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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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Expectations and Conflict

It seems to me – based on my work as a conflict management coach and, well, just as myself – that one of the things that leads to interpersonal conflict is when we have expectations of another. It might have to do with how we interact on a day-to-day basis, how we treat one another privately and publicly, how we communicate when in conflict, how we support each other, or whether our values and needs are compatible. Further, we might expect someone to support us in a matter, to acknowledge something we did for them, to care for us when we are not well or unhappy, to meet our needs, to recognize our good deeds, to trust us, to respect our decisions and reasons we acted in certain ways, and so on. The list is endless!

It is worth considering this variable when we find ourselves reacting to these and other sorts of circumstances. Exploring our affirmative answer to the question, “Am I reacting because of unmet expectations?”, will make it easier to understand what we needed and ultimately, easier to articulate that to the other person. Taking a look, too, at our related reactions helps us do so. Indicators may be if we are feeling disappointment, betrayal, dismissed, ignored, not trusted, that we and our needs are not taken seriously, and many other emotions that reflect that we are let down by what the other person said or did or didn’t say or do.

How we manage situations and the range of feelings we experience will differ depending on variables such as the length and nature of our relationship, our needs and values and beliefs, influences from our upbringing, how we are feeling at the time, the amount of stress in our lives, our general state of health and well-being, and so on.

This week’s Conflict Mastery Quest(ions) blog is about this topic and you are invited to consider an interpersonal dispute in which you experienced unmet expectations in the situation and emotions that reflect that as you answer the following:

  • What is the situation?
  • What did the other person say or do, or not say or do, that had an adverse impact on you? How might you describe the impact on you?
  • What, more specifically, did you expect of that person that they didn’t deliver on?
  • What makes the aforementioned expectation especially important to you?
  • What reasons are you attributing to the other person for what they said or did or didn’t say or do?
  • What excuses have you made for the other person – such that you are inclined to let the situation go without voicing your expectations, if that is what you are doing?
  • What do you know for sure about the other person’s motivation for not meeting your expectations? What don’t you know about their motivation?
  • What is your fear, worry, concern about letting the other person know, if you are reticent to tell the other person?
  • What advantages are there to raising the matter? What are the disadvantages?
  • What are your expectations of yourself in this matter?
  • 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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Perception is Reality – or is it?

I expect you have heard the expression “perception is reality”, which essentially refers to a mental impression we have of something. And these perceptions define how we see that something – and how we react. The thing is, perceptions might not be the truth; they are not necessarily reality. When we allow them to become our reality they influence how we look at things and others’ actions without a lot of thought to the range of other possible interpretations. Perceptions not thought out have a huge impact on how and what we process, focus on, remember, interpret, understand, decide about, and act on.

Our perceptions are rooted in many things, including our values, needs, hopes, attitudes, beliefs and other aspects of  who we are, what’s important to us, how we live, in the ways we relate and communicate, and so on. When we are interacting with others, at some level of consciousness, we take their messages at face value and trust they hear us as we mean our messages to be. In the usual course then, in our day to day interactions, we and others deliver and receive messages without incident. For the most part, we accurately perceive what is being conveyed and check things out if not.

When matters become conflictual and we are provoked by something another is saying or doing (or they become triggered by something we are saying or doing) what we hear and what is meant becomes skewed. As things become increasingly heated, the likelihood of misinterpreting our exchanges increases. At these times, we tend to experience messages as undermining us and our values, needs, or aspects of our identity. We may justify our negative reactions and escalating emotions by saying our perceptions are reality and accordingly, we find fault with the other person and make self-serving excuses for what we said or did in response (in retaliation even). In other words, we act on our assumptions about the other person (such as their motives) without checking out whether our perceptions are, in fact, the reality of what was meant, or the reality we chose to believe instead.

This week’s Conflict Mastery Quest(ions) blog invites you to consider an interpersonal  conflict in which you are perceiving messages from the other person as truths though you are not absolutely sure about their intent.

  • What is the situation about? What did the other person say or do that provoked you?
  • What is your perception about the other person’s reason for this (your answer to the above questions)?
  • What other possibilities might there be for the other person’s words, actions etc.?
  • If the other person heard you answer the above two questions, what other reasons might they offer?
  • What, if anything, do you question about your perceptions about the other person? That is, if there is something you are not absolutely sure about regarding them and their reasons for saying or doing what provoked you what might that be?
  • How did you respond to the other person when they provoked you? How did they react to you at that time?
  • What do you suppose the other person might be attributing to you about the exchange you two had?
  • What part of this perception (in answer to the above question) is accurate? What is not?
  • What do you know for sure about the other person’s motives for their words, actions, etc.? What don’t you know?
  • What is the truth about your words or actions that the other person does not understand or does not know?
  • 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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Finding a Remedy When in Conflict

“Don’t find fault. Find a remedy.” (Henry Ford)

While Henry Ford’s quote might well apply to making cars and running a business, it also has application to our interpersonal disputes when one of the common things many of us do is find fault with the other person. Or, we find fault in ourselves. Fault-finding in either case is not a good use of our time and energy. Though, yes, we can learn from finding fault in ourselves – with how we handled a situation – if we use that learning to improve our conflict competency. This week’s blog touches on the tendency to blame in either case, and how we might consider finding a remedy instead.

Why do we find fault anyway? The reasons vary of course – depending  on the situation and other person and a host of other factors that may be leaning against us when we are faced with a conflict or initiate one. The other person may have let us down about a matter; we may want to take the attention away from our own bad behaviour; we are experiencing hurt, or feeling offended, betrayed, disappointed; our expectations, hopes and needs have been thwarted; a project didn’t work; we have a high opinion of ourselves, and lack respect for the other person or their efforts; and so on. These and many other possible reasons may result in a tendency to go to blame as a way of reacting. This isn’t to say that we overlook situations when someone has (or we have) done something blame worthy. (There are lots of situations that are unforgiveable and finding fault is a necessity.) The point in this blog is to consider – in our interpersonal disputes – whether finding a remedy – rather than fault – is a better use of our time and energy.

I suggest you bring two situations to mind – one in which you found fault with someone else and one in which someone else found fault in you – as you respond to this set of Conflict Mastery Quest(ions).

  • What was the situation in which you found fault in the other person (what specifically did they say or do for which you blamed them)?
  • What reasons might account for the person doing or saying what you just described? What other reasons might they offer that you aren’t including here?
  • What was the outcome of the situation? How might you describe your preferred outcome?
  • What would it take for you to let go of the fault you are finding with the other person?
  • What possible remedies are (or were) there to the problem itself? What remedy do you want for the relationship?
  • How might you go about making that happen (your answers to the above questions about possible remedies)?
  • In what sort of circumstances did someone find fault with you? How does or did that feel? What part(s) of their fault-finding has some basis to it (them)?
  • What might the other person want or need from you to be able to move forward instead of continuing to blame you?
  • What sorts of remedies might you offer to this situation? What other ones might you be open to?
  • What do you suppose it would take for you to raise the possibility of finding a remedy?
  • 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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Don’t Look Where You Fall

You may have heard the African proverb “Don’t look where you fall, but where you slipped”. In a similar vein, I recently posted a similar sentiment on Instagram (@cinnien) that read “I’ve learned so much from my mistakes. I’m thinking about making a few more.” Both sets of these words are comforting  to me – especially at those times I am kicking myself for things I said or did that offended someone, for not doing the ‘right’ thing in a situation, for making numerous errors at all sorts of things, for failing exams or losing a legal case, for not succeeding on a project, and so on. The reality is that unless we purposely make a habit of making mistakes and hurting others, we all slip.

When it comes to interpersonal conflicts, I expect that we have all said or done things or interacted in ways that have caused others hurt and upset. At times, we might be able to justify our own actions and words – being a way we stood up and defended ourselves from others’ poor behaviour towards us. At other times, we know we stepped over a boundary and feel very badly about that. We might ruminate and wonder what to do, and the feelings of unrest, guilt, shame and self-blame remain in our consciousness for long durations.

We can, of course, learn from our mistakes and likely, find more productive ways to engage in conflict when our buttons are pushed. A lot of the time, it seems our brains stay in the negative place and it takes a huge effort to shift our mindset.

This week’s Conflict Mastery Quest(ions) blog  asks you to consider how to better manage the aftermath of an interpersonal conflict about which you continue to agonize, and see if you can shift your mindset to see whether it is really a slip and not a fall – perhaps, a mistake from which you have something to learn.

  • What happened in that dispute?
  • What did you specifically say or do that you know upset the other person?
  • What motivated you to do so (your answer to the above questions)?
  • What was the impact on the other person? What was the impact on you?
  • What do you wish you had said or done instead?
  • What precluded you from saying or doing that?
  • How do you view what you said or did – as a slip or as a fall? For what reasons do you see it that way?
  • For what do you want the other person to forgive you? For what might they want you to apologize? For what do you want to forgive yourself?
  • How might you ‘brush yourself off’ and make the situation right at this point in time?
  • What did you learn that you don’t want to repeat if faced with the same sort of situation in the future – with this person or someone else?
  • What else occurs to you as you consider these questions?
  • What insights do you have?

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

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Line in the Sand

You have likely heard the metaphor about drawing a line in the sand, and might have used it yourself to set boundaries. For instance, if someone asks you to do something that’s antithetical to your values you might respond that you ‘draw the line in the sand’ and decline to do so – meaning essentially, you have a limit to what you agree to do (refusing to be untrue to yourself).

The exact origin of this expression is unknown. According to Wikipedia, “the Oxford English Dictionary suggests a transitional use from 1950, but a definitely figurative use only as late as 1978”. Here are the two examples:

“He drew a line in the sand with the toe of his boot, and said, ‘It’s as though I told you “I can punch you in the nose, but you can’t reach across that line to hit me back.” – The Washington Post, 19 December 1950

Notwithstanding the supposed public revulsion toward more federal spending, waste and bureaucracy-building, Congress seems to have gone out of its way to draw a wide line in front of Carter. – The Washington Post, 29, October, 1978”

Many other uses have followed over time, and the idiom is commonly referred to in conflict situations when someone expects something of the other that exceeds their level of toleration – triggering off a dispute or at least, unsettling feelings and questions. It might be when others’ expectations or ‘asks’ of us seem like a test or a challenge, and beyond what is acceptable. We might experience the asking person as being unduly needy, nervy, unrealistic, crass, inappropriate, narcissistic, and so on. Or, we might ponder that the other person must be in trouble, or in pain, or are taking a chance that we might cooperate and support their requests and help fulfil their needs. Context and the relationship are, of course, important variables when we determine our own reactions.

In any case, when we experience expectations of others as being beyond our thresholds of acceptability we are faced with a dilemma about how to respond. This week’s Conflict Mastery Quest(ions) blog asks you to consider an interpersonal conflict in which you drew the line.

  • What is the nature of the conflict?
  • What specifically occurred that you felt the need to ‘draw a line in the sand’ (what was the other person’s expectations)?
  • What values, needs, expectations, etc. did you experience as being undermined or challenged in this situation – that resulted in you drawing the line?
  • If you experienced the other person’s expectation of you as a test of some sort what might they have been testing?
  • In what way did you draw the line (something you said, did, didn’t do, etc.)?
  • How might you describe the impact on you of drawing the line in the sand?
  • What was the impact on the other person?
  • What was the outcome of the interaction after you drew the line?
  • When someone has drawn a line with you – about something you asked of them – what was that like?
  • How is the scenario in the previous question relevant (if it is) to what has gone on between you and the other person in the situation you first described (with this set of questions)?
  • Over time, what have you learned is the optimal way of responding to someone who crosses your line? What have you learned about the optimal way of drawing the line when you realize you have crossed someone else’s?
  • What else occurs to you as you consider these questions?
  • What insights do you have?

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

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