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The Elephant or the Mouse in the Room

The proverbial elephant that appears in the room when we are in conflict isn’t always as big as an elephant. It may be more like a mouse. However, a mouse is no less problematic when it scurries around and inserts itself in small places, like the crevices of our hearts and brains.

Elephants and mice represent the unspoken hurts or words. They are what is going on between disputing people that isn’t being said. They are the lingering doubts and the niggling feelings. They are the missing pieces of the puzzle. They are present without being identified.

At times, it may appear that we resolve matters without ever acknowledging elephants and mice that hover around. Without bringing them into the room though, conflict conversations are destined to have blinders on so that we don’t actually acknowledge their presence. Inevitably though, it seems, the mouse or elephant will reappear in the next conflict, with this person or another.

When we are in conflict, we are responsible for letting the elephant or the mouse in and identifying what they are telling us. The quest for conflict mastery acknowledges this point and you may find it helpful to consider how to acknowledge the elephant or mouse in your conflict conversations, with these types of self-reflective questions:

  • Think of the last dispute you were engaged in, when an elephant or mouse was there that wasn’t identified. What was it?
  • What kept you from acknowledging its presence, do you think?
  • What do you suppose kept the other person(s) from identifying it?
  • Which image – a mouse or an elephant – most resonates for you in that dispute and why?
  • How would bringing the elephant or mouse into the conversation have changed things?
  • How would that change in the conversation have benefited you?
  • What part would have been detrimental for you and how?
  • How may the other person have benefitted if the elephant or mouse were identified?
  • What part of that change would hurt the other person and how?
  • Generally, under what circumstances may it be best to identify and not identify the elephant or mouse present in the room?

Please add any other comments about this topic. Or, what other ConflictMastery™ Quest(ions) add to this aspect of conflict mastery that may be helpful?

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8 Responses to The Elephant or the Mouse in the Room

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