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Conflict Mindset

In recent years, there has been a lot written about the concept known as mindset. Most recently, I read about the term again – as it relates to conflict – in Judy Ringer’s terrific book Turn Enemies Into Allies The Art of Peace in the Workplace (Career Press, 2019). One of the references Judy makes is to an Australian study (reported in the International Journal of Conflict Management, 2016) which was designed to explore what occurs when a third-party supervisor steps in to manage a conflict. As might be expected, when the supervisor had a positive conflict management style the result was, among other things, “reduced anxiety, depression and bullying” (p.21).

In this regard, Judy reinforces the concept that “a core component of centered presence is the mindset with which you approach a conflict or difficult conversation”. She also refers to another great read by Carol Dweck – Mindset, The New Psychology of Success (Ballantine Books, 2007) in which the author presents research on notions of growth mindset and fixed mindset. Among other interesting findings, Dweck discusses how a growth mindset helps us achieve success and live happier lives.

Just a few of the characteristics Judy refers to about growth and fixed mindsets – when it comes to conflict – are that those with a fixed mindset are emotionally reactive and those with a growth mindset are emotionally responsive and open. Another trait is that people with a fixed mindset are more interested in winning an argument than learning from it, as opposed to a growth mindset being more interested in learning than being right (p.83).

This week’s Conflict Mastery Quest(ions) blog is about this latter characteristic. If you intend to feel compelled to “win” arguments, try out these questions to consider your mindset in a situation when that was the case.

  • What was the argument about?
  • What viewpoint did you assert?
  • What made it right from your perspective?
  • What viewpoint did the other person assert?
  • What was wrong, in your view, with the other person’s perspective?
  • What did the person consider most right about their perspective?
  • What difference does it make if one of you was right and one of you was wrong?
  • What did you learn from the conflict about yourself? What did you learn about the other person?
  • Generally-speaking, what mindset do you have when it comes to conflict? That is, do you prefer to win or learn?
  • If you tend to want or need to win and you want to shift your mindset to be more about growth and learning, what might you begin to do or think differently?
  • What else occurs to you as you consider these questions?
  • What insights do you have?


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