Conflict is ever present in our personal lives and workplace. There is no way to avoid conflict. Mistakes get made, people don’t behave the way we want them to or expect them to, projects are delayed, budgets get cut, customers get frustrated and upset, we get disappointed by others, decisions and plans change and more. Conflict is everywhere and inevitable. So, trying to avoid conflict is futile, if not simply impossible. Our challenge is instead to learn how to better resolve the conflicts we find ourselves in daily.
Conflict is natural (even neutral) i.e., the rushing water eroding the sides of the riverbank or a deer protecting her little one from prey. Conflict becomes destructive and negative when it triggers and inflames negative emotions. A difference of opinion or point of view only escalates into an argument when we add the ingredient of emotion, i.e., anger, hurt, frustration, disappointment, rejection, etc. We also have an inherent need to defend and protect ourselves and to not be judged or criticized and thereby hate to be wrong or to look bad.
Conflict can be positive and productive. In many research studies constructive conflict has been linked to increased creativity, better decisions, less errors, better problem solving, a reflection of a more trusting work culture and high levels of teamwork. So how do we shift and change the experience of conflict to be healthier and less destructive to ourselves and our relationships, be they personal or work related?
If a peer tells us they believe we under budgeted a project or under allocated the days needed, or that our sales forecast isn’t accurate, we likely immediately perceive this as a judgement of us and take it personally and immediately have an emotional response, however mild or strong (unless of course you are highly emotionally intelligent and evolved and instead say, “thank you so much for the feedback and help, I really appreciate you helping me avoid making a mistake. Please help me understand so I can improve.” So, interpreting others’ statements and comments as an attack is often what escalates the conflict. We hear that we are somehow “wrong”, or worse incompetent or not good enough. And when we feel that we have been attacked or judged we then default into either a response that is defensive (explaining, arguing, rationalizing, etc.) or launch an offensive attack back “oh yeah, well how many times have YOU had a project go over budget or missed your number, my project is more complicated than yours!”. And then the tennis match begins, back and forth between the two parties until someone wins or loses.
Sadly, most of the time we would rather be right about how the other person is wrong than be happy.
This conflict de escalator tool is designed to help you learn about your conflicts and to better understand the patterns and emotions that go on for you. To help you analyze and understand each individual conflict. Having more insight and awareness of your thought processes, triggered emotions and behavioral responses, as well as the impact of the conflict on your results and experience can be a powerful first step to helping you resolve conflicts, no matter how trivial or significant. Being able to choose a different response or reduce the negative impact of a conflict can help you to fee happier, more confident, important, good enough, grounded, valued and more.