This week’s conflict resolution tip highlights the importance of focusing on the individual, instead of the group when you are in conflict.
Think about a group that you disagree with, whether it be a political affiliation, sports team, or another group that you don’t align with to some degree. Now, imagine you are about to have a conversation with an individual that identifies as a member of this group. What is running through your mind leading up to this conversation?
It is likely that you will enter this conversation with a lot of assumptions about who this person is based on your understanding of the group they belong to. Making assumptions like this is a form of stereotyping, which can lead to prejudice and any number of ‘-isms’ when acted upon. When we only focus on the group someone is a part of when speaking with them, we take away the nuances and complexities of the individual. Further, when miscommunication and conflict arise with this person, we easily attribute this miscommunication or conflict due to the fact that they are part of a specific group.
When you speak to someone that belongs to a specific group, instead of thinking of them as a representation of that group, first think of them as an individual. This is especially important when intergroup conflict has occurred. Tackling conflict between groups must start at the local level, with the most local level being the individual level. Ultimately, in any type of interaction, miscommunication, or conflict, starting at the individual level is the best way to communicate in a way that does not lead to stereotyping and potential prejudice. When we focus on the individual instead of the group, it is much easier to find common ground, values, and even shared identity. If you want more peace in your life, try to get to know people as individuals, not just as group members.