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ConflictMastery Quest(ions) Blog

The CINERGY® Conflict Management Coaching Blog –ConflictMastery® Quest(ions) – is for anyone who finds self-reflective questions helpful for examining and strengthening your conflict intelligence. It is also for coaches, mediators, HR professionals, ombudsmen, leaders, lawyers, psychologists, counsellors and others who also use self-reflective questions as tools for helping your clients in these ways.

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“Never ruin an apology with an excuse”

This quote by Kimberly Johnson is a good one to consider when it comes to asking forgiveness, giving an apology, and otherwise trying to make amends. Previous blogs have discussed these topics and invited readers to examine apologies given and received from various vantage points. What I like about this quote is that, in many of my experiences, when I or the other person in our disputes has provided a reason for was said or did it lands poorly.

When reflecting on Johnson’s quote, there is definitely something about justifying ourselves – by making excuses for something said or done – that  detracts from apologizing. For me, it’s like giving with one hand and taking away with the other – a phrase my mother used to say about the same sort of thing. To a great extent, it seems to me that having to make an excuse when apologizing is not really being sorry for what was said or done. It also seems  that as long as the person delivering the message thinks they are right (even while they may be sorry they offended someone) the excuse given is more about them and their needs than tuning into the impact they have had on the other.

Thinking about this phrase – “never ruin an apology with an excuse” – if this rings true to you in some way – I invite you to consider a situation in which you are wanting to apologize to someone for something you said or did and for which you are sorry.

  • What happened in the situation you have in mind?
  • For what specifically do you want to apologize, i.e. something you said or did or didn’t say or do?
  • For what reasons did you say or do that?
  • If you are tempted to provide an excuse what precisely would it be?
  • What is your rationale for providing an excuse?
  • If the excuse you would give for what you said or did is not actually consistent with your rationale, what is that about for you?
  • If you don’t make an excuse to explain yourself, what would that mean for you? What do you think the other person would not know about you that you want them to?
  • What impact might it have on the other person, if you provided an excuse along with the apology?
  • What do you think the other person wants to hear from you by way of an apology? How is your answer to the above question the same as that for which you want to apologize? How is it different?
  • What else occurs to you as you consider these questions?
  • What insights do you have?

#interpersonalconflict
#conflict
#coaching
#conflictcoaching
#conflictmanagementcoaching
#conflictmanagement
#disputeresolution

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Anger is an Acid

Gandhi said, “Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it stands than to anything on which it is poured”. This week’s Conflict Mastery Quest(ions) blog is about anger that often comes from our interpersonal disputes.  In previous blogs, it is usual that one of the questions has to do with the emotions being experienced as it usually helps to name what we are feeling, and it is common that a first response from many is the word anger. There is a lot of meaning behind this word and while it says a lot and we all likely understand its usage, there is more to say about the impact on us of feeling anger. So, we are going to explore the impact of anger in a bit more detail here – anger as an acid – as Gandhi describes it.

To start with, the word essentially means “a strong feeling of being upset or annoyed because of something wrong or bad” (Merriam-Webster https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/anger). When Gandhi refers to anger as an acid it adds another consideration to having feelings of anger  since the implication is that acid burns away at us; it’s toxic; it’s hurtful. And his quote tells us that it is us we hurt with our anger – more than  the other person.

When thinking about this I can think of many reasons why we and the other person are both hurt by our anger – both feeling it and being on the receiving end of it.  I was struck by the quote though as, on reflection,  ongoing anger that we feel might in fact, have bigger consequences for us than the other person at whom we are angry. I suggest you consider a dispute about which you have lingering anger when answering this week’s questions and see what you think for your experience of anger:

  • What happened that resulted in you feeling anger?
  • About what are you specifically angry regarding the dispute you had or are having with another person, i.e. what they said or did?
  • About what might you be angry at yourself regarding this dispute?
  • If you consider your anger is like an acid what does that mean to you?
  • In what ways is it causing you harm?
  • In what ways is your anger having a harmful impact on the other person?
  • Who of the two of you is suffering most from your anger, do you think?
  • Why is that (your answer to the above question)?
  • What might relieve the anger for you?
  • What might be different for you if you figure out a way to let go of your anger? What may be different for the other person? What might be different for the relationship between you?
  • What else occurs to you as you consider these questions?
  • What insights do you have?

#interpersonalconflict
#conflict
#coaching
#conflictcoaching
#conflictmanagementcoaching
#conflictmanagement
#disputeresolution

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“Eating Our Words”

Adlai Stevenson once said, “Man does not live by words alone, despite the fact that sometimes he has to eat them.” I smiled when I read this idiom some years ago because there are many times in my life that I have used the metaphor (saying “I want to eat my words”) when I have said something I wish I hadn’t. I seem to know right after I have said it too! I try to restrain myself if I find myself reacting to what is being said or done that I find upsetting, egregious, unfair, hurtful etc., particularly at times I haven’t yet processed what I am hearing (after all it might not be as bad as I initially think!). It doesn’t always work. There are some things we can’t take back.

I know I am not alone in saying what’s on my mind – especially  when feeling provoked – without ensuring we have the other person’s message clear and without thinking of the impact of our reaction. It seems, though, that when we react without some reflection we are just not thinking. We let the emotional part of our brain take over and the chances of getting to the thinking part of our brain diminish at these times. I have been on the receiving end of this way of managing conflict, too and it is unproductive in either case.

Sometimes I think quick and unthought-out reactions have to do with an inability to control and regulate emotions. Sometimes, I think it is sheer rudeness. Sometimes, I think it shows a lack of curiosity. Sometimes, I think it has to do with impatience or poor listening skills. These and other reasons might explain why certain things said or done end up in a quick and often hurtful reaction. Whatever the reason, it is a good idea, in the effort to become more conflict competent, to consider the words we don’t want to eat before we get sick from digesting them!

  • When you consider a time that you wish you hadn’t said what you did – that lead to a conflict – what was the context ?
  • What words do/did you want to eat ?
  • What motivated you to say that?
  • What emotions were you experiencing when you said that?
  • How have you digested the words you said now?
  • What impact did you observe or hear on the other person at the time? What lingering impact is there on you from what occurred? What might be lingering for the other person?
  • What was the necessity of saying anything?
  • What was the message you wanted to convey instead? What  was necessary about that message?
  • What didn’t you know or understand at the time (about the situation or other person) that you do now?
  • If you were to say anything now to the other person, what might it be?
  • What else occurs to you as you consider these questions?
  • What insights do you have?

#interpersonalconflict
#conflict
#coaching
#conflictcoaching
#conflictmanagementcoaching
#conflictmanagement
#disputeresolution

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“Even A Sheet of Paper Has Two Sides”

I like this Japanese proverb…so simple and so true. Many times I have written about looking at all sides of a conflict, and many times I have coached people to consider the other person’s perspective. However, it is evident from my experience as a conflict management coach and personally too, that it’s not all that simple!

It makes sense that there is more than our view about things. However, sense is one of the things we often lose when in conflict. That is, we lose our sense of self, what is really important, that there are other ways of looking at the matters in dispute, that the other person has feelings about this matter, too and so on. Once emotions erupt it becomes harder and harder to step back from the dynamic that embroils us. To the degree our emotions are expressed – or at least  felt – indicates how much something means to us. Some actions and words will hurt and offend more than others. This may have to do with the other person’s push, how much we want or need that which we are wanting or asking for, how hopeless, shamed and insulted we feel and so on. So, what does it take to step back and look at both sides of the sheet of paper?

This week’s Conflict Mastery Quest(ions) blog suggests you consider a dispute that is ongoing for you – even if it has been seemingly resolved, and you are still ruminating about it – as you respond to these questions. You might be able to stand back as you respond.

  • What does your side of the paper say about what happened between you and the other person in the dispute?
  • As you convey your side. on what particular points does your negative energy increase about the matters in dispute? About the other person?
  • What do you suppose makes those points especially difficult for you?
  • What might the other person say on their side of the paper that happened between the two of you?
  • How does the other person’s side differ from your own?
  • What don’t you understand about the other person and their perspective? What do you suppose the other person is missing about your point of view?
  • If someone you trust read both sides of the sheet of paper what other perspective might that person raise?
  • What did you do about the situation so far?
  • What might your trusted friend suggest you do?
  • If the one or more questions here have helped you step back from the dispute, what are you now thinking about the other person’s perspective on their sheet of paper that is different from when you started?
  • What else occurs to you as you consider these questions?
  • What insights do you have?

#interpersonalconflict
#conflict
#coaching
#conflictcoaching
#conflictmanagementcoaching
#conflict management
#disputeresolution

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What Isn’t Being Said?

“The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn’t being said.” ~ Peter F. Drucker

In previous blogs, I have talked about the unsaid – the unspoken words and emotions – that continue to linger and can cause ongoing tensions between us and the persons with whom we have interpersonal disputes. This week’s Conflict Mastery Quest(ions) blog speaks further to this common tendency to not say all we want and need to in the midst of a conflict, and the consequences of that. At the same time, we are not likely hearing what the other person wants and needs to say either. In either case, many of us have queries about the unsaid – our unspoken words and emotions and the other person’s. We may retain the sense that the unsaid was and still is important and we didn’t express (or haven’t expressed) all we needed to. We may wonder if it was or is our fears and other emotions precluding us from doing so.

In reality, it is difficult to effectively express all that is on our minds and in our hearts when we are in the midst of an argument. A lot is said – some of which we mean to say and some of which reflects our state of mind when we are experiencing a range of emotions – that we don’t always mean. A lot is also left out. In the same vein, it is difficult to stay present and pay attention to what the other person is saying – and what they are not saying – when in conflict. Just as we hold back on some things we want to express, so do they. We both may be afraid of saying things we’ll regret and we both might lose perspective, making it difficult to express so that the other will hear what needs to be said. It is not an easy time and the ability to hear what isn’t being said is as challenging as listening to and hearing what is.

To answer this week’s series of questions, consider a dispute you have had or are in or have had:

  • What is the situation?
  • What in your view caused the dispute?
  • What might the other person say caused the dispute?
  • What upset you most in this situation?
  • What didn’t you say to the other person that you wished you had?
  • What would you still like the person to know about that (your answer to the above question)? What else remains unsaid by you?
  • If you had expressed what you wanted to what difference might that have made to the dispute? To the other person?
  • During- or since – the dispute what did you hear or discover that the other person is most upset about?
  • What might be their ‘unsaid’, as you think about this situation now?
  • If the other person had expressed their ‘unsaid’ what difference might that have made to you? To them?
  • What else occurs to you as you consider these questions?
  • What insights do you have?

#interpersonalconflict
#conflict
#coaching
#conflictcoaching
#conflictmanagementcoaching
#conflict management
#disputeresolution

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