Just don’t do it, ok?
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.
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 […]
When we let our apprehension about a difficult conversation run amok and swamp our emotions, we can inadvertently make the conversation more difficult than it might have been.
Are you more likely to finish half a pizza by yourself on a) Friday night after a long work week or b) Sunday evening after a restful weekend? Six ways to handle ego depletion.
An excellent tool for staying calm in conflict is to take the long view.
“You’re ruining my life,” said Jay. Jay was a student in my Interpersonal Conflict graduate class, where students are invited to consider their unique strengths in resolving conflict and decide how to change conflict behavior that could be better. I designed the course in 1999 and have taught it countless times since in several grad […]
Anger can be a gift. When tracked to its source, it tells us something about what’s important to us and what feels threatened by the conflict. When I’m mediating, I don’t fear my clients’ anger because when I see it, I know we’re about to learn something really valuable together. So, perhaps letting go of […]
Last summer, when I was in Colorado to speak at the Association for Conflict Resolution’s Rocky Mountain Retreat, I met a woman whose energy, warmth and charisma swept through any room she was in. Today Paula Langguth Ryan broadcast an interview with me on her BlogTalkRadio show, the Conflict Free Zone. We discussed dealing with […]
Getting “hooked” by a conflict is the experience of being mentally snagged, caught by the conflict in such a way that you find yourself ruminating on it and feeling emotionally off balance. The earlier you know you’re hooked, the better your chances of handling things in ways you can feel good about later. Here are […]
A couple of weekends ago, my little dog Smudge stood at the start line of a jumpers course in his second dog agility competition. A jumpers course is just what it sounds like — most of the obstacles are jumps. Smudge loves jumps. He doesn’t mind tunnels or running up and over an a-frame, but […]
The key to dealing with anger at work is a supportive, compassionate response instead of sanctions, references to codes of conduct, or ignoring it, according to recently published research by two Temple University and University of Baltimore professors. “Business codes of conduct are often about what we shouldn’t do as an angry employee in emotional […]
It’s likely to make you more aggressive.
Everyone has an inner lizard, that part of your brain tasked with alerting you to threats in your environment and keeping you safe. Your inner lizard’s an important critter, but sometimes he’s over-involved. In conflict, you want to manage your inner lizard instead of allowing him to manage you. Your inner lizard lives in the […]
Haven’t we all been Fred at least once?
Intellectually, you know that keeping your calm and your balance during conflict will serve you and the others involved better. But it’s hard to pull off in the midst of tension. Here’s a one-minute deep breathing exercise that’ll help. You can do this classic deep breathing exercise virtually anywhere, without drawing attention to yourself. It’s […]
What does it take to change your own or an employee’s usual behavior pattern in conflict situations? More than anything it takes the motivation to learn and the commitment to practice that learning until it’s a new habit of mind. I have the good fortune of hearing Clayton Christensen speak this weekend. In anticipation, I’ve […]
Taming your inner conflict junkie is Habit 4 of the 7 Habits of Conflict Zen®. What is a conflict junkie? I made up the term conflict junkie. I think of a conflict junkie as someone who’s addicted to argument. Not just a good debater, but someone for whom arguing has become a habit in interacting […]
Keeping your cool in conflict conversation is Habit 3 of the 7 Habits of Conflict Zen®. When you keep your cool you: Have easier access to your good interpersonal and communications skills when you need them most. You already have many of the conflict resolution skills needed. But are you able to tap into them […]
We criticize in the name of improvement. In the name of problem-solving. In the name of personal and professional growth. In the name of feedback. And when all is said and done, so much criticism can become a habit that feeds interpersonal conflict and bickering. Here’s a challenge you can try if you want to […]
One of the greatest gifts good mediators bring to the conflict resolution table is a non-anxious presence, an inner calm in the face of difficulty. And it’s one of those tools in the mediator’s toolkit that you can adopt for yourself. Mediators learn how to bring peace into the room with a non-anxious presence by […]
A regular Conflict Zen® reader wrote to tell me she’s been working on changing her past conflict patterns, primarily avoidance. Linda went on to say (and I share this with her permission), “Maybe it’s me, but now that I’m facing some of the conflicts and trying to solve them, I’m finding folks sometimes want me […]
Two monks, Tanzan and Ekido, were walking together down a muddy road. A heavy rain was falling and had swollen the stream running near the path. Rounding a bend, they saw a beautiful girl dressed in formal kimono, crying at an intersection. Tanzan asked, “What is wrong?” The girl explained that she was on her […]
A Unitarian Universalist minister was once my student in a negotiation course. At the end of the course, by way of thanks, he gave me the gift of one of his books, a collection of reflections on life. There’s a gentle calmness about the collection, and one entry in particular that I return to again […]
It’s funny how frequently people introduce me as an anger management specialist. It used to puzzle me, because I didn’t think of myself that way. But I get it now: When I help you express disagreement and negotiate more effectively, I’m also helping you manage your emotional state better. Here, then, are my three simplest […]
Well, if I called the wrong number, why did you answer the phone? – James Thurber Interpersonal conflict triggers Conflict triggers are your “hot buttons,” the emotional responses set off by the words or actions of others during difficult conversations. While it’s a common expression to say, “He presses my buttons,” or “She’s baiting me,” […]
In How to Let Go of Unresolved Conflict, I shared this Bill Clinton story about Nelson Mandela: “Mandela made a grand, elegant, dignified exit from prison and it was very, very powerful for the world to see. But as I watched him walking down that dusty road, I wondered whether he was thinking about the […]
Have you ever been in a disagreement or tough negotiation and couldn’t get it out of your head later? Maybe you kept replaying all or part of it in your mind, or told someone (or several someones) about it. Maybe it stayed with you for days or even weeks. Maybe your frustration, outrage, righteousness or […]