A traditional Zen koan, or story.
Cultivating emotional agility
The best conflict resolution and communication skills in the world are little use if we can’t access them when we need them most. We disagree better when we can think clearly, respond nimbly, and regain our equilibrium in the face of difficult and stressful interactions.
When you’re stuck on a problem or feeling angry, briefly distancing yourself psychologically from the current circumstances can give you emotional relief and actually help you solve the problem. Here are four simple and potent ways to gain psychological distance (and help others do the same) when you’re spinning your wheels in a conflict conversation.
Take it from a mediator: When someone is angry and loud, trying to control them is not only an exercise in futility, but can also have an unintended consequence — it can escalate them. Here’s one powerful alternative. The bailiff unlocked the small courtroom. After telling me to make myself at home, he pointed to […]
The brain’s working memory appears to be very limited and conflict places a lot of demand on that already-restricted capacity. But there are ways to reduce cognitive load during conflict resolution and free up the working memory needed for concentration, reasoning and good decision making. Working memory is like a mental workspace where we hold […]
Feeling angry, impulsive, or over-reactive? Sleep plays an important role in self-management and may just help you be a better negotiator. Here are three sleep studies that offer insights into the ways sleep, self-control, and conflict intertwine, and one quick, restorative sleep trick worth remembering.
What do chocolate chip cookies and radishes reveal about self-control? Side by side, they’ve taught us some important lessons about willpower and what we can do to increase self-control during even the most difficult conversations and negotiations. Willpower researcher Dr. Roy Baumeister invited hungry college students into his lab. The room was suffused with the […]
When a person is very angry, asking or telling them to be reasonable is doomed to fail — here’s why and what to do instead. When a person is very angry, the part of their brain associated with being reasonable and articulating reasonable thoughts more or less shuts down. Closed for business. Sign on the […]
Handling blame, defensiveness, and strong reactivity during conflict can challenge both the informal mediators and professional conflict resolvers among us. I’ve found that an evolutionary lens for understanding possible roots of difficult behaviors to be really helpful and want to share it with you. Eons ago, being ostracized from your tribe meant, in all probability, […]
“Whatever you do, just don’t let me stop running,” I said to my husband as I laced up my running shoes and headed out the door. “I’ll see you at about 9:45. Remember — don’t let me stop!”
It was 1998 and I was training for my first marathon. I’d completed half marathons successfully. I’d been training faithfully, running every day, with a long run after work on Wednesdays and a longer run every weekend. It was early on a Saturday morning and I was about to run 20 miles. That was three miles longer than I’d ever run in my life.
I’m thrilled to announce my brand new online course on staying calm, cool, and collected in conflict, negotiations, and confrontations.
As of right this second, I’m taking earlybird registrations for Calm, Cool, and Collected and I’ve got an introductory offer for those of you who sign up early.
Calm, Cool, and Collected is an online course for people who want to…
Really good negotiation skills and knowledge won’t completely do the trick. Learning the mechanics of confronting successfully usually isn’t enough. Deeper conflict resolution toolboxes only get you part of the way there.
In February 2012, a large dog named Max had a drama-filled 24 hours and it ended in a tragic lesson about the dangers of trigger stacking. Here’s how to notice trigger stacking and prevent it from hijacking you. Max’s day of drama began when he chased a fox out onto the thin ice of a […]
Years ago, Harvard social psychologist Ellen Langer had a major fire that destroyed most of what she owned. After reviewing the damage and her substantial loss, the insurance agent said a curious thing to Langer: He said that this was the first call he’d ever had where it turned out the damage was worse than the call had indicated.
Just don’t do it, ok?
Getting unhooked from interpersonal conflict is not unlike freeing yourself from a barbed wire fence. There you are, squeezing between two rows of barbed wire, on your way to reaching a beautiful flower you wish to photograph, and the wool sweater your grandmother knitted you inadvertently becomes snagged. You are thwarted in your attempt to continue on. There is no going forward until you free yourself.
It’s so simple to advise, “Don’t take it personally.” And yet, too often, it’s utterly useless advice to someone in conflict. There’s something else they have to do first, before they can hope to stop taking it personally:
They have to take it more personally.
We are natural storytellers, so it’s no surprise that we would tell stories about our conflicts, too. Story-making and story-telling about our conflict is natural and not, on its own, a problem. The problem comes with our attachment to those stories and our mistaken belief that our story is a retelling of The Truth.
Trying to control anger by focusing on angry thoughts and hurt feelings is like fanning the flames. It’s far more effective to pretend you’re a fly on the wall of a situation, new research confirms. In situations that trigger anger, you probably tend to focus on your anger and hurt, trying to understand it, get […]
Knowing your conflict hooks and how to handle them is like having a conflict resolution magic wand: You have portable power to turn the little conflicts into nothing and the bigger conflicts into manageable ones.
We had just moved from the Burlington, Vermont area to a small town in New Hampshire. The move had been a whirlwind, our Vermont house selling in a matter of days, far faster than we anticipated, and resulting in a new house purchased in a day, a moving van scheduled in a narrow window, and a mad rush to sift and pack a lifetime of belongings.
The day after we moved…
An excellent tool for staying calm in conflict is to take the long view.