Never has a rubber duck been more helpful.
The best conflict resolution and communication skills in the world are little use if we can't access them when we need them most. Self-mastery is about being able to think clearly, respond nimbly, and maintain our equilibrium in the face of difficult and stressful interactions.
Don’t suppress or stifle — shift.
Go ahead, cozy on up to it.
Have better disagreements in your personal and professional relationships.
We’ll call this the George Takei method.
For once, labels are a good thing.
Use a centering question to get your balance back.
I blew my top and my friend surprised me.
This classic piece of research offers insight into the way context may influence blame and anger. Picture yourself stepping out to cross this suspension bridge in Vancouver, British Columbia. The Capilano Canyon Bridge is 230 feet high, 450 feet long. And it sways in the breeze. Now imagine that, just as you pass the midpoint […]
Access your good skills when you need them most.
What a good use of 10 minutes.
What would Bart Millar do?
Just a trip down memory lane.
Anger is a signal, not a defect.
There’s a difference between being justified in your response and the response being a good choice. Here’s a question I’ve found useful for gaining a little psychological distance in the heat of the moment and interrupting a response I might regret later. A woman I’ve never met emailed me. There were 14 sentences in her […]
I’ve written that anger is a messenger that won’t shut up until its message is heard and understood. But if the anger is so big or so loud you can’t hear straight, there are things you can do to help someone calm down. And a few things you shouldn’t do…like these five missteps. I’ve written […]
Conflict can rob you of two precious mental faculties useful for sorting things out: The ability to view the situation from the other person’s perspective and the ability to check your impulses. New research suggests that your future self can help you recapture those abilities. Confrontations and conflict require self-control to resist the tempting words […]
During conflict, focusing mostly on anger’s behavior instead of on anger’s real message is like burying the lede in a news story. On the first day of high school journalism class, Nora Ephron’s teacher taught the class how to write a lede. He began with a set of facts: “Kenneth L. Peters, principal of Beverly […]
A traditional Zen koan, or story.
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.
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.
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 good (if tragic) lesson about the dangers of trigger stacking. Here’s how to notice trigger stacking and prevent it from hijacking you.
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.