Successful People Are Peacemakers, Not Peacekeepers

If it weren’t for people, my business would be perfect. Business is sometimes simple; dealing with people is hard. Peacemaking fixes that. Peacekeeping makes it worse.

At any given time, one-third of us are bugged about something someone is doing at work, and Accenture says a stunning 35% of people who quit do so to avoid confronting an interpersonal issue.

There are two ways to deal with an issue: now or later (“never” falls under later). Successful people do not live passively, just hoping stuff will work out. They understand the golden rule of relationships—peacemaking beats peacekeeping every time.

Peacekeepers don’t want to make waves, rock the boat, or risk tension in a relationship. So instead they let a lot of small issues just pile up until there is no choice but to dump the truck. Instead of dealing with each “border skirmish” as it comes up, they ignore them until they find themselves in World War III. Peacekeepers are more concerned about present peace than long-term relationships.

Peacemakers understand that dealing with issues as they arise keeps them small, keeps the slate clean, and builds an environment of trust where no one is waiting to be blind-sided by someone blowing up at them. Peacemakers always have the other person’s best interests at heart, and are willing to confront small tensions in order to ensure no big ones can fester and explode.

Here’s a short list of common things we tend to ignore in order to keep the short-term peace. See if you find one you’re ignoring right now:

You’re micro-managing me.

You lack initiative (or productivity).

I’ve screwed up (being vulnerable).

Nobody respects you, they just fear you.

You’re too much of a victim at work.

You’re very productive, but a lone ranger.

You’re more interested in beating the other guy than producing.

Here is why I chose Tom for that project and not you.

You’re gossiping, please stop.

We have to let you go; here’s why.

Peacekeepers find someone else (usually a manager) to deal with their problems. In our company, no one is allowed to talk to anyone else about interpersonal issues they are having with someone. If you have an issue with someone, you need to deal with it, not pawn it off on someone else, which we view as gossip. The rule: If you are not part of the problem or part of the solution, it’s gossip. Be an adult and talk to them yourself.

Here’s seven steps to Peacemaking:

1) Where? For a difficult conversation, pick a neutral location, not your office. And don’t discuss hard things over food. Work through some possible anxious moments without other distractions.

2) Motive? Do you want them to respond and change, or do you want to squash them? If you get excited about how this conversation could help that person grow, you will approach it differently. And you won’t go in angry “for the kill”, but empathetic “for the change”.

3) Clarity? Be clear about the issue, and stay focused on it. Choose one thing and don’t be pulled off of it by the conversation. Successful people confront one thing at a time—pick your battles.

4) Listening? Don’t assume. Ask questions and be prepared that they will have a completely different view of the situation than you. You might change your whole “spiel” once you listen.

5) Your Responsibility? Did you play a part in causing the issue? Or is your responsibility simply to be Outside Eyes and give them a different perspective than their own? Own up to your own stuff.

6) Fear? Peacekeepers fear not being liked. Peacemakers focus on how the other person might benefit from the discussion, and also understand that putting it off to be liked now is probably going to make it a bigger deal later.

7) Continue? Maintain the relationship—sometimes you can’t, but do your best to share the issue in a way that allows you both to leave the conversation with dignity and continue talking later. Nobody is supposed to win or lose, we’re supposed to grow.

Successful people are Peacemakers, not Peacekeepers. It may be harder in the short run, but it’s always easier and more beneficial in the long run.

Article as seen on