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Nip it in the bud

The phrase “nip it in the bud” is apparently derived from the de-budding of plants. The earlier form of the phrase was “nip in the bloome [sic]” and was cited in a romantic piece by Henry Chettle in 1595. It seems a sad origin, thinking of a flowering romance being nipped and prevented from blossoming. On the other hand, nipping of flower buds can facilitate repeat growth.

If we apply this notion of nipping it in the bud to conflict and consider firstly that it is a good thing to let conflict bloom, it raises the possibility that, if allowed to surface, important feelings and thoughts may be expressed that would help the relationship and situation rather than hinder it. If presented and received in the spirit of acknowledging and not undermining our differences, we would say and hear things that are meaningful to us both. Ultimately, this has the potential for strengthening bonds that are based on mutual understanding.

It also is helpful to consider under what circumstances nipping things in the bud is a positive move because it precludes destructive results. For instance, it could be that there is nothing to be gained when the damage done in the conflict is irreparable or further discord and hurt may result from prolonging the tension. For these and other reasons it may not make sense to chance the evolution or perhaps, it is the evilution of conflict. At the same time, it is important to consider if facing some negative results is necessary and may in the end, yield a positive outcome.

This week’s ConflictMastery™ Quest(ions) blog invites you, when answering the following questions, to consider an interaction that you are not sure whether to nip in the bud:

  • What is the situation and which way are you leaning – to nip it or not nip it in the bud?
  • What are the reasons for the above answer?
  • What would nipping it in the bud achieve for you?
  • What would nipping it in the bud achieve for the other person?
  • What sort of action would nip it in the bud?
  • What are the risks of taking that action?
  • If you nip the conflict in the bud, what would remain as an unknown for you?
  • How important is it for knowing that on a scale of 1-5, 5 being very important?
  • What may go unknown for the other person about you or the situation if you nip the conflict in the bud?
  • How important may that be to him or her on a scale of 1-5, 5 being very important?

What other ConflictMastery™ Quest(ions) may you add here?

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7 Responses to Nip it in the bud

  1. Ben Ziegler says:

    Very good, Cinnie. I love your reframing of ‘nip in the bid’ to the conflict setting. It’s often difficult to know when to nip and when to let the interaction ‘bloom’ in a conflict, especially in a complex conflict.

    I’m no expert on pruning plants, i wonder if your plant analogy could be extended to something like a fruit tree. One prunes parts of each branch…prunes enough to help the branch, and thus tree, prosper. Prune too much and you can kill the tree. Each pruning could relate to a separate issue or interaction, in a conflict? Might make for an interesting conflict analysis visual… the tree of a conflict? Hmmm.

  2. Cinnie Noble says:

    Hi Ben – I really like the pruning analogy. Thank you for posting and offering that perspective.

  3. Deciding not to nip something in the bud, while helpful in some situations, usually is a mistake.

    Maybe we choose it out of disgust or anger or because we are conflict averse.

    Regardless, ignoring a conflict doesn’t make it go away.

    Cinnie’s questions at least make us think, question our approach, helping lead us to stronger insight and greater wisdom, which hopefully, will help us make wiser decisions when conflict develops.

  4. Cinnie Noble says:

    Thank you Michael and I am thinking that there are times that nipping conflict in the bud is a good thing. For instance, when we address what’s going on before things escalate…such as expressing what’s provoking us about certain actions, attitudes etc, before they build and spin out of control. Or when we engage ‘the other person’ in a conversation about dissension that is evident.
    What do you think?

  5. Fully agree Cinnie that catching conflict early, before escalation, is wise. Catch it before it becomes a full-blown cancer in the respective relationship.

    It’s all about communication and as Ben recently wrote about, engagement and collaboration. When we do express what’s provoking our thoughts and emotions, I’ve always thought of a restaurant guideline for plating food “presentation, presentation, presentation.”

    State things firm, clear but gently and simultaneously with empathy extended for the other person and their reasonable needs.

    What say you Cinnie?

  6. Cinnie Noble says:

    Yes, I agree with you Michael and the importance of the quality and nature of the ‘presentation’ we make when engaging the other person in a challenging conversation.

  7. Pingback: If You'd Only Told Me | CINERGY Coaching

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