Travel Conflict: Ten Tips To Help Keep The Peace On Your Next Adventure

group hikingYou hook up with strangers for a group trav­el adven­ture or find your­self with a group of friends, and friends of friends. You thought every­one was like-mind­ed adven­tur­ers only to find your­self in an unan­tic­i­pat­ed quag­mire of angry. It’s not an uncom­mon sit­u­a­tion. Groups can break down quick­ly due to the vast dif­fer­ences in tem­pera­ments, tol­er­ances, and expec­ta­tions. Take a note from medi­a­tion lead­ers and use these tech­niques to resolve any trav­el conflict.

1. Talk directly.
Talk direct­ly to the per­son or peo­ple with whom you have the prob­lem. A direct dis­cus­sion with some­one with whom you’re in con­flict is much more effec­tive than rude behav­ior, snarky com­ments, pas­sive-aggres­sive actions or com­plain­ing to oth­ers behind the person(s) back.

2. Find a time slot that works for both of you, or every­one involved.
Don’t try to do it when either of you or every­one else is pressed for time. Don’t start a dis­cus­sion just as every­one has hit the trail or is try­ing to set up camp before rain or sun­set. Plan for enough time to have a thor­ough dis­cus­sion. When you’re with a group, find a qui­et place away from the group where you can both be com­fort­able and undis­turbed. If it’s a group dis­cus­sion, wait until every­one is ready. When part of the group is resist­ing, ask them to just lis­ten and put a ball­park time lim­it on it.

3. Just because you think it doesn’t mean you should say it.
Think about what you want to say ahead of time. Explain what you think the prob­lem is and how it affects you.

4. No blam­ing, no bullying.
Antag­o­niz­ing the person(s) you have con­flict with only makes it hard­er for them to hear you and under­stand your con­cerns. Avoid blam­ing the oth­er per­son for every­thing or start­ing the con­ver­sa­tion with your opin­ion of how to solve it.

5. Choose infor­ma­tion, not superiority.
Don’t fall into the trap of inter­pret­ing some­one else’s motives: “You picked the wrong route because you’re too clue­less to read a map, and you didn’t bring one like you were told to.” Instead, give infor­ma­tion about your own feel­ings: “I let you be in charge of route find­ing because I thought you would hold up your end of the bar­gain, but you for­got your map and left it up to oth­ers. That makes me mad because it slows us down and cre­ates anxiety.”

group hiking6. Get it all out on the table.
Once you have begun to address the con­flict, get all of the issues and feel­ings out on the table. Don’t leave out the part that seems too “dif­fi­cult” to dis­cuss or too “insignif­i­cant” to be impor­tant. Maybe route find­ing is just the lit­er­al tip of the ice­berg. Often the part of the ice­berg that is under­wa­ter is the big­ger prob­lem. Maybe it’s actu­al­ly their inces­sant talk­ing or whin­ing that is dri­ving you crazy. Col­lab­o­ra­tive res­o­lu­tion works best if all issues are dis­cussed, but make sure they’re valid com­plaints and not just dumping.

7. Use your ears and try to have a heart.
Give the oth­er per­son a chance to com­plete their sen­tences while explain­ing their point of view. Try to lis­ten and learn how the oth­er per­son feels even if it’s taint­ed with angst or anger. You can’t con­trol them. But you can con­trol your response. Try to couch your com­plaints in non-judg­men­tal terms.

8. Rein­force your abil­i­ty to listen.
Even if you don’t agree with what is being said, lis­ten. Then at the appro­pri­ate moment, you can dif­fuse much of the con­flict by telling the oth­er per­son that you hear what they’re say­ing and are glad that you are joint­ly dis­cussing the con­flict. Rein­forc­ing the process will rein­force your own abil­i­ty to lis­ten. Don’t demean the oth­er per­son if they shed tears. And if you get emo­tion­al and they turn neg­a­tive, con­sid­er drop­ping the con­ver­sa­tion for the time being. Offer to take it up at anoth­er time. You do not need to sub­ject your­self to emo­tion­al abuse or bul­ly­ing either.

9. Make the res­o­lu­tion work.
When you’ve reached a point in the dis­cus­sion where every­one has had a chance to state their ver­sion of “the facts” start work­ing on a solu­tion. Two or more peo­ple coop­er­at­ing are much more effec­tive than one per­son telling anoth­er they’re wrong or need to change.

Be spe­cif­ic: “I will be hap­py to take over the route find­ing if you’ll agree to take on a dif­fer­ent task like water fil­ter­ing or brew­ing the morn­ing cof­fee” is bet­ter than a vague “I will just car­ry my own map and go my own pace.” If, in the end, you’re so angry you can’t see a res­o­lu­tion, think about the out­come of the trip. Do you want to end it feel­ing pissed off? Being right isn’t always as empow­er­ing as you might think. Try to be peace­ful and agree to dis­agree but still be help­ful. You came on the trip togeth­er right? Make it work for the time being—minus pas­sive aggres­sive­ness, mood­i­ness, blam­ing, or atti­tude. Work on that. Lat­er you can walk away and nev­er look back.

10. Fol­low through.
Make a plan to check in with each oth­er at a spe­cif­ic future time on the trip to make sure that the agree­ment is still working…then fol­low through. If at the end of the trip, you real­ize you’ve made a bad mis­take, weren’t care­ful enough when vent­ing to your trav­el­ing part­ners or group, try at least to learn from it. Some of us are so enthu­si­as­tic about get­ting out on the trail or road—especially if inad­vis­able to do such a trip alone—we tend to jump in and go all out enthu­si­as­tic with­out much thought to com­pat­i­bil­i­ty. Or some­times, we’re just too optimistic.

One of the most dif­fi­cult things about going on group trips is get­ting stuck with peo­ple we would nev­er oth­er­wise have a rela­tion­ship. Try to focus on the shared inter­est and activ­i­ty, rather than all the things that make us different.