What does it mean to hold the space for someone who’s trying to get somewhere different in a conflict? And how do we hold that space, whether we’re a friend trying to help, a manager trying to intervene, or a mediator trying to find a path to resolution? Brilliant writer, teacher, and social activist Parker […]
Mental models in problem solving
We all use mental models to make sense of our world and experiences. Mental models are the beliefs, frameworks, mental images, and generalizations we use to understand and explain what's happening. The way we think about people and problems has an important impact on how effectively we solve problems, resolve conflict, and make good decisions.
How do you reduce resistance? What are the best ways to handle difficult people? What tactics overcome impasse? How can you get someone to ___? These questions all have something in common: They position you to work on someone, instead of with them. Overcoming resistance during conflict is not about a secret tactic or tool. […]
Memory doesn’t exist to help us perfectly recall things in our lives. It’s there to help us survive. And to do its job properly, memory must evolve. Here’s a quick recap of the ways memory is flawed and why arguing about the accuracy of memories is like running on a gerbil wheel and expecting to get somewhere new.
When an action has bad impact, how you think about that impact can play a significant role in triggering and escalating blame and conflict. And despite how rational you believe you are, there’s a thinking error that can lead you down a very irrational path. It’s called the Knobe Effect. Cognitive (thinking) errors are thought […]
When we need to get out of our own way, there’s a simple yet powerful exercise we can use to help. It doesn’t take much practice — just commitment for a few minutes. Here’s one of my favorite conflict resolution activities for changing emotional state and tricking my mind into being more helpful in the […]
It’s hard to stand in someone else’s shoes when you’re in conflict with them. It can feel too close, like you’re being asked to stop being you and try to be them for a moment. Here’s an alternative that’s easier to pull off and as familiar to you as going to the movies.
We think of belief as something that “is.” But how might conflict unfold differently if we were to consider our belief about the other person not as fact, but as a working hypothesis? What might be possible if understood our belief as something that may or may not eventually prove true?
I’ve heard the following five observations repeatedly during my two decades as a mediator, coach, and conflict resolution teacher. All five miss the mark in important ways and we should stop repeating them.
In moments of conflict, seeing someone whole is both a noble and a difficult thing. It is a worthwhile pursuit whether we’re part of the conflict or we’re helping them sort it out — because that’s where possibility lives.
When I’m mediating, coaching, or training, there are moments I want to illustrate why resistance builds up. There are moments I want to help someone understand in a quick and visceral way that pushing their agenda relentlessly is contributing to getting things good and stuck.
When we’re in conflict with someone, even those we love, work with, or live with, the view we have of them narrows as we focus more on the conflict and less on the whole person. The following exercise is a quick, interactive way to demonstrate this idea.
Most of us have the habit of solving problems and trying to influence others by starting from where we are. Here’s a story illustrating the creativity that can get unlocked when we start from where they are. “Excuse me,” said the gentleman. “Do you have a dollar for four quarters?” Bestselling author, entrepreneur, and thinker […]
“I understand her perspective but she doesn’t even bother to try to understand mine.” Every mediator or manager has heard a version of this while trying to sort out a conflict. Sometimes a version even wanders beguilingly through my own mind. Maybe one has wandered once or twice through your mind, too.
It’s so easy to see the ways that they don’t understand us. And so much harder to see the ways we fail our own standard. What we need is a sort of Turing Test for conflict, an unbiased mechanism to check our assumptions and our understanding.
I wish I could say I thought of it, but the economists got to a version of the idea first.
“How can we rebuild trust after a conflict?” is an enormous question, the stuff of entire books. The way to answer it is to break it into a much smaller and more incremental question.
Before you label someone “high conflict,” be very aware of all the ways this label can be a mistake. And escalate conflict further. Let’s be very cautious about gratuitously equating someone who disagrees strongly, emotionally, and even frequently, with having a personality disorder.
What if we stopped expecting so much of ourselves (and others) when we’re frustrated, and started by assuming the first draft of our conversation is going to stink? Ring the bells that still can ringForget your perfect offeringThere is a crack in everythingThat’s how the light gets in – Leonard Cohen, Anthem What if we […]
What a difference a single word makes. When we’re in conflict, our own egos and the level of hope (or hopelessness) we feel can become obstacles to finding resolution. Sometimes, a simple reframing of a key question can help us overcome these obstacles.
“The truth is a rabbit in a bramble patch. And you can’t lay your hand on it. All you do is circle around and point, and say, ‘It’s in there somewhere.’” – Pete Seeger
Conflict doesn’t necessarily mean something fundamental has shifted in your business or personal relationship. It’s possible the relationship is as sound and strong as it ever was. It’s just hard to see that when the conflict is crowding out your wider view.
I was reminded of this recently in an experience with a certain company whose services I use to manage a small digital aspect of my conflict resolution business.
The way you view conflict has a tremendous impact on the way you respond and react to the conflicts in your life. Learning better, shinier, or newer conflict resolution skills won’t make the kind of difference you think it will, unless you also reconsider what you believe about conflict in general.
If you view conflict as a fight, you ask yourself…
Your conflict story is the story you tell yourself about what happened. The more you rehearse the story by telling others all about it and by replaying it in your own mind, the more it becomes “stuck” and the more it feels like the story of the conflict. But it’s really just something you constructed as you tried to understand it all.
Conflict is filled with resistance: Resistance to their wishes, resistance to their perspective, resistance to the anger we’re feeling, resistance to continuing, resistance to stopping, resistance, resistance, resistance. But the real way to free yourself from a conflict that’s keeping you stuck is not to resist, but to practice radical acceptance.
Empathy researcher and bestselling author Brené Brown has put together a good primer on the important differences between empathy and sympathy:
Relationship conflict is a thing of beauty. It is saying, I care enough about this relationship to conflict with you, to try to find the right dance steps with you. It is saying, I care enough about you that I feel able to reveal myself as I am even when my behavior is imperfect. It is saying, we can be unified not by having to think alike but by the recognition that pairs are made up of two individuals.
Workplace conflict is a thing of beauty. It is saying…
Which one started it? I heard someone ask. I think her dog started it, replied the other, pointing to the chagrined-looking spaniel. A third person said, Well, you never know, the other dog might have sent a signal the spaniel didn’t like.
On the discussion went as the bystanders tried to figure out which dog had started the 10-second ruckus we’d all just witnessed at dog agility practice. I was there to run my dogs, both of whom compete with me in dog agility trials.
We humans seem to care a great deal about who started it.
A friend was sitting at her desk, her beloved lab at her feet. Suddenly, the dog yelped and looked up at her. This happened several more times, the dog’s gaze becoming increasingly more accusatory. Finally, he got up and left the room.
Later, she learned…
People who act badly in conflict are not broken. In a culture where problem-solving and fixing are highly valued, I fear that we too often take aim at our fellow humans with the same orientation as we do a broken bicycle or an ineffective policy. We roll up our figurative sleeves and get to work on fixing whatever we think ails them.
When someone is acting badly in conflict, there are so many more compassionate ways to respond. It turns out that they’re also far more effective, too. In such moments, I try to…
You can’t change an ongoing state of conflict by viewing it repeatedly from the same perspective. You’ve got to find a new filter or two.
Years ago, I bought a pair of sports sunglasses with swappable lenses for differing conditions. I didn’t take the time to experiment with the different lenses and settled into wearing the dark gray lenses all the time. They did the job well enough.
Until I discovered they didn’t.
“Conflict resolution” is generally understood as a joint exercise, something that involves the person or persons we’re in conflict with. When we hear the phrase, we’re likely to imagine it as some kind of conversation or negotiation with another person. That would not be inaccurate.
But it would be incomplete. What happens when the negotiation you most need to have is with yourself? What happens when the thing you most need to understand, address, and move on from is something only you yourself have the key to unlock? I’ve discovered that many conflicts, small and large, do not require conversation with another person to address properly. Neither do they require months of counseling. For many of them, the only conversation you need to have is with yourself — provided you know the right conflict resolution conversation to have.