How do you put a giraffe in the refrigerator?
Open the refrigerator, put in the giraffe and close the door. This question tests whether you tend to do simple things in an overly complicated way.
How do you put an elephant into a refrigerator?
Open the refrigerator, take out the giraffe, put in the elephant and close the door. This tests your ability to think through the repercussions of your actions.
The Lion King is hosting an animal conference; all the animals attend except one. Which animal does not attend?
The elephant. He’s in the refrigerator. This tests your memory.
There is a river you must cross. But it is inhabited by crocodiles. How do you manage it?
You swim across. All the crocodiles are attending the animal conference. This tests whether you learn quickly from your mistakes.
The apparent source of this quiz is Andersen Consulting Worldwide (if you know the original source for sure, please let me know), and web sources suggest that while about 90% of the professionals tested got all questions wrong, pre-schoolers tended to get several correct answers.
What does this have to do with conflict and its resolution?
In conflict, we’re not very good at putting the giraffe in the refrigerator. Most of us over-complexify conflict or avoid dealing with it long enough that things build up and really do get complicated. What would happen if we tried to approach our disputes with elegant simplicity?
In conflict, putting the elephant in the refrigerator’s even harder than putting in the giraffe. Disputes can catch us unprepared and may unfold rapidly, leaving little chance to think about what we’re saying and doing before we jump in. What would happen if we stop long enough to consider the repercussions of our words and actions before we step into the conflict conversation?
In conflict, we don’t tend to learn quickly from our mistakes. In fact, in conflict, most of us have amazing capacity to keep doing what doesn’t work because our conflict engagement patterns are so ingrained. What would happen if we could use each dispute as an opportunity to learn about ourselves (instead of blaming the other person) in order to engage conflict more effectively next time?