“Can we…can we all just get along?” If you were around in the early 90’s, you might remember the press conference where Rodney King spoke these famous words trying to motivate the stoppage of the L.A. riots. This was a huge statement, because the riots were in support of him. What would drive a community to violence? Why have conflicts at all?

The L.A. riots of 1992 were in response to the justice system not prosecuting four police officers caught on video excessively beating Rodney King. Most of the nation perceived this as a racially charged crime against Mr. King and when justice was not served, the city went crazy and began looting and destroying anything in their paths. The trial was the catalyst for this outburst, but it was not the root cause. The root cause is something we are still struggling with 25 years later: respect for others.

Disrespect for another or the perceived disrespect instigates conflict. We can only take so much before we lash out at others. Think of the last argument you have had in your work center or home, it wasn’t over the fact you didn’t put down the toilet seat or refill the printer. That was the catalyst and the root cause is something centered on respect. We have to take a step back when someone lashes out at for something that seems completely trivial and diffuse the situation.

If you are their sounding board or verbal punching bag, excuse yourself from the situation and say everyone needs a moment to calm down. Once the emotions settle, reflect on what could be the root cause of this. Then reengage with the person with the intent to talk things out. You should be in full-discovery mode where your goal is to get to the real issue at hand. Only then can you solve it together. The key is to detach yourself from the situation and not take any of the feedback or criticisms as personal attacks. This is extremely hard as we are not wired to be open-minded while being attacked.

Remember the key to resolving conflict is finding the source of the tension. Even if we think the other person is blowing things out of proportion, it is still their perception that things are a certain way. After all, isn’t perceiving their viewpoint as stupid the same thing? We have to be willing to listen to others before we can expect them to respect us.

(To learn more about conflict resolution, check out the book, You Can’t Beat Me!)