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Conflict Posturing

When I first started to practice law some years ago I heard the expression and then, observed the act of “posturing” – as referred to lawyers who became positional during negotiations or court proceedings. As I observed it, posturing is typically demonstrated through body language, mannerisms, and words. These came together, it seemed, in an adversarial effort to ‘win’ and assert a position about a legal dispute. While posturing may be considered strategic and just part of the game of lawyering, I have to admit it actually didn’t feel sport-like or fun to me!

Sometimes I found posturing to be arrogant behaviour, especially when lawyers took on what I perceived as a ‘bullying’ and a ‘holier-than-thou’ demeanour. Their combative and undermining approach at these times appeared as a posture of defiance and indignation. I also read into the attitude conveyed sentiments such as: “my way or the highway”; “I know a whole lot more than you possibly could”; and other such remarks.

How to interact when on the receiving end of posturing – to counter the posture in a conflict masterful way – can be challenging. To consider ways to respond effectively when provoked by this technique it will help to consider, for this week’s ConflictMastery™ Quest(ions) blog, a time when someone was posturing with you in a disagreement and you weren’t sure how to respond.

  • What was the context of the dispute?
  • What was the other person doing verbally that you experienced as posturing?
  • What was she or he doing physically that you experienced as posturing?
  • What message were you ‘hearing’ from or reading into the person’s body postures (naming the specific posture(s) from which you got the message(s))?
  • What message(s) were you getting from her or his words and/or way they were conveyed?
  • What ‘posture’ was most off-putting for you? Why that one?
  • How may you describe the posture you demonstrated in your response?
  • What other sorts of posturing techniques are you aware of using?
  • What do you achieve by posturing? What don’t you achieve?
  • Next time you encounter posturing from another person that is off-putting, what is the optimum response you plan to use?

What other ConflictMastery™ Quest(ions) may you add here?

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