How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria?

“Many a thing you know you’d like to tell her. Many a thing she ought to understand. But how do you make her stay and listen to all you say?”

Oh, Maria!

We all know a Maria. Maybe there’s a Maria at work, home, church, little league, your high school yearbook… Maybe you’re surrounded by Marias! How we solve conflicts can be innate to our personalities, experiences, and/or training. But, just like the story of Maria Von Trapp, conflict can often be a good thing! Be like Maria. Stay the course, engage in the craziness, and don’t run away. The results can be swell! (Yes, technically Maria did run away, but she returned!)

What’s Your Conflict Mode?

According to the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument, we tend sold problems in one of five ways: By (1) Competing; (2) Collaborating; (3) Compromising; (4) Avoiding; and (5) Accommodating. All five of these methods of conflict resolution are valuable. Typically, we will prefer one over others but we often use many or all of these methods. But, if your preferred method doesn’t seem to be working for you with the Marias in your life, the beauty of this is that you can learn to take another approach with Maria. And different Marias will likely require different approaches.

Take It From Julie Andrews

“When I’m with her, I’m confused, out of focus and bemused. And I never know exactly where I am. Unpredictable as weather, she’s as flighty as a feather. She’s a darling! She’s a demon! She’s a lamb!”

Don’t forget, Maria has her reasons too! Just because Maria is on the other side of the conflict, she’s not all bad. A good friend in the counseling profession once told me, “If you’re not having conflict, you’re not growing.”

I’d like to extend a special thanks to Sarah Bush, Doctoral Candidate in Virginia Tech’s Department of Agriculture, Leadership and Community Education for introducing us to the Thomas-Kilman Instrument and sharing her expertise!


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