31. Mastering Conflict Resolution[00:00:00] Welcome, my friends to another episode of The Manager Track podcast. Today, I want to talk about conflict because conflict is something we all deal with.[00:00:10] It’s going to happen in our private life and it’s going to happen if in our professional life just because we’re humans and as humans, we’re going to interact with each other in ways that sound good and feel good to us, but may not sound good and feel good to other people and there are misunderstandings that happen.[00:00:28] Now, speaking of conflict, a quote that I like to share is that we judge ourselves by our intention it coming from a good place, whatever we do, whatever we say, but others judge us by the impact our actions or words had on them. And there is a difference between the two things, because I can come from a really good intention, but the impact it has on someone else was not in alignment with my intention.[00:00:56] In fact, it hurt someone or it made someone feel annoyed or disrespected, and that can create conflict without me even knowing. Right, so we’re going to talk about what to do when you’re in a conflict situation, how you can learn from it, and then how you can navigate conflict in a really constructive way so that you can lead yourself through conflict.[00:01:19] But actually, even as someone who leads a team, you can help your team members who are potentially in conflict. You can facilitate those conversations in a masterful way.[00:01:31] What we’re going to talk about in the next 20 minutes can really make a big impact if, and when you find yourself in conflict situations.[00:01:38] By the way, conflict is the topic that I cover by my Leadership Circle group this month, the month of November. So, if you feel the urge to learn more and grow your leadership capabilities and skills, but don’t want to make a huge investment than the Leadership Circle might be for you. It provides that ongoing training, inspiration, the tools that you need to lead your teams and the community and support of a small group of leaders that are all going through the same challenges, but it comes at a really affordable price.[00:02:07] So if you look at 2021, do you think this is the right time to make an investment in your leadership growth and you are a few years into your leadership career, then this might be the exact program for you.[00:02:18] Connect with me at firstname.lastname@example.org to inquire or head over to ramonashaw.com/leadership-circle to learn more. But let’s dive into today’s topic. I want to share a conflict situation that I had when I was leading a team.[00:02:34] I personally consider myself as someone who gets stuff done. I am reliable, I stick to my commitments and I like seeing a result, and I love seeing progress.[00:02:45] So some of you are familiar with personality type assessments, I bet that you just made an assumption of where I might lay in on the circles on a spectrum and you’re probably right.[00:02:54] So with that said, though, there was someone on my team who was actually really valuable in terms of [00:03:00] idea generation and looking at processes and going into the detail. And that was a strength that we really needed on our team. But I did not value this as much as I should have.[00:03:10] It was one of the big mistakes that I made early on in my leadership career.[00:03:15] And this was someone who was struggling to always get things done on time. We had fast paced environment and this person would turn in the deliverables late. So initially, you know, I was accommodating, that’s sort of my conflict style, we’re going to go into this. I was accommodating and then I tried to figure out am I putting too much work on this person? Am I not playing to this person’s strength? Is there maybe something going on in this person’s personal life? I’ve tried to analyze like what is going on and why is it not working? And I don’t understand why this person wouldn’t just go above and beyond and work all hours of the day and potentially the night. Cause that’s what I would have done to meet me the deadline.[00:03:56] And then it kept happening again and again, and at some point, I got so upset with it that I lashed out. I wasn’t being rude. I wasn’t cursing by all means, but lashing out to me meant that I was really feeling agitated and it was visible. It was uncomfortable and it was awkward in the situation.[00:04:14] And I think I held up my hand and I said there are like five reasons why people don’t deliver one, two, three. And I gave five reasons, from the top of my head of why I thought people wouldn’t deliver it. And I said, which one is it? Like, I’m clueless. I don’t know how to help you anymore. Like what is going on?[00:04:31] And that was not an effective way to handle it. And then, of course, it came with like guilt about how I handled the situation.[00:04:39] in retrospect, this was a moment that definitely diminished trust in our relationship. And it had an impact that lasted for quite some time afterwards. So, not understanding how I even got into that conflict and into that charged argument in the first place was mistake number one, and then not having the toolkit in my backpack already and the awareness of how to navigate the conflict masterfully, that was the second mistake.[00:05:07] So this whole idea of learning as I go comes at a high cost because this had an impact on the other person. This had an impact on our working relationship that was costly and it was stressful. So, building those skills, and this is why you are here, this is why you’re listening to this podcast is really important. And I want to also honor you and appreciate you for doing this work upfront, even in listening to this, even if you’re not right now in a conflict, because you want to put these goes in your backpack before you find yourself in the conflict.[00:05:40] So let’s define conflict and if you were to Google conflict and definition of conflict, you could come up with a range of different methods and frameworks and so forth.[00:05:49] What I find most useful is to understand where it’s coming from. There are usually three components that create conflict.[00:05:58] First one is we feel [00:06:00] deprived of something that we need or want. And second and tightly connected to this, is that in violates a value or a social norm or a rule that is important to us. As a simple example, if someone were to eat all the yogurt in the fridge, I don’t care about yogurt. You could eat all you want, you could take it, I’ll give it away, it’s not something that would trigger me into conflict at all because I don’t value it.[00:06:25] If there is a rule that, for example, where are you parked on the street. That’s also less important to me. But some people really care about your behavior and where you park your car and how you park your car. And if you don’t park it the right way, they will leave a note on your car that you parked it the wrong way or in the wrong direction. And this is because they felt in conflict.[00:06:45] So you have to be deprived of something you want or need, such as the order, it has to be violating, a value or social norm, or a rule that you care about. And it has to be done by someone else. Right, if we do it, we wouldn’t be in conflict. If nature does it, we wouldn’t be in conflict.[00:07:03] So it’s someone else who does it.[00:07:06] And when this happens and all three of those criteria are met, then we can assume that we land in conflict. And to expand on the definition of conflict, a lot of people also talk about healthy conflict.[00:07:17] I personally don’t like to say healthy conflict because I think that no one really likes conflict. And so, I don’t quite see how that’s healthy. So, I personally, don’t like to call it healthy conflict because conflict is not something that we want and that feels good. So, I have a struggle of it combining the two, but I’d like to distinguish conflict from opposition and opposition to me is really healthy.[00:07:43] Opposition is when we talk about something like a thing and we have an opinion, that’s different. It’s about a task or a deliverable, or it’s something that you do or don’t do but it’s not about the relationship. So, to me, the difference between opposition and conflict is usually that the opposition is when it’s about the thing and the conflict is when it’s about the relationship.[00:08:15] And so when something that I really care for is deprived and I feel like there’s something interpersonal about it, that makes it a lot more stressful and turns it into conflict. As a simple example, opposition might be, we have a different political view and conflict might be that one of us doesn’t feel respected in the relationship.[00:08:34] Even though I, I say there isn’t really healthy conflict, conflict are huge learning opportunities because they include something that one, at least one person cares about and values and feels deprived off. The other person is actually getting a window into their inner world.[00:08:53] Do you see what they value and what they care for? And when handled masterfully conflict [00:09:00] and resolving conflict can actually bond and connect you on a deeper level then you felt connected to this person before. And I bet that you can recall a situation maybe with a parent or a friend where you had a big blowout and then you have resolved that conflict and you talked about it and you started to see this person in a new light and you felt more connected than before. Also, by resolving conflict and emphasizing the relationship, it develops a sense of trust and security that no matter what happens, no matter how much we fight, we were able to resolve it and our relationship is secure. So, going through conflict as uncomfortable as it is, and stressful as it is can sometimes turn to a result that’s really beneficial.[00:09:41] So before we talk about how do we solve conflict, let’s figure out how we got into conflict in the first place. I apply a framework that was developed by Core Strengths, a company that uses an assessment and trainings that are based on Elias Porter.[00:09:55] I’m a certified facilitator and their framework for conflict resolution is the one that resonates most with me. And that has been most helpful in the work with my clients. So, I’m going to explain to you those three phases that we use as a framework to understand conflict.[00:10:11] The first phase that we’re in is what I call we’re a little bit annoyed. But when something happens and we’re feeling a little bit annoyed, we still care about the other person. We care about the problem, like the actual challenge. And then we also care about ourselves naturally.[00:10:27] So in that example that I shared in the beginning of this episode, when that first deliverable wasn’t met and my team member said, Oh, I need, I need two more days. I’m not ready yet. I was all annoyed. And then I thought, you know what? It’s not that big of a deal. We can figure this out. We can push things back. We still have buffer that’s planned in. It’s going to be okay.[00:10:47] So I was a little bit annoyed by not seeing it right there. That’s just my personality. I knew that I want to get things done, but I can accommodate.[00:10:55] Then the second state is when we feel a little agitated. So, you’re going from annoyed to agitated, and that usually happens if you’re not properly addressing that annoyance in the first place. And we let that slide, like for me, I let that slide and then it happened again and maybe one more time. And then I moved into that second stage and now I get agitated. And now I stopped focusing on the other person and I actually only focus about the problem. Like, Hey, we’re constantly being delayed on deliverables. And I focus on me and I’m thinking about how the implication it has on the team and the organization. And I probably also thought about the implication. It has a, my reputation towards other teams and towards my boss if we’re late on deliverables.[00:11:41] But see what happens in phase two is that I now care less about the other person and my attention is not focused on the thing, the challenge such as the delay and about me.[00:11:53] When we move in transition into phase number three, this is when we get angry. . This is when [00:12:00] we’re, we haven’t resolved the in phase one. We didn’t really resolve it in phase two and it happens again and now we’re really triggered. And that was the moment when I lashed out. And I said, I don’t understand, like, what is it? I can’t figure that out. And I got angry about the situation. So, then that’s when I reached phase number three.[00:12:22] And really what happens then is I care a lot about me at this point and less about you and less about the problem. Now, it’s about, I can’t figure it out and it looks bad on me and it looks bad on the team and I can’t tolerate this anymore.[00:12:37] So that is how we graduate through. Phase one annoyance. It’s still about you, the problem and me. In phase two it’s about the problem and me. And I feel not just agitated, but annoyed. And then in phase three is that I feel angry and it’s about me predominantly. Now we all actually have different behaviors as we move through these phases.[00:13:02] So I personally, my initial behavior when I’m in phase one is that I accommodate. So, I feel annoyed, but I accommodate to the situation and give you more leeway, I evaluate the risk and think, okay, we can buffer, or I will take care of it, or I will help out or I will step in and I will accommodate to your needs.[00:13:21] Then in step two is when I start analyzing. That’s when I look at am I putting too much work on this person? Am I not seeing something? Is this assignment harder than I thought? Does it really take that much time? Is something going on in this person’s personal life? And I started to try to figure out what is it. That’s when I analyze. That’s the behavior I demonstrate in phase number two, when I feel agitated.[00:13:46] Now, when it moves to phase three and I get angry, that’s when I assert. And that is when I held out my hand and I started counting down the five reasons why people don’t deliver and raised my voice, and I was confrontational. I was leaning in and I was saying, I don’t get it. Like I don’t understand. And I was being really vocal and the other person looked at me and thought, oh my god, where’s this coming from? Because up until that point, I didn’t demonstrate this behavior. I was accommodating. And then I was I analyzing and analyzing happened internally.[00:14:20] And yes, I did say you know you got a really deliver and I was giving feedback, but by no means was I as assertive earlier on in that conflict situation as I was in that moment, when it triggered me to move into phase number three. And this is really important. This personally, to accommodate, to analyze and then the assert, that is my conflict sequence.[00:14:43] And for the longest time, I thought that this is the normal conflict sequence, and this is how everyone goes to conflict. That we all accommodate first. And if that doesn’t work, we would analyze. And if that doesn’t work, then we would assert.[00:14:57] And then one day I [00:15:00] attended this Core Strengths training. And I was in a group and I saw my results and we were in the room and we were debriefing the results of everyone else.[00:15:10] And there was a group of people who explained that what they did was they assert in phase number one. And they explained what happens when they’re in phase number one and when they assert. And in that moment, I thought, oh my god, this is my husband. This is this employee that I work with. That’s how they are wired.[00:15:31] They’re not angry when they assert themselves. They’re annoyed. They’re simply a little annoyed. They’re not even agitate it. They’re just a little bit annoyed and they assert themselves first. And then they might analyze in a second phase. And then when that doesn’t work, they start accommodating. So, when it escalates, that’s when they start giving in, they’re like hold on a second, maybe I need to give back now. What do you need? So, then they start accommodating, but not until phase three.[00:16:06] When this awareness that we’re not all going through these stages the same was eye opening to me and it changed the way that I was looking at conflict and that I was able to resolve conflict.[00:16:18] By the way, if you’re have this tendency to assert yourself early on in conflict, and you are meeting someone who has a tendency to accommodate, you might actually feel more agitated because this other person isn’t standing up for their needs and you want them to stand up for their needs. You want them to tell you how to feel and what they need. And so that person accommodating actually makes it worse. And the person who accommodates it, they see you being assertive, they think that you’re escalated to stage number three, and that makes them want to accommodate more because they think, oh my god, this person must be so angry. I definitely got to accommodate. And it creates this tension that is not necessary.[00:17:00] So once you understand how you land in conflict through the annoyance, the agitation, and then the anger, how you look at first yourself that the other person and the problem. And then you started looking at the problem and yourself. And then in the final stage, it’s really more about an only about yourself and you see how that actually happens in real life.[00:17:21] And it does. I see this all the time and you understand that other people react differently in conflict, and as they move through to phases, it creates a whole new level of awareness. And I hope that this introduction to this concept and framework helped you see conflict in a different light as well.[00:17:40] The way that you navigate this masterfully, now have moving into conflict resolution, is actually that you want to match the response of the other person. So, if I met someone who’s assertive early on, they fell a little annoyed and they assert themselves. I realize my natural tendency right now would be to accommodate, [00:18:00] but that’s not going to help.[00:18:01] So it’s not about me being me for the sake of being me but then creating a bad outcome. My ability to lead and to be effective is now to step into a place that may not come natural to me, but I’m going to assert myself too. So, I see someone being assertive, I’m going to assert myself too. And that is what resolves conflict like that, like the snap of a finger, because now I am on the same page with the other person. We’re sharing our needs and we’re able to communicate and conflict can be resolved in phase one.[00:18:35] If I meet someone else who I feel like they’re accommodating, I will be all into accommodating and the conflict will feel so easy.[00:18:42] And I bet that you’ve been in situations where you felt like. Well, that was easy. I was a little annoyed then we just figured things out super easy. And you might not even classify this as conflict because you both were on the same page. It came naturally. You didn’t even have to think about it. You didn’t have to stretch yourself a little bit to show a behavior that you totally can and totally have part of your skillset, but that wouldn’t be your first instant reaction.[00:19:06] You have to intentionally shift a little bit to meet the other person better and be more impactful.[00:19:11] And that’s important in resolving conflict in the first place.[00:19:14] But now let’s assume that you actually find yourself in a phase three. If you feel it’s escalated, you feel angry or the other person feels angry. What do you do? So, I want to break out my suggestions into two components.[00:19:26] On one side, there is the change from the inside.[00:19:30] And then I’m going to talk about how to change on the outside. And we’re not talking about the outside. It’s more about certain tactics and certain strategies that you can apply and the how-to. The big work, though, and that’s what my coaching focuses on with a lot of my clients, is the inner work.[00:19:43] And so when I look at the inner work, the first thing that you want to do is to stop and to distinguish the facts from the thoughts.[00:19:52] So I always recommend take a piece of paper and write down everything that comes to mind like a complete download of your thoughts. And then you take a different color pen and you mark down what is fact and what is thought. And when I say fact actually means the things that I could capture with a camera, we would all agree on, it’s factual.[00:20:11] For example, the report was delivered one day after its due date. A fact we could all agree on that. That’s what happened. But then everything around this person is lazy, or this person doesn’t respect my time, or this person doesn’t respect the deadlines, or this person isn’t involved enough.[00:20:31] All those things are thoughts, interpretations, assumptions, stories. Distinguish facts from thoughts.[00:20:40] And if you find yourself facilitating conflict between two people, this is the first step you want to do is take, say, let’s distinguish facts from thoughts. Facts are the things that everyone here in this room agrees on.[00:20:52] What does party A and party B agree on to be the facts? They’re undisputable. They could be captured [00:21:00] by camera. It is blue or it’s green. We would all agree. Right? There’s no question about it. Now, everything else is stories and interpretations, and[00:21:08] it’s really important to separate the two first. And then try to figure out what was the hot button. There is usually one thing. That’s the hot button. And that goes back to what’s that need or the want what’s the value, the norm or the rule that this one person felt deprived of. What was that hot button? Like getting to the core of it.[00:21:30] And in coaching conversations, this is something that we peeled the onion on. What was it really that triggered this conflict? And it usually goes back to things such as I felt disrespected, or I felt not included or I felt I wasn’t treated fairly.[00:21:46] Right. So, it goes down to a value that was a hot button. And so instead of looking at the superficial chit-chat that went forward and back of like, oh, this person said this and this person said that, and that is all varies that professional. And you’re not going to be able to resolve conflict and reestablished a relationship if you’re not looking at the hot button. Also, it’s really hard to learn from a situation if you don’t understand what the hot button is. And so, you will likely just run into a same similar conflict over and over and over again in the future.[00:22:15] Now let’s go deeper into change from the inside. There are three things that you want to consider and questions you want to ask yourself.[00:22:22] Number one is what’s the opportunity here? Look at what you are learning or what you’re getting better at. Maybe it’s simply is, hey, I get to practice conflict resolution skills. Changing your attitude from this is happening to me, to this is happening for me, will open up your brain to see things in a different light and will make it less stressful to engage and will make it easier for you to see the other side.[00:22:49] So reframe your mind. There’s always opportunity to grow and to learn through conflict. So, bring that back to the forefront.[00:22:56] Number two is to go deeper into what is my story? What are my expectations on other people? I call these the blueprints. So, we have this idea of how someone should be and we go through life like that. There is a way that a husband should be, a friend should be, there’s a way a mom should be, a daughter should be, a son should be, a coworker should be, and a boss should be. These are our blueprints of what they should be.[00:23:19] Now, they’re generally okay but they start creating problems if I have an emotional attachment to this other person fulfilling my blueprint. Because as you have maybe realized by now is it’s really, really hard to change someone else, if not impossible. So then trying to change someone else and holding onto my blueprint and being emotionally attached to my blueprint creates conflict left and right. But if I get to let go of that attachment and understand that the other person is not the match of my blueprint and it’s okay. And that there will never be and it’s okay. And that I love them anyways, or that I want to work for them anyways or that I want to be in a relationship with them anyways. [00:24:00]
[00:24:00] Provide so much freedom and take stress out of the situation. So, as you’re looking at your story and interpretations of the thoughts, look at what are your expectations, what is the blueprint that you have for this person? And that person might not match. And where do you have an emotional attachment to this?[00:24:19] And then the third is to take 100% responsibility. And yes, it’s really easy to blame the other person or the situation but that does not help in resolving conflict. We want to look for all the ways that we can take responsibility.[00:24:36] Maybe it is for me in that situation, yes, the other person was late on the deliverables, but I didn’t assert myself early on. For example, I accommodated. And so, I made it okay. I also didn’t have a conversation about why this person is late and how we needed to change until it was too late. I also didn’t demonstrate the consequences. Right? I didn’t set that boundary to say, look, if you’re late, here’s the consequence. I did not explain. I wasn’t explicit all along.[00:25:10] So there were plenty of opportunities for me to take responsibility and then to own those responsibilities in a conversation. And we’re going to get to that in a moment.[00:25:20] So to quickly recap the work that you want to do internally, after you downloaded all your thoughts and you’ve marked out what is a thought and what is a fact. And then you try to figure out what is my hot button. And then at that point, you want to really look at the expectations you want to shift your mind. You want to shift your attitudes to it being in a learning opportunity and for it to happen for you. That’s number one.[00:25:44] Number two is that you want to look at your blueprints, the emotional attachments that you have to expectations of what other people should do or should be.[00:25:53] And then number three, look for all the ways that you are responsible for in the situation.[00:25:58] No blaming. Blaming does not help in resolving conflict. So, you want to take a hundred percent responsibility. Look for all the different ways that you co-created the situation.[00:26:08] Katie Byron says defense is the first act of war, and I love that quote. It is so true. So, the moment I start blaming and be defensive, I’m engaging in war. So that’s the opposite of what we want to do. We do not want to go into war, we do not want to be defensive in that moment. We want to take responsibility.[00:26:30] So then let’s talk about the external, the outside change and outside conflict resolution tips and suggestions that I have. And this is about how you communicate with the other person. This is really the things that you do no longer what you think and your inner reflections about what the hot button was and what his expectation and thoughts and interpretation versus facts and how was I responsible to it. This was the inner work.[00:26:57] Now you’re actually doing the outer work, which means you’re [00:27:00] having a conversation with this person. So, in that situation you want to start off by putting the facts on the table. Things that, you know, the other person would agree on. For example, look, that report was delivered a day late and this happened three times over the course of the last three weeks. Fact, there’s nothing to argue about it.[00:27:20] Right. We all know that one day delay happened three times over the last three weeks, but then you go into your story and you own it as a story. You can say, look, what I made this mean is that, that you’re not engaged in the work or that it’s not important to you to deliver on time, or that you’re not respecting the team and my time, because you’re holding up the process.[00:27:44] Now I understand that’s probably not your intention, right? I know that you’re a good person that you want to help and that you’re a team player. But I want to share what it meant to me and the story that I made up of all of this. And I also want to share that I apologize for not having brought this up early for not having and being really clear with the consequences, not having been explicit enough or not having inquired really early on about what’s going on.[00:28:09] So then after you shared your story, you own, and you share your responsibility when you come from that place, the likelihood for that other person to also not blame, but to own their side as well is way more likely than if you start blaming. Then the other person will very likely in defense too.[00:28:30] And after you shared your story and after you own your responsibility, you have to inquire about the other person. And this should be a big chunk of the conversation is to really ask about their perspective, their viewpoint, what’s going on for them, what help and resources do they need, or what value was maybe jeopardized for them? What hot buttons were triggered? You want to understand as much as possible about their inner world and their perspective on the conflict.[00:28:55] And only then are you going to talk about solutions and agreements. Way too often, we try to jump right into solutions and agreements and skipping the first few parts. So, you do not talk about solutions and agreements until you have shared the facts, agreed on the facts, shared your story and own it as a story, shared the ways that you were responsible for it, and then number four asked about their perspective and inquire about their viewpoints, the hot buttons, the values and so forth. You have to go through those four stages first to set the stage, to actually come to agreements and to resolve conflict in a way that’s helpful and will re-establish your relationships and bring you to a place that’s equal to what you were before conflict or even better and more bonded, a more connected and more trusted in that relationship.[00:29:47] These are the five specific steps that you want to follow when you’re in a conversation to resolve conflict. And if you are facilitating conflict between team members or between other two people in your organization, then you [00:30:00] follow that as exact same framework.[00:30:01] Knowing these things and being prepared for conflict, by understanding the conflict sequence by changing your attitude and your inner world towards conflict, and then knowing the five steps to handle any conflict situation. This is insight that you have in your backpack now, and I hope you took vivid notes, or you listened to this again, or you reach out to me for additional support so that when conflict arises, you’re ready as a leader in your organization, you want to grow as a leader in your career and even in your private life.[00:30:34] Knowing how to deal with conflict and being able to step in and lead during conflict is an invaluable skill and will set you apart because there are so many people who do not have this knowledge and then they shy away or they avoid conflict at all cost. They don’t talk about it and pretend that it’s not there, they withdraw, or they’re not the ones leading. Instead they feel like a victim in conflict.[00:30:59] Those are things that are way more common. So, for you to have these insights and then applying it and take action on it will help you set yourself apart, stand out and be seen as a true leader. And be respected for doing the uncomfortable and addressing the conflict head on so that it turns into a solution that’s a win-win for everyone involved.[00:31:21] And if you know someone who is going through conflict right now, or even as we enter the holiday season, that you know they’re going to deal with conflict with family and friends and you want to help them be equipped with how to resolve conflict and navigate conflict in the workplace or in their private home, please share this episode along. So, they understand this conflict sequence, they understand how to resolve conflict in there in the inner world or on the outside with the five specific tactics as well.[00:31:49] And of course, if this was helpful and you said like, oh, this was well-invested time. I know something that I didn’t know before, thanks so much, Ramona, please give it a thumbs up or a five-star review on that podcast platform that you’re listening to this.[00:32:03] It would mean the world to me and will help reach more people and leaders in the organizations to create a generation of leaders who lead with their head and their hearts. I’ll talk to you next week, in another episode of The Manager Track podcast.