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I’m in a situation where I believe cohesiveness would be both sensible and desirable, in a “house divided against itself cannot stand” sense. The other parties, however, don’t see this. This is partly from a lack of perspective and partly due to their own immediate wants.

I’m not a very assertive person and I worry that any attempt I make to communicate this will come across badly; potentially so badly as to only increase the division. I have tried being non-defensive; I’ve tried justifying my position with evidence (which I have, whereas their position is more emotionally-based); and I’ve tried encouraging patience. None of which has been very successful.

To be clear, this isn’t (I think) about compromise. It’s more about respect. As I say, there is information asymmetry: I’ve listened to them and they don’t recognise the complexities of the situation, despite me trying to explain. Ultimately we all want the same outcome, but without them trusting my judgement, it will cause division and push the resolution of that outcome ever further away.

How can I assert cohesion without creating a rift? Better yet, how can I assert this position in such a way as to rally everyone together?


EDIT I'm being abstract as I assumed that would be more helpful to others, rather than just helping me; I'm also loathe to reveal personal information on the Internet and abstraction helps anonymise that. Nonetheless, to address the comments, let me give a few more specifics:

  • This is an issue between family members; let's call them Group A and Group B.
  • I am a member of both groups; indeed, the only member. (For clarity's sake, whenever I mention either group from now on, I mean it excluding myself, unless stated otherwise.)
  • I reside with Group B and, as such, am privy to privileged information that should not be shared. This information can explain Group B's position (discussed later).
  • Group A has a proclivity towards making assumptions, jumping to conclusions and passive aggression (e.g., guilt tripping, sarcasm, etc.); Group B is much more objective and direct, but quick to anger in the extreme (I cannot overstate this).
  • I am more like Group A, but living with Group B has made me aware of Group A's "foibles". I try my best to avoid these, but can still sometimes be assuming and defensive; I rarely get angry and I do not respond well (becoming submissive) to others' anger, direct or otherwise.
  • Group A wants more contact with Group B (me, in particular); Group B (excluding me) wants zero contact with Group A. Group B's reasons for this are partly justifiable; I am only involved insofar as I'm stuck in the middle. As such, I cannot satisfy Group A's request without angering Group B and thus compromising my own immediate needs (i.e., peace).
  • Group A cannot understand this situation, despite me giving as much information as is appropriate (i.e., without over-sharing). To be clear, I do not like this situation -- I wish for contact with Group A -- but believe the stalemate to be the "least bad option" for the time being.
  • Group A is starting to exercise those "foibles" and getting pushy. My fear is that this will cause division: I am clearly not being listened to and, without the skills to negotiate this effectively, I worry it will spiral out of control and cause a split between Group A and myself.
  • I'm not sure what the solution is to Group A's (and my) needs. My situation with Group B is not good, but it is stable and that's about as much as I can hope for. I know what will make the situation worse, however, and I'm keen to avoid that.
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    We're only seeing your side here, so it's important you make that rely as little as possible on adjectives and abstraction, and stay as close to the facts as possible. You've mentioned a few things you tried, but how have you tried doing those? If you can include more about how you did the things you did (e.g. what responses do you give, how have you made your arguments to them?) and a bit more about how they respond to that, it could illustrate that you're not doing what you think you're doing, and answers can address that.
    – Tinkeringbell
    Mar 22, 2022 at 7:29
  • Why do you understand the complexities of the situation better than the other parties? What do you do that makes your response more rational and what do they do that makes theirs more emotionally based? What is your relation to the other parties, family, friends, coworkers, are they your employees or bosses?
    – Tinkeringbell
    Mar 22, 2022 at 7:29
  • While I appreciate the intention to abstract and remain anonymous; it's hard to judge severity and balance when you have no context at all. What are the groups and potential divisions? As it is currently written it could range from a deep ideological incompatibility with high tensions, to an argument about which way the toilet roll should hang that has gotten out of hand (silly example, but some feuds have started over trifles).
    – Flater
    Mar 23, 2022 at 15:01
  • I'm also a bit stumped on how you intend to overcome division with an example whose context is entirely derived from the groups and how they are defined as a single homogeneous block. Where are the people in the interpersonal conflict? Right now, your description is more likely to further the division as any answer would inherently be based on these group boundaries and assumptions that all members of a given group share all opinions/behaviors.
    – Flater
    Mar 23, 2022 at 15:01
  • "The other parties, however, don’t see this. ... I’ve tried justifying my position with evidence (which I have, whereas their position is more emotionally-based)" This sounds more like a you vs (A+B) division, rather than an A vs B division. "without them trusting my judgement, it will cause division" That is quite the presumption to make, at least without backing it up. Why is it either your way or the divisive way? What makes your judgment superior to theirs? Have you considered that both A and B are choosing separation from the other, i.e. not because of ignorance or inability?
    – Flater
    Mar 23, 2022 at 15:06

1 Answer 1

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Conflicts generally start because two subjects have excluding claims regarding an object. This is the original state of the conflict, called the object state.

The conflict prevents both parties from enforcing their claim on the object, which provokes frustration and a sense of prejudice to them. The antagonist claimer is seen as the source of that frustration and prejudice. With time, feelings provoked by the conflict itself will supersede those provoked by the initial object. The object is seen as a mere trigger to what is now a conflict at person state. An example of this is when two kids fight for a toy, then being busy fighting, don't notice a third kid has started playing with it.

With time and people siding the conflict, the antagonists focus can shift again, from a person to groups they belong to. Also, this escalation can raise the risk of provoking other intertwined object-then-people state conflicts between persons in the groups, breaking into the power state of the conflict. At this stage, people don't need a reason to fight anymore. This is the classic "these two families have been fighting for generations, they don't even remember what started it and when"

What you describe, is basically a conflict at power state (or escalating to there).

In order to exit that situation, both groups need to deescalate the situation from power state to person state, then from person state to object state. So basically, they need to answer the questions: who are you having a conflict with, and then why? "Group B wants zero contact with Group A" needs to transform to "Person B1 wants zero contact with Person A2", and then "Person B1 has a problem with A2 being sarcastic with B3 and would like him/her to acknowledge it, and apologize for that".

Then we are back to a classic object state, out of which people need to arbitrate.

Reference: You can get more information on how conflict can escalate and deescalate in Friedrich Glasl's confict escalation model.

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  • Hi there, welcome to IPS. This angle of view seems pretty interesting. Is there a chance you back it up with some data ? Where did you get this from ? Do you have some links ?
    – OldPadawan
    Apr 4, 2022 at 17:15
  • This was from a presentation I attended years ago for an optional Q&R session. I think it is a simplification of Glasl's conflict escalation model
    – ArwynFr
    Apr 4, 2022 at 17:39
  • That would be helpful to clarify this in your answer then, and add the link as well, it's a reference.
    – OldPadawan
    Apr 4, 2022 at 18:22

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