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Stirring Things Up

The phrase “stirring things up” has a number of definitions and, when it comes to conflict, we typically interpret it to mean getting someone upset or angry, i.e. to cause trouble.

Recently on the Conflict Coaching Guild on LinkedIn I asked members “If you have observed or experienced some people who seem purposeful about ‘stirring things up’ to create interpersonal conflict, why do you suppose they do so?”

I was curious about any experiences or observations with others who intentionally instigate conflict. The answers were very interesting and ranged from someone’s habit due to insecurity or upbringing, a way to get attention and evoke a response, to gain distance, to avoid the other person gaining distance, to have some sort of connection or conversation and so on.

If you tend to stir things up from time to time, or are aware of others who do, the following set of questions might open up some thoughts to consider about this phenomenon.

  • If the situation represented a pot of stew, what ingredient did you stir in?
  • What outcome did you want? What outcome did you achieve by stirring things up?
  • What compelled you to stir things up this way?
  • When you think of one situation in which you stirred things up, what did you say or do?
  • How did that (your answer to the previous question) taste to you?
  • If the other person described the taste for her or him, what might that description sound like?
  • If you have been on the receiving end of someone stirring things up for you, what happened?
  • What ingredient did she or he put in the stew pot? What ingredient do you wish she or he had put in the stew pot instead?
  • When things settle after they have been stirred up, either as the person who did so or as someone on the receiving end, what is that like for you?
  • What has this blog and its questions stirred up in your thinking?
  • What else occurs to you as you consider these questions?
  • What insights do you have?

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