Hi Team,

Time to change direction and re-open my discussion about a topic that I think about a lot and always makes me very nervous, conflict management.

It is fairly normal to think that during a conflict, the strongest person will win. Not necessarily the physically strongest, but certainly the strongest personality, the strongest character, or the strongest argument? However, history and human experience shows us that "might is not always right" and that successful conflict management is a lot more complicated that being strong.

"Conflict is inevitable, but combat is optional." Max Lucado

In fact being able to successfully and productively navigate your way through a significant conflict depends largely on being able to understand where the conflict has come from in the first place? Taking a step back from the push and shove of the conflict and putting yourself in the other persons shoes is never easy and takes real effort and courage.

"10% of conflicts are due to difference in opinion.
90% of conflicts are due to difference in attitude." 

Another challenge/complication with managing conflicts in our multi-cultural and digitally connected world, is that people from different cultures and socio-economic groups have very different values and beliefs, which means they also have vastly different attitudes and methods of dealing with a conflict. This requires a level of empathy and understanding that often goes well beyond people’s comfort zone, level of tolerance or negotiation skills.

"To practice the process of conflict resolution we must completely abandon the goal of getting people to do what we want." 

An important part of effective leadership is being able to manage and resolve personal conflicts and being prepared to view conflicts as a positive and necessary part of all relationships. Conflicts can also present new opportunities and when handled correctly can initiate positive changes in the individuals involved and their teams or organizations.

I recently watched a "Ted Talk" titled "Compassionate Curiosity, A Superpower" by Kwame Christian, which passionately presented the theory that the key to conflict management is compassion, curiosity, and vulnerability. Compassionate curiosity is the willingness and ability to genuinely understand how the other person feels about the conflict. This only comes from being an active listener and asking, "open-ended questions" like, "what are your biggest concerns" and “how can I help to address these concerns”. This important part of conflict management only works if you are able to suspend your agenda and focus on what the conflict is really about. This is the really hard part that requires vulnerability, compassion and the curiosity that is needed to get to the heart of the conflict. Only then are you able to "disarm the conflict" and make real progress towards a resolution.

From his Ted Talk, Kwame's tips for disarming a conflict are, (VOCAB)

  1. Vulnerability = let the real you be seen.
  2. Ownership = be accountable for your actions.
  3. Communicate = ask open-ended questions and express your true feelings.
  4. Acceptance = embrace the reality of the situation.
  5. Boundaries = be specific about what you are okay with and what you are not okay with.

Thanks for reading,
Stay safe and own your actions.

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