Imagine you’re standing at the edge of a woods. The woods are filled with briars, tree roots sticking up from the soil, low-hanging branches. On the other side of the woods is a sunny meadow filled with fragrant flowers.
I ask you to get yourself to that sunny meadow as fast as you can. You have two choices of path: One is through the woods I just described, the other is a well-work footpath that heads straight to the meadow. Both are about the same distance.
Which do you choose? The well worn path. It’s easy. It’s fast. It’s efficient. It helps you achieve the assignment most readily.
Now imagine this: I ask you to get yourself to the sunny meadow, without benefit of the well-worn path, every day for several weeks. You traverse the same section of woods again and again, back and forth.
What happens? You create a new well-worn path. The more you use it, the more worn it gets. It gets easier, faster, more efficient. Eventually the old path, unused, turns once again into thick woods.
This is the experience of adopting new habits for resolving conflict and negotiating, and unlearning your old, less effective habits. The neural pathways in your brain are like the well-worn path in my story. Adopting a new habit is the act of creating new neural pathways and letting the old ones wither.
New, better negotiation and conflict management habits are so very learnable. Years ago my doctoral research into behavior change and habits taught me a great deal about what it takes, what works and what doesn’t. But I knew then and I know now that anyone can successfully adopt new negotiation and conflict habits with the right approach, commitment, and a dose of kindness toward themselves.
If you’re considering one-on-one executive coaching for yourself or an employee, I’ve just begun accepting executive coaching clients for fall and early winter. Coaching can include (but isn’t limited to) improving executive communication, increasing your workplace influence, managing interpersonal and group conflict, addressing business partner conflict, and negotiating better for yourself or your team.