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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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Necessary Conflict

For this week’s blog I am bringing back one that was popular last year. So, this one is from the archives (originally posted January 10, 2017):

We may not think the word ‘necessary’ is one that would qualify the word ‘conflict’. However, especially in our interdependent relationships, the importance of raising issues that are important to us – even if they conflict with the other person’s perspective – cannot be overstated. It is, after all, how we discover one another’s values, interests, needs, hopes, expectations and beliefs. If we want our relationships to thrive, sharing these integral parts of who we are is necessary. Otherwise, among other things, our knowledge of and connection to each other is limited and superficial.

All of what I’ve said so far likely makes sense, at least in theory. Even though we accept the above premise, it is often the nature of the delivery of our messages, our receipt of the other person’s, and our response to them that results in high levels of friction and emotions – leaving us questioning the necessity of the conflict. That is, anything necessary to be learned about one another and ourselves in our relationship can be easily missed if we don’t step back early on and consider what we are hearing, what the other person wants us to hear, and what we want the other person to hear about what is important to us.

This week’s Conflict Mastery Quest(ions) blog asks you to consider a dispute with someone that seemed unnecessary and remains unresolved.

  • What is the dispute about?
  • What is unnecessary about it, in your view?
  • What remains unresolved for you? What might remain unresolved for her or him?
  • To what did you specifically react that the other person said or did? How did you react?
  • What important need, value, hope, etc. of yours do you think the other person didn’t hear?
  • To what did the other person specifically react that you said or did? How did she or he react?
  • What important need, value, hope, etc. might she or he have been expressing within her or his reaction?
  • What else might you think is necessary for the other person to realize about you and what upset you?
  • What else might be necessary for the other person – that she or he wants you to realize about what upset her or him?
  • On reflection here, what was necessary about the conflict?
  • What else occurs to you as you consider these questions?
  • What insights do you have?
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Mind Your Own Beeswax

For this week’s blog I am bringing back one that was popular last year. So, this one is from the archives (originally posted November 28, 2017):

As a kid, I remember using the phrase “mind your own beeswax” – instead of mind your own business – as a reaction to others who were being nosy. When I recently looked up this phrase I found several things, including:

“Since ‘mind their own business’ sounds harsh, if not impolite, the close-sounding word ‘beeswax’ was substituted. Those to whom the remark was directed might still get their noses out of joint, but somewhat less so than if the word had been ‘business’.”

“An interesting, although fanciful, piece of folk etymology tells us that American colonial women stood over a kettle and stirred wax to make candles. If they didn’t pay attention, the wax or fire might burn their hair and clothing. Someone who let her concentration wander would be reminded to ‘mind your own beeswax’.”

Another meaning According to Honeybee: Lessons from an Accidental Beekeeper (2009) by C. Marina Marchese is that “the expression might have its origins in the time when people sealed their letters with beeswax so no one could read them.”

Though there may be other theories, the relevant point for this week’s Conflict Mastery Quest(ions) blog is that some of us become irritated when we experience others are “minding our business”, leading to a conflict. Generally, we might not care when some people inquire after and about us. However, there are times when it feels invasive and intrusive to be asked things about what we are doing and why. Or, it may be when we find out someone is asking others about us. Perhaps it’s when, or additionally, the inquirer is someone who we believe has no right or reason to know things about us.

If you have a situation that has led to conflict in which you have said directly or with your inner voice “mind your own beeswax or business”, this week’s Conflict Mastery Quest(ions) blog might be of interest.

  • What occurred?
  • What is it about your business that the other person is curious about that feels intrusive to you?
  • Why might that be (your answer to the above question)?
  • If you don’t know why the person is curious, how might you find out?
  • What reason for the other person not minding her or his business might reduce your negative reaction?
  • How might you describe the impact on you?
  • What bothers you most about the person not minding her or his business?
  • Why do you suppose that is – that it bothers you?
  • What is it about the person, if you haven’t said so already, i.e. who it is, how she or he is asking, etc.?
  • When you have been accused of not minding your own business – if you have – what inspired your curiosity? Why is that?
  • What else occurs to you as you consider these questions?
  • What insights do you have?
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Bringing Your Best Self to a Conflict

For this week’s blog I am bringing back one that was popular last year. So, this one is from the archives (originally posted November 14, 2017):

I like this quote by Doris Lessing from The Golden Notebook:

“There’s only one real sin, and that is to persuade oneself that the second-best is anything but the second-best.”

Many of us consider doing our second best in situations as sufficient. Maybe this is because we didn’t feel our best at the time and excuse our behaviour because it seems to be the best we could bring to it. Other reasons may have to do with low self-esteem, insufficient tools, lack of support and so on.

This week’s Conflict Mastery Quest(ions) blog suggests that we have a choice to bring our best self – not our second best self – to our conflict situations. What follows then, are some reflective questions to consider before a conflict arises – when you sense one is imminent – to be able to bring your best self to it.

  • What is going on for you that gives you the sense that a conflict is imminent?
  • What is going on that gives you the sense that the other person might be sharing the same sense, if that’s the case?
  • What specifically is being triggered inside you?
  • What might you be saying or doing to provoke the other person?
  • How do you describe the best version of the you that you want to bring to this dispute?
  • By bringing that best version (that you just described), what do you have to do to shift your attitude about the conflict?
  • By bringing that best version (that you just described), what do you have to do to shift your attitude about the other person?
  • By bringing that best version (that you just described), what do you have to do to shift your attitude about yourself?
  • How is the best version of yourself different from the second best version of you?
  • How is the best version of you someone you feel humbled and honoured to be?
  • What else occurs to you as you consider these questions?
  • What insights do you have?
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Conflict Assumptions

For this week’s blog I am bringing back one that was popular last year. So, this one is from the archives (originally posted May 2, 2017):

When we are in conflict with another it is often the case that we make assumptions about her or him. For instance, we may attribute reasons for their actions or words that are provoking us; we may make interpretations about their body language; or we may make assumptions about their impression of us and how they read our words and actions.

Making assumptions, such as these and others, usually indicates, among other things, historical experiences that are fuelling our current interpretations. Or, we may be applying our own rationale for similar actions or words that we have done or said. Perhaps, others suggest things to us that we adopt to explain matters. In any case, it appears that something gets in our way from checking out what we are perceiving and assuming – and so does the other person.

Whatever the reason, the mere act of assuming usually gets us into trouble. For instance, we tend to respond to the other person based on what we think we know, not what we know to be true. That is, our assumptions are not necessarily a legitimate and well-founded reflection of the other person or her or his intent.

This week’s Conflict Mastery Quest(ions) blog invites you to consider a situation in which you are making assumptions about another person who is irritating you and a conflict might be looming between you.

  • What started your experience of being in conflict with the other person? In what ways are things between you escalating since the time you first felt the tension between you?
  • Why did it escalate, do you think?
  • What specifically is the other person saying or doing that is provoking you? What about that is especially upsetting or concerning for you?
  • What possible reasons might she or he have for saying or doing that, do you suppose? What other possible reasons might a friend of yours who observed the two of you give?
  • If you have ever said or done what the other person said or did that is provoking you, what were your reasons? In what ways, if any, might this apply in your dynamic?
  • What keeps you from checking out your assumptions?
  • If you are inaccurate in your interpretations of the other person’s reasons and motive, what then?
  • What are you saying or doing that might be provoking the other person?
  • What reasons might she or he attribute to you regarding your actions or the words you are saying (or how you are saying them)? What reasons would you give her or him instead?
  • What do you suppose might be precluding the other person from engaging you in a discussion to better understand you and your reasons?
  • What else occurs to you as you consider these questions?
  • What insights do you have?
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Reflect, Reflect, Reflect

I find the optimal practice when coaching my clients through conflict is to facilitate their transition from reaction to reflection and only then, to consider the response that reflects how they want to “be” in their conflicts. This isn’t always the easiest transition because when we are in conflict we often get stuck in “reaction” mode. And, unless we are able to process our reaction and the related emotions we do not usually manage the situation as well as we could. Also, in the conflict management coaching process, clients’ work is typically about moving forward and optimizing their potential to make things “right”, rather than spending time on what went “wrong”.

To get to a reflective place we need to move our energy to the outcome we want and be patient by taking slow steps. In this regard, this week’s Conflict Mastery Quest(ions) blog will hopefully help you to take a step forward and away from a dispute if you are stuck in its emotional dimension.

Bringing to mind an interpersonal dispute that’s lodged in the emotional part of your brain, consider the following questions:

  • What is the dispute about?
  • What are three emotions you are experiencing?
  • For what reasons are you experiencing these particular emotions?
  • What is keeping you in that emotional place – that’s making it hard to move on?
  • What are you thinking right now about the other person? Yourself?
  • If you were to get past this place, what outcome do you want to strive for?
  • What emotions will replace the ones you are now feeling?
  • What will you be thinking about the other person that’s different from now? What will you be thinking about yourself that’s different?
  • What niggling feeling or thought remains?
  • What else do you need to do then, to distance yourself and take at least one productive step forward towards the desired outcome?
  • What else occurs to you as you consider these questions?
  • What insights do you have?
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