Conflict Zen is about mindful, simplified conflict resolution in business and personal relationships. I write about dissolving conflict and tension, transforming conflict by changing only our own responses to it, creating solutions that stand the test of time, and developing calm, intentional reactions to conflict.
A group of students at the Art Institute of Chicago approached two large tables holding 27 random objects. They’d been asked to select some objects and draw a still life. Some examined just a few items, selected ones that interested them, and got right down to drawing. Others handled more of the objects, turning them over many times before selecting the ones that interested them. They rearranged their chosen objects several times and took longer to complete the assigned still life.
Two University of Chicago social scientists were watching.
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…
What songs would you put in a playlist about conflict and conflict resolution?
I’m rebuilding the conflict resolution playlist I use in courses and workshops and I hope you’ll help make it a really good one. After I’ve gathered everyone’s ideas and create the playlist, I’ll share it for everyone’s use.
A client told me the story of a conflict with her brother. She told me the story first before we began working together. Then she told me again during our first session. The story — sometimes with new details, sometimes with the same phrasing repeated — came up repeatedly.
Of course, each time she told what happened, she polished the story more, just by the act of re-telling. She wasn’t trying to polish it, of course. She was trying to understand it, to figure it out, to get it to give up its secret so she could know what to do. It is something we do.
When you say you’re listening, which type of listening are you really practicing?
Some years back I saw Stephen Covey speak and he talked about types of listening. He described a listening continuum that runs from ignoring all the way over on the left, to pretend listening (patronizing), then selective listening, then attentive listening, and finally to empathic listening on the right.
He drew a vertical line between attentive listening and empathic listening. Everything to the left of that line, he said…
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.
When a conflict looms large it can begin to feel like the only thing left between you. That’s an error of perception, of course. You are not one-dimensional figures with a single agenda; neither of you has become that. The conflict has lured you into a false way of viewing the other person, as though there is nothing else important about them anymore. Don’t let it.
I was so moved by this video I wanted to share it with you.
“He reached out his hand and I shook the hand of the enemy. He was no enemy. He was scared and lonely like me.” – Jack Leroy Tueller
“Nice job with the facilitation,” the university president said to me. “We got where we needed to get and you played an important role in that.” I began to smile at the compliment. What he said next, though, froze the smile on my face.
How we frame matters. How we frame our offer, our doubt, our idea, our concern can make the difference between being heard and being ignored, between interest and aversion, between succeeding and stumbling.
Did you know that I post additional conflict resolution, negotiation, and communication tips and ideas elsewhere on the web?
I use several social media platforms regularly and I tend to use each a little differently. Here’s how I use each one. I’d love to connect with you on one or more of these platforms!
The four qualities most strongly associated with empathy are also qualities I’d describe as crucial to effective conflict resolution in personal and professional relationships.
How would your life be different if some of the conflict you experience turned out to be real…but not true?
You are on your way to a meeting and a person with whom you’ve had much tension approaches you, saying, “I have a question about the report you’re giving in a few minutes.” Or perhaps you’ve come home after a long day at work and, soon after you come through the door, your spouse says, “We need to discuss the credit card bill that arrived today.” Are you in conflict at that moment?
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…
On Tuesday, December 3, 4:00-5:00 pm EDT I’ll be joining colleague and friend Cinnie Noble in a conflict coaching teleseminar for the Association for Conflict Resolution. If you’re a member of ACR’s Workplace Section (or want to join), here’s what we’ll be up to on December 3:
I’ve been working to wrap up my second book, The Conflict Pivot, and I’m far enough along in the process that I’m starting to muse about the cover design. I’ll be able to make some suggestions to my publisher; they’ll have their own ideas, too, of course. I’m pondering the best image to convey the idea of pivoting. Who better to ask than you?
Here’s how I describe pivots in the book:
Good negotiators know this secret: Persuade with your ears, not your mouth. Instead of trying to persuade by telling and then telling some more, lead with your curiosity. Good negotiators listen for:
This is a letter intended for anyone who may wish to hire me for conflict resolution training in their organization.
When an organization approaches me for conflict resolution training or negotiation training, I find that there are certain conversation threads that come up again and again. So, I thought I would mention them here, in anticipation of a future time when we may speak about your organization’s conflict resolution and training needs. I hope they’re helpful to your thinking about what you need from a trainer and to your assessment of my fit for the assistance you seek.
When friends, loved ones, and colleagues tell us about a conflict they’re experiencing, how we respond helps shape their conflict story. And what they do next.
A friend who mediates legal cases was regaling me with a story about a court employee who treated her with disrespect. As I listened to my friend’s description of the employee’s behavior, I felt outrage on my friend’s behalf. I heard myself say,
When you’re at the edge of the argument cliff, it isn’t courageous to step off. It’s foolishness. Courage is taking your destiny in your hands and backing up.
Sometimes, as an argument begins to unfold in front of you, you see what is about to happen. You see the cliff in front of you before you take your next step.
I call this moment your “choice point.” It’s the moment you…
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.
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.