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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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People-Pleasers in Conflict

For this week’s blog I thought I would bring back a blog that was very popular a few years ago. So, this one is from the archives (originally posted January 12, 2016):

Some of us have a pattern known as people-pleasing. When it comes to conflict this may refer to a tendency to avoid expressing ideas, thoughts and feelings when they differ from another’s for fear of offending them. Afraid to say no, or to defend ourselves, or having a tendency to comply rather than assert a different idea or suggestion, are other examples of behaviours that reflect people-pleasing.

This way of being often means living our lives according to other’s values and beliefs and, as a consequence, acting in ways that are continually out of alignment with ourselves. Having low self-esteem and trouble envisioning ways to manage dissension that will serve us better are commonly prevalent. This makes engaging in conflict a huge challenge.

Not all people are fully aware of how our people-pleasing patterns adversely affect conflict engagement. Others of us are fully aware, but prefer to accommodate others or give in so as not to be part of a conflict. In any case, we may experience self-anger, feelings of inauthenticity and dishonesty about the conflict and its impact.

It’s not a straightforward and easy process to change people-pleasing patterns. However, the following questions may help to open up an internal conversation to be able to gain some sense of who you prefer to be if you tend to be a people-pleaser in some or all conflicts – and don’t want to be.

  • Consider a conflict in which you know you behaved as a people-pleaser. What was that situation?
  • In what ways did you interact as a people-pleaser?
  • How did being a people-pleaser help you? How did it not help you?
  • What need (or needs) remains unmet for you due to being a people-pleaser in that situation?
  • If you were good to yourself rather than the other person, what would you have said or done differently in that situation?
  • How would it feel if you said or did that (your answer to the previous question)?
  • What different outcome might have resulted if you said or did what would have pleased you rather than the other person?
  • If you are a people-pleaser and, for instance, have trouble disagreeing, expressing the impact of the conflict, asserting your views or saying no, what messages might that convey?
  • What messages do you prefer to convey (if you don’t like the ones you referred to in the previous question for you)? How are those messages more aligned with your values and beliefs?
  • What will it take to interact in ways that are more aligned with your values and beliefs?
  • What else occurs to you as you consider these questions?
  • What insights do you have?
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The Conflict Iceberg

For this week’s blog I thought I would bring back a blog that was very popular a few years ago. So, this one is from the archives (originally posted January 22, 2013):

The metaphor of an iceberg has commonly been used as a metaphor about conflict. This is on the basis that there are things above the surface that show themselves and then, there is all that is going on underneath. Compared to conflict, some things are obvious to the disputants (and often others) that reflect the dynamic between them, the issues in dispute, and other aspects of the existing dissension. These are above the water ‘line’.

Below the water line is much more. There are hopes, expectations, emotions, needs, values, beliefs, and other deeply held views and feelings. Our individual and collective histories that we bring to the issues in dispute are in the mass below the surface, too. While, for all intents and purposes, this underlying mass appears to be unnoticed or remains unspoken, it has an enormous impact on the interaction. Indeed, it is an integral part of the conflict and who we are within it, within ourselves, and within the relationship.

Yes, some things may be best left unexplored or untouched. However, without increased self-discovery of what is below the surface, we miss the opportunity to better understand and reconcile our motivations and expectations. And to consider what ought to be shared and discussed, and what needs to remain dormant to reach the optimum outcome.

For these ConflictMastery™ Quest(ions), consider a conflict in which you see or feel that only the tip of the iceberg is showing itself.

  • What about the conflict do you think is fully evident to you and the other person?
  • What lies beneath that is evident for you but is not likely evident to the other person?
  • What concerns you that may be going on for the other person that is not evident to you?
  • What outcome do you want?
  • Why is that outcome important to you?
  • What do you want to leave below the surface?
  • How will that help you reach the outcome you want?
  • What is there to be gained for the other person if you leave that below the surface?
  • What may the other person want to leave below the surface? Why do you suppose?
  • Thinking about all this now, what needs to come to the surface to reach the optimum outcome – even though it may be challenging for you and/or the other person?
  • What other ConflictMastery™ Quest(ions) may you add here?
Posted in Conflict Coaching, Conflict Management Coaching, Consequences, Emotions in Conflict, Facing Conflict | Leave a comment

Why Bother Criticizing?

When we are in conflict it is common to criticize the other person – blaming her or him for things said or done (or not said or done). In our blaming we might name-call, put them down, ignore them, be patronizing and so on. Our facial and body language might also signal our critical view of the other person.

Why bother? This is the main question for this week’s Conflict Mastery Quest(ions) blog. When you criticize why do you do so? Is it to take control of the dynamic? Is it to hurt back and retaliate? Is it to “win” a dispute? Is it because it’s a “knee-jerk” reaction to defend yourself? Is it because nothing else comes to mind? Is it because you are too upset to control your reactions? Is it to undermine the other person – to wear her or him down? Or, what else might it be?

Consider a dispute in which you chose to criticize the other person and in addition to answering why you think you did so, consider these questions too:

  • Of what were you being critical?
  • What bothered you most about what the other person said or did?
  • What did you say back to her or him that was critical?
  • How did that go over (your answer to the above question)?
  • What was the impact on you of her or his words or actions?
  • What else happened between you as a result of criticizing?
  • What were you hoping to accomplish by criticizing?
  • If you made a request stating what you needed or wanted (implicit in the criticism), what would that sound like?
  • What difference might that have made to the conflict dynamic?
  • How might that difference be a benefit to you? How might it not be?
  • What else occurs to you as you consider these questions?
  • What insights do you have?
Posted in Blame, Conflict Coaching, Conflict Management Coaching, Criticizing | Leave a comment

Being Good To Ourselves When In Conflict

Interpersonal conflict is often deflating. Our egos, self-esteem, confidence, mood and other parts of us can all be negatively influenced when we are in dispute. Who the other person is, the subject matter, what she or he said or didn’t say (or did or didn’t do), and the attitude and facial or body language we observed – any number of these and other things could provoke us. I think I can safely say though, most of us experience moments like this when we are feeling deflated after a conflict.

What I notice from many of my conflict management coaching clients when conflicts negatively effect and linger for them is the tendency to be hard on themselves and go to places that reflect old habits. These include engaging in self-blame or blaming the other person, withdrawing, using silences, and reacting in other ways that demonstrate their default system.

If you have a tendency to go to a default (an old conflict habit that isn’t good for you) – even when you try not to – you might find this week’s Conflict Mastery Quest(ions) blog of relevance.

When you are not being good to yourself, after or during a conflict, and go instead to a negative place, what do you tend to think about yourself at these times?

What feelings usually accompany the thoughts you refer to in the previous question?

In what other ways is the place you go to hard on you?

When you think about it, what makes this a place you gravitate to during or after a dispute?

When do you not go to that negative place during or after conflict?

What makes the difference?

What thoughts may you draw on to replace your negative ones, rather than go to your default place?

If you were to be good to yourself during a conflict, what would you do differently? What different feeling would accompany that shift?

If you were to be good to yourself after a conflict, what would you do differently? What different feeling would accompany that shift?

What will it take for you to orchestrate the shifts so that you will be better to yourself during a conflict? What will it take for you to orchestrate the shifts so that you will be better to yourself after a conflict?

What else occurs to you as you consider these questions?

What insights do you have?

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The Cracks Are Where The Light Gets In

You may know the song “Anthem” by Leonard Cohen, in which he sings the words: “There is a crack, a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” I like this song and the idea of light shining through what might seem like something broken.

In fact, a well-known and regarded conflict practitioner and writer defines conflict as: “… simply the sound made by cracks in a system; regardless of whether the system is personal, relational, familial, organizational, social, economic or political.” (Kenneth Cloke, The Crossroads of Conflict: A Journey into the Heart of Dispute Resolution, 2006)

If we are able to consider that there is something good to see when a dispute causes us to feel dark and dim, we may be able to have a different and better relationship with conflict and ourselves within it. So, it is suggested that that cracks – and where the light gets in – are integral to developing conflict mastery and the ability to focus our energies on what is so important to the other person and to us that leads to conflict between us. The opportunity in identifying that – what’s important to both of us that would result in strong emotion – is critical to consider and explore.

This week’s Conflict Mastery Quest(ions) blog invites you to consider this by bringing to mind a situation in which you and another person provoked one another – resulting in a dispute.

  • What is your perspective on what the dispute was about? What might the other person say it is about?
  • When you were aware that the other person triggered negative emotions in you, what three words describe those emotions?
  • What did you perceive the other person was undermining, challenging, offending, insulting, etc.?
  • What does your answer to the previous question tell you about what is very important to you that the other person undermined, etc.?
  • What do you suppose the other person may not have known or realized about you – in terms of why you reacted strongly?
  • If you think or know the other person is aware of what was important to you and offended you anyway, why do you suppose she or he would do so?
  • What did you specifically say or do that provoked the other person, from what you observed/experienced?
  • What was her or his reaction?
  • What do you think was very important to her or him to have reacted that way? What might she or he perceive you were undermining, challenging, offending, insulting, etc.?
  • What light existed within the cracks for you in this dispute? What light might have been there for her or him?
  • What else occurs to you as you consider these questions?
  • What insights do you have?
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