitment when, in fact, all you really want is compliance. These situations are called “take it or leave it.” These are ultimatums and are not open to the “Everyone Wins” model. In these situations, not everyone will win because not everyone’s needs will be met.

There are situations where it doesn’t matter what the other person needs because no choice is possible. Either the other person complies with your request or she suffers the consequences.

Likewise, there are situations where it doesn’t matter what your needs are because no choice is possible. Either you comply with other’s requests or you suffer the consequences. No conflict resolution is needed or called for. There is a rule or policy that must be adhered to regardless of whether one likes or agrees with that rule or policy.

You must remember, however, that “being right” in these situations doesn’t mean being righteous. “Being right” simply means that the decision is out of your hands and there’s no point in talking further about it. You don’t have to be angry, you don’t have to be sarcastic and you certainly don’t have to be argumentative. All you have to do is present the ultimatum dispassionately.

You will avoid a great deal of grief for yourself if you simply accept the validity of “take it or leave it in some situations.