Millennial Conflict: Texting Our Way to Resolution


The other day I got into a pretty heated discussion with a close family member…okay, it was a conflict!  We’re both Millennials and we tend to get into conflict more often than we’d like to admit.  My tactic in the past had been to be assertive and use my skills from training to de-escalate the situation through face-to-face resolution not always with great success.  However, this time I tried something different, something I wouldn’t readily admit too or encourage, but it worked. 

We texted each other to conflict resolution.

I was able to type out (without tone, syntax or non-verbals which always drives the other person crazy) what I was feeling and where I needed things to change.  Likewise, this person was able to receive the feedback and give me some feedback on things that frustrated them and where they needed to see change.

I found the texting extremely helpful in putting my emotions, feelings, wants and desires in a very well scripted form.  If you’re like me, you tend to accommodate other parties in conflict in an attempt to reach resolution faster.  The issue is that in the haste to move to harmony, I often find that at the end I gave away to much ground, wasn’t honest enough about my feelings and therefore I give up more than I’m willing to live with.  This other person tends to be very passionate when they’re in an argument, reaching what we call a “DEFCON 1 Level – Nuclear War is Imminent” type of emotional response to an otherwise normal conflict situation.  The ability for them to text, read and process what was being said (without my tone, syntax, or body language providing them with fuel for their fire) was very important. It took the edge off of what we had tried in the past.

In a world where we are often encouraged to speak face-to-face to people, that style may be too much of an “in your face” method for Millennials.  Are we evolving into a society that can solve some of its conflicts through texting? I know – some of you (especially from older generations) just cringed a whole lot.  But as much as we talk about needing to unplug, or move the Millennials to a more face-to-face relationship style, or that we all rely too much on technology – the simple fact remains: we were able to resolve our conflict through a text.  We, as a society, may have to swallow a tough pill: the landscape of all things in human behavior and development is changing because of technology and we may have to adapt to that.

I will note that within our text message there were a couple key “old school” techniques that moved us to resolution:

·         We were both in the conversation to find resolution

·         We allowed time to cool off

·         We were honest but respectful of the other person

·         We used an informal variation of this conflict resolution acronym to construct our conversation effectively:

o   R = REPORT the facts (When x happened…)

o   I = State the IMPACT in feeling words (I felt ____ because…)

o   S = SPECIFY what you prefer to see happening (Moving forward I would prefer…)

o   C = State the negative and positive CONSEQUENCES (If we can solve this…, but if we can’t…)

Now, I will caution anyone who thinks texting is the sole way to solve all conflict (and expect others to follow suite).  Other generations will probably prefer a more direct, face-to-face way to resolve conflict.  We have to find common ground that makes both Millennials and other generations comfortable to find resolution.  I’m a believer in doing what works.  For this specific person and for this specific type of conflict texting was exactly the degree of separation and structure we needed to resolve our conflict.

What have you tried as a Millennial to resolve conflict?  Are you more face-to-face or do you need a bit of a shield like texting to help?  Have you entered into conflict with a Millennial trying to use one form of communication and have you ever thought about changing your style in order to resolve the conflict?  If you’re like me, the end game is to resolve the conflict and move forward and not waste the energy.  If I need to move left just a little bit in my style to do that it’s worth the effort and peace.