Mailbox vs. Snow Plow: A Lesson in Conflict Resolution

The Mailbox, Fixed!

A few years ago, we bought a swivel-away mail box.  If a snowplow hits it, it swings to the side.  It worked perfectly until Monday morning, when the snow plow hit it with such force that the mail box didn’t swing; it launched.  The decapitated mail box support pole stuck stubbornly upright in the snow, and the mailbox itself lay a few feet away.

My husband hastily placed the mailbox on some boards next to the support and left for work, grumbling about the careless snow plow operator.

Yesterday, on his way to work, he saw the snow plow parked down the street.  He could have blasted the guy, calling him incompetent or an idiot or worse, but that’s not his style.

He went up to the snow plow guy and thanked him for his work in clearing the streets.  My husband mentioned that our mailbox had been hit and how, initially, he had been upset, but that he didn’t really know what was involved in plowing the street.

The snow plow guy told him some of the challenges and then said he’d fix the mailbox.  When I went out to get the morning paper, it was already fixed!

Lessons learned:

1.       Be friendly in your approach.  Don’t jump into confrontation and escalate conflict.  .

2.       Show appreciation.  Sincere appreciation makes people feel good and also makes them feel good about you.

3.       Talk about the facts of what you observe, without being judgmental.

4.       Allow people to explain (use a variation of “help me understand” or “I don’t understand . . .”)

How can you apply this approach in business?  Think about the last time an employee or vendor disappointed you.  Were you friendly?  Did you express appreciation?  Did you talk about what you observed without being judgmental?  Did you listen, without interrupting, to their explanation?

Remember, “You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.”

Diane’s website


About Diane Windingland
I speak for organizations that want their people to have better, more profitable conversations.

One Response to Mailbox vs. Snow Plow: A Lesson in Conflict Resolution

  1. Kimberlee Brehm says:

    Such a nice lesson for all of us. The sugar vs vinegar is so right, even though at the moment we’d love to hit the person WITH the vinegar bottle! So nice the way Kim handled it.

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