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ConflictMastery Quest(ions) Blog

The CINERGY® Conflict Management Coaching Blog –ConflictMastery™ Quest(ions) – is for anyone who finds self-reflective questions helpful for examining and strengthening your conflict intelligence. It is also for coaches, mediators, HR professionals, ombudsmen, leaders, lawyers, psychologists, counsellors and others who also use self-reflective questions as tools for helping your clients in these ways.

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Walking Away From Conflict

While avoiding conflict is often perceived as an inappropriate way to manage our interpersonal conflicts, there are times walking away is the optimum approach. The idea of walking away presented here refers to not engaging in a dispute with another because we are not strongly vested in the subject or outcome. Or maybe, the issues are overly contentious and we just don’t want to challenge the relationship – which may be tenuous in any case. Such reasons and others often inform whether we walk towards or away from conflict.

It is suggested that the factor to consider in distinguishing avoiding and walking away has to do with whether we are actually avoiding the conflict – because we don’t feel confident and comfortable standing our ground. This is as opposed to walking away because it’s not important enough to us to assert ourselves, undermine the other person, or cause unnecessary conflict.

The Conflict Mastery Quest(ions) blog this week asks you to consider a dispute and whether it is avoiding or walking away you are doing – according to the description here.

  • What is the dispute about that you are (thinking of) walking away from?
  • On a scale of 1-10, 10 being very important to you and 1 being unimportant to you, what rating would you give the level of importance of the issues to you? How would you rate the importance of the relationship?
  • On a scale of 1-10, 10 being very important and 1 being unimportant, what rating might the other person give the level of importance of the issues? How may she or he rate the importance of the relationship?
  • If you walk away, what would you walk away from?
  • What would you walk to?
  • If you think you are avoiding the conflict, what are you avoiding?
  • What are the pros and cons of walking away for you?
  • What are the pros and cons of walking away for the other person?
  • What is the difference for you between walking away and avoiding?
  • Whether you are walking away or avoiding, what do you suppose you are missing out on learning?
  • What else occurs to you as you consider these questions?
  • What insights do you have?
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Denialism and Conflict

It’s only recently that I heard the term “denialism”, defined by Wikipedia as:

“In the psychology of human behavior, denialism is a person’s choice to deny reality, as a way to avoid a psychologically uncomfortable truth.  In the sciences, denialism is the rejection of basic facts and concepts that are undisputed, well-supported parts of the scientific consensus on a subject, in favor of radical and controversial ideas.”

I am not sure why it’s a new word for me. In any case, taking the first sentence particularly, it is a good descriptor of what happens to many of us when we are in conflict. This may be evident, for instance, when we hold tightly to our position and do not let in the other person’s truth. We could be denying the situation is dire for us as a defense, i.e. to avoid facing the schism that has grown between us. Then again, we might be obstinate, unrealistic, overly optimistic, or any number of other traits that preclude us from acknowledging the reality of the conflict and its impact.

This week’s Conflict Mastery Quest(ions) blog invites you to look closely at a dispute you are having and check out the denialism that may be going on.

  • What is the dispute about from your perspective?
  • What might the other person say her or his perspective is on what’s going on between you?
  • If a third person was listening to and watching you, what might her or his version be of what’s happening?
  • What is the truth you are denying about the dispute?
  • What compels you to deny that truth?
  • What truth about you does the other person not know?
  • What truth might she or he be denying?
  • If you knew the other person’s truth (your answer to the above question), what difference might that make to you?
  • If the other person heard your truth, how might that impact her or him? How might it impact on the outcome of the conflict?
  • How does denying help you? How does denying not help you?
  • What else occurs to you as you consider these questions?
  • What insights do you have?
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The Interpersonal Dispute Equation

It occurs to me that there are common “interpersonal dispute equations”. Here’s one of them. It is straightforward and yet, complex in its seeming simplicity. It goes something like:

You hurt me + I hurt you back = Dispute

A more specific example might be: “You blamed me for making a mistake that cost us money” + “I accused you of being a bully and taking no responsibility for your part” = dispute.

Or, of course, it could be reversed – I hurt you + you hurt me back = dispute.

For instance: “I didn’t include you in the get together” + “You hurt me back by telling me I was inconsiderate and selfish” = dispute.

Not only is it challenging to step back (Stepping Back in Conflict) before reacting when we are offended by what someone says or does. It is also difficult to maintain grace and composure and not become defensive in the moment. The need to be right, to retaliate and many other variables seem to preclude an equation that adds a positive part, leading to a more positive result – like problem solving.

An example – referring to the first equation above – may be instead: “You blamed me for making a mistake that cost us money” + I say “You are right. I thought I was helping the situation. How can I rectify this?” = problem solving.

With this in mind, this week’s Conflict Mastery Quest(ions) blog asks you to consider a situation in which you added to the dispute equation by reacting and initiating a conflict.

  • When you bring to mind a dispute in which you reacted negatively to something someone said or did, how would you describe the dispute equation?
  • What might you have said differently to express your reaction that may have been better received and led to problem solving?
  • What might the other person have said differently to express what provoked her or him about you – that you may have received better?
  • Looking at another dispute – one that you initiated – how would you describe that equation (starting with what you said or did that started things)?
  • How might the other person describe the equation – considering her or his perspective on your part?
  • What did the other person read into your intentions that seemed to upset her or him most?
  • How might you have more effectively raised the issue that resulted in the dispute equation you described?
  • What do you think the ingredients are of a problem solving equation instead of a dispute one?
  • What other tips do you have about ways to keep the equation a problem solving one rather than a dispute initiating one?
  • In what ways does this notion of examining the equation resonate for you?
  • What else occurs to you as you consider these questions?
  • What insights do you have?
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Mind Your Own Business

Recently, I saw a cute expression that made me smile. It went something like, “I found your nose. It was in my business.” I also thought though that the action of others who don’t mind their own business isn’t something we smile about. In fact, a recent coaching client identified this sort of behaviour as a trigger for her. That is, one of the goals she brought to coaching was wanting to frame a difficult conversation with a co-worker she calls “nosy”. Despite many efforts asking her colleague to “mind her own business”, the behaviour hasn’t stopped. Apparently, it has become increasingly intrusive.

When considering why people “nose” into others’ lives, my client pondered a number of possibilities. For instance, she wondered if it’s a way to bond, or the person is unhappy with her life. She reflected, too, that maybe the co-worker is “just plain snoopy” because she’s bored. More negative assumptions focused on the co-worker trying to get information – to gossip with others about my client’s personal or professional life, or to sabotage her career goals.

This is not the first time – and undoubtedly won’t be the last – when clients (or friends and colleagues) react to others who seem to want to make our business their own. If this behaviour is a trigger for you or if someone has reacted to you with words that indicate she or he sees you as minding their business, the questions for this week’s Conflict Mastery Quest(ions) blog might help unpack this sort of provocation.

  • When you have reacted to someone who seems to be sticking her or his nose into your business, what specifically is she or he doing at those times?
  • Considering one of those times, what do you think her or his intentions were?
  • What bothers you most about this person minding your business?
  • How else does her or his actions have an impact on you and your relationship with her or him?
  • What are the challenges in letting the person know how you are experiencing their behaviour?
  • What might you say to the person provoking you with her or his nosiness in your business that might stop the behaviour and be well received?
  • If you have been accused by someone of not minding your own business, what were you doing that seemed to provoke her or him most?
  • What were your intentions?
  • What might the person say to you to let you know she or he does not like what you are doing (that she or he interprets as nosey) that you would receive well?
  • When, for you, do actions cross a line from curiosity and interest to nosiness? Why is that?
  • What else occurs to you as you consider these questions?
  • What insights do you have?
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Being Better to Ourselves

When it comes to interpersonal conflict it is important to consider the strength of our coping mechanisms before engaging in the challenging conversations that erupt at these times. We all cope in different ways and our ability to manage conflict depends on how good we are feeling in general. It’s often contingent, too, on our ability to regulate our emotions and shift our mindset under stress.

One of the variables of conflict intelligence then, is how well we take care of ourselves. Fatigue, lack of exercise, poor eating habits, not cultivating self-awareness or perspective taking, and letting ourselves get run down all contribute to how we react. Without self-care the stress and strain we are already experiencing in our hearts and minds and bodies contribute to the unnecessary escalation of conflict. That is, when we are not taking care of ourselves, we are more apt to initiate and react poorly to interactions that have the potential of reeling out of control. Our usual defense mechanisms are out of whack and we seem to lack the wherewithal to take a break to reduce our reactions and reflect on the dynamic before responding.

This week’s Conflict Mastery Quest(ions) blog asks you to consider a dispute that escalated unnecessarily due to your contribution that might have been fuelled by lack of self-care.

  • What was the dispute about?
  • How did you react that was not consistent with your preferred way of being in conflict?
  • How were you not caring for yourself at this time?
  • How did that lack of caring manifest itself in addition to the reaction you referred to (in response to the second question)?
  • How do you know it was lack of self-care that had a negative impact on the interaction? Why were you not caring for yourself?
  • What was the impact for you of realizing you contributed to the dispute unnecessarily?
  • What was the impact of the dispute erupting for the other person?
  • What could you have done differently?
  • What would it take for you to be better to yourself so that, among other things, you are better able to engage in conflict?
  • What might you do at the time conflict appears to show self-care?
  • What else occurs to you as you consider these questions?
  • What insights do you have?
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