Showing posts with label Resolving Conflict. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Resolving Conflict. Show all posts

Monday, July 13, 2015

Is Your Heart at Peace or at War with Others?

Do you have  an ongoing conflict with someone in your professional or personal life?

If the tension and differences have been going on for a while, you’ve probably made a substantial list of things about that person you’d like to change. Maybe it’s their attitude or their approach, or certain words and actions they use. If they would just start doing X or stop doing Y, then your life would be so much happier.

What if there were something YOU could do that would dramatically improve the situation?

A profound book, The Anatomy of Peace by The Arbinger Institute, has the potential for that kind of positive impact, if you’re willing to look within, recognize your role in the conflict and change your mindset.

This statement from the book summarizes one of the core concepts:
“No conflict can be solved so long as all parties are convinced they are right. Solution is possible only when at least one party begins to consider how he might be wrong…The deepest way in which we are right or wrong is in our way of being toward others.

Unlike many books about conflict that take a more academic, didactic approach, this one reads like an engaging novel, using fictitious characters in realistic situations to convey the key points and lessons. In this case, two facilitators at a treatment center lead a two-day workshop with parents whose teenage children have just been admitted.

Very likely, you’ll find it impossible to read this book without thinking about ways that you’ve contributed to difficult relationships you’ve had in your life - even if, up to this moment, you’ve held the firm belief that the other person was at fault.

You’ll learn about four common styles of justification—different types of “boxes” you can put yourself in when dealing with conflict. Within a given box, you have a particular set of feelings and a distinct way that you view Yourself, Others and the World.

For example, in the “Better-Than” box, you can feel impatient and disdainful as you view yourself as superior and virtuous while seeing others as inferior and irrelevant.

Each of the other boxes – I-Deserve, Need-to-Be-Seen-As, and Worse-Than – contain their own unique elements that prevent us from seeing the other as a person, where we care enough about them to want to help them succeed. Instead, we view them more as an object.

One of the facilitators relays a story about dropping some lettuce on the kitchen floor as he was making a sandwich. Instead of reaching down and picking it up, he kicked it under the counter with his toe. He later acknowledges that from his “Better-Than” box, he conveyed to his wife that he saw her “as just unimportant enough that she should be the one to have to worry about that kind of thing.”

He followed up with a question that all of us can consider when we commit our own version of this offense: “How would it be to live with someone who thought of you like that?”

Some of our behaviors are so ingrained – we are so firmly entrenched in our box – that we are blind to the impact that we have on others. The authors refer to this a having “a heart at war” where we feel the need to blame others (whether silently or verbally) while justifying our own attitudes and behaviors:
“When our hearts are at war, we tend to exaggerate others’ faults, that’s what we call horribilizing. We tend to exaggerate the differences between ourselves and those we are blaming…We also exaggerate the importance of anything that will justify us.”

The goal is to create a heart at peace, where we put a stop to violating our own sensibilities toward another person.

One of the best ways to make this shift and get outside the box is to invest time in answering a series of questions designed to help you relate differently to a specific person.

  • What are this person’s challenges, burdens and pains?
  • How am I adding to these?
  • In what other ways have I neglected or mistreated this person?
  • What could I do to HELP?

Answering these questions helps to break you free from your justifications and blame because you being to see the other as a person again.

And once you recognize what you need to do, then you have to take actions that build the relationship. It can take time to re-establish trust and respect. The effort will be worth it.

These same questions can be used to solve conflicts in larger groups – across families, communities and even nations.

If you’re interested in building the strongest relationships possible with the people who matter to you, read and apply the powerful wisdom of this book.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Creating a Win-Win When You Have a Conflict

What do you do when what you want is at odds with what another person wants?

No one is exactly like you, so it’s inevitable that others will disagree with you at times. Conflict is actually a natural part of working with or living with someone else.

Next time you find yourself in conflict with someone at work or home, implement this five-step process to find a win-win solution.


Sometimes the person you’re in conflict with will see you as an opponent. He may not even want to talk to you. So you may need to encourage him to open up by saying something like, “I really would like to resolve this, but I’m not sure what you want. Could you tell me more about that?”

Your instinct might be to argue or defend your own position, but you have to resist that impulse. At this stage, all you do is listen. Your goal is to discover WHAT the person really wants. As you begin to understand this, you may discover it’s not what you thought, that in fact you’re not actually opposed to it.


Once you know what the person wants, try to understand WHY. Ask, “Why do you want this? What goal or need will this help you achieve?”

And then you continue to pay attention, listen to understand and check what you hear.

Again, you have to resist the urge to argue or defend your position. Your goal is to find out what NEED is driving the person to push for this particular outcome.


So now you've listened to find out what the other person wants, and the NEED that drives those wants. If you've done that well, he’ll feel that you really understand where he’s coming from.

What you do now is ask the individual to listen while you explain where you’re coming from. Describe what you want as clearly as possible – “What I’m asking for is…” 

Then say why it’s important to you, something like: “The reason I want this is because it’s a way for me to…” Complete the sentence by stating the goal or NEED that has led you to want it.


Tell the other person that you’re flexible, that you’re open to other possibilities, and that you believe there may be ways to meet both your needs that haven’t been considered yet.

Ask the person to join you in coming up with some new ideas to specifically address both your needs.

For example, you might say, “You said your need is X, while my need is Y. What if we ask the question this way: 'What are some other possibilities that will allow us to meet both our needs at the same time?'”

You may have to come up with the first idea. Encourage the other person to think of some, too. Try to push for at least ten ideas. Be sure to write them down, so you can review them.


What you do next is ask the individual to point out which ideas he likes best. You do the same thing. Then identify the ideas that appear to be acceptable to both of you.

Check for commitment. Say something like, “You said this solution here was fine with you. Well, that works for me, too. Shall we agree to it?”

If you take an approach that seeks a win for both of you, the tension dissipates. And you’re much more likely to resolve the situation in a way that leaves both of you feeling satisfied.

“Conflict cannot survive without your participation.”
Wayne Dyer, American author (1940- )