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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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In our efforts to maintain good relationships with friends and family there are times we might begin to wonder whether it is a healthy and sustainable relationship. And this week’s Conflict mastery Quest(ions) blog focuses on when we determine a relationship isn’t working out. (Another blog will consider when someone else ends the relationship.)

What we each deem a healthy relationship will, of course, vary among us. It may be one that nourishes and energizes us and that makes us feel supported. It may be one in which we feel mutual respect, caring and love. It may be one in which we trust the other person will be “there” for us- that we can count on their help if need be (in whatever form is important to us). It may be one in which we trust ourselves – to be who we authentically are without screens or pretense. It may be one in which we are confident that we can share our secrets without being judged.

These and other factors that fuel what we consider our solid relationships are ones that are hardest to let go of. We work hard to maintain them even in the face of the clues that question how solid they really are, and then, we begin to wonder whether the relationship is good for us. Maybe, we experience or sense values in these same people that we don’t respect, that are offensive and contrary to how we live; maybe, they are mean and treat us poorly – in ways that continually hurt us; maybe, we start to lose trust in them.

When variables such as these or others continue to plague us we may wonder whether the relationship is one we want to maintain. We might internally fight the notion that ending the relationship is better for us than trying to keep it going. Confusion might immobilize us. We aren’t sure what is best and part of us might realize things will work out better for us if things don’t work out between the other person and us.

This week’s Conflict Mastery Quest(ions) blog invites you to consider a relationship that didn’t work out for you and you ended it.

  • What are the factors that made that relationship feel solid to you? What made that person particularly special over time?
  • What sorts of things did the other person say or do when you began to question the strength of the relationship?
  • What made those things especially difficult for you to experience?
  • What impact did those things have on you?
  • What happened for you when you ended the relationship? (What was the experience like for you? How did the other person react to you? etc.)
  • In your heart and mind if you knew it was better for you to end the relationship what continues to bother you?
  • What are you missing most about the other person now?
  • It takes courage to end relationships that were once solid, in what ways did your courage show up? How about now – how are you demonstrating courageousness?
  • Though things didn’t work out with the other person what has worked out for you having ended the relationship, in any case?
  • What have you learned about yourself that is important to you and your personal well-being when it comes to your relationships?
  • What else occurs to you as you consider these questions?
  • What insights do you have now that you didn’t have before you answered these questions?
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Since the New Year I seem to have an increase in the number of conflict management coaching clients who started the year with hopes of moving on from hurts they experienced in their interpersonal conflicts. These disputes may be with partners, other family members, friends or colleagues. Their stated expectations are generally that they hoped they would be more resilient and able to let go by expressing this desire and starting the New Year with a forgiving mindset. However, those seeking coaching find themselves agonizing over things said or not said by them and to them, and setting their intentions is not sufficient.

Trying to be deliberate about shifting our mindsets is certainly a way to begin the process of moving on (whether or not the goal is related to conflict). However, it is often a challenge to leave things that upset up behind and requires this and other efforts, too, to get out of our own ways and be able to move on.

Reflective questions sometimes facilitate this journey and this week’s Conflict Mastery Quest(ions) blog suggests some that might help if you find yourself holding on to unresolved hurts from a conflict.

  • What was the conflict about?
  • What part of it is staying with you that feels unresolved?
  • What are you thinking about when that part comes to your head now? What are you feeling about it?
  • How does holding on help the relationship? How does holding on not help the relationship?
  • If you were to move past this situation, what would that be like for you?
  • How would getting past it impact the other person?
  • What will you leave behind?
  • What keeps you from moving past the situation?
  • What could you do to help yourself?
  • What could the other person do if you made a request or her or him?
  • What else occurs to you as you consider these questions?
  • What insights do you have?

(Popular- from the archives)

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The former U.S. Justice – Ruth Bader Ginsburg – or RBG as she was affectionately called – shared much wisdom over her years – both legally and personally. This particular quote applies to many aspects of our lives and this week’s Conflict Mastery Quest(ions) blog considers its relevance to interpersonal conflicts.

What often happens in our disputes with some long term friends and family members is that we tend to superficially resolve disputes – to “keep the peace”. We reach some sort of reconciliation but, we don’t necessarily feel things are really resolved. Maybe, even though we want to stop the acrimony and negativity between us, we don’t know what it will take. Maybe, we are tired of fighting about the same old issues but, become used to the state of mind and heart we are left with even if we don’t like it. Maybe, we feel hopeless and don’t think anything will change the habitual ways of relating and patterns set up over time and so on.

These and other reasons can keep us from truly feeling we’ve spoken our truth – and heard the other person’s.

Considering RBG’s quote here it typically takes one step at a time to change our patterns and create enduring, more healthy ways of being in conflict.  And it is suggested here that, as you answer the questions for this week’s Conflict Mastery Quest(ions) blog, you consider  an ongoing dispute pattern/issues to see if any questions help shift your thinking about the ongoing dynamic you really don’t like to create, be in, perpetuate.

  • How might you describe one ongoing issue or way of relating that you don’t like about the conflict dynamic between you and another person?
  • What do you most dislike about how you interact with them?
  • What do you most dislike about how they interact with you?
  • What is the truth you haven’t told the other person?
  • What is the fear behind not speaking that truth?
  • What is real about that fear that you know for sure? What don’t you know for sure about the validity of what you fear?
  • What might the other person’s truth be that remains unspoken?
  • What might that person fear about sharing their truth?
  • What do you want to make happen so that you feel better about the relationship and way of interacting?
  • If there is one step you’d be willing to make to begin to change the dynamic to be more what you’d like what might that be?
  • What else occurs to you as you consider these questions?
  • What insights do you have now that you didn’t have before you answered these questions?
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“Setting an example is not the main means of influencing others; it is the only means.” ~Albert Einstein

It’s not always apparent to the leaders referred to me for conflict management coaching that their way of managing and engaging in interpersonal disputes is having an adverse influence on workplace unrest and tensions. They are often not aware as well, how staff in their organization contribute to this by modelling the leader’s way of interacting and creating their own tumult and deconstructive impact on the workplace. Referrals for leaders to shift their ways of being in conflict arise as a consequence of  this and  the systemic growth of conflict resulting in financial losses due to attrition, legal claims about harassment and bullying, the need for a range of costly interventions, and a poor reputation leading to clients choosing other services.

On the other hand, I am increasingly finding that leaders are self-identifying their challenges and seeking coaching – that is, coming to coaching of their own accord when, or even before, conflict problems are evident. Some are being proactive for the organization as a whole. They accept that conflict is inevitable and look to plan ways that conflict may be ‘normalized’. This might include developing integrated systems and processes to prevent unnecessary conflict and to manage necessary conflict. Leaders also pay attention to their own contribution, and accept that their influence is a critical component of the dynamics needed to build a culture of conflict competence.

The same leaders it appears, from my experience, are more apt to face their own symptoms that are keeping them from being conflict competent. For instance, they may be find their tempers are escalating and they are interacting in ways that shut people down or exacerbate the tensions; they might have been told their way of communicating is problematic – sharp, patronizing, critical and so on; they may be continually demonstrating defensive behaviour; they may refuse to listen and hear what is going on around them and so on. When leaders admit they have a responsibility to improve their way of managing conflict they stand a good chance of stopping the message they have previously sent that says ‘you are allowed to act like this too!’

This week’s Conflict Mastery Quest(ions) blog invites leaders and others, of course, to consider how you influence others by the way you engage in conflict – considering the ways you know you need improvement as to not negatively influence others.

  • How might you describe the way conflict is managed in your organization?
  • What works best now about how people in the organization generally manage conflict? What isn’t working?
  • What conflict behaviours do you currently have that work well?
  • What conflict behaviours do you yourself engage in that you know are counterproductive? From where do you learn and develop those particular behaviours?
  • How does it feel for you when you are demonstrating those unproductive behaviours?
  • What sort of fall-out have you experienced or observed by or among others as a consequence of interacting in the ways you described as counterproductive?
  • If you have observed others interact in similar ways as you described about yourself, what is your impression of them?
  • How might you describe the traits you would like to develop or strengthen – to be able to  set an example of conflict competence – and which will positively  influence others to model?
  • Please consider one of those competencies at this time. Since you have a choice about how you interact, what do you think you need to do to consciously shift your way of communicating to develop that? How will that influence others when that becomes a trait of yours?
  • What does it feel like to consider you are ‘at choice’ about how you manage conflict and with practice are able to strength your conflict competence?
  • What else occurs to you as you consider these questions?
  • What insights do you have?

(Popular- from the archives)

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A meme with this saying on it came up one day on my Instagram feed and I was struck by my reaction to how this message was conveyed – so vividly. It isn’t a new message to those of us who work in the field of conflict management and other disciplines who work with people in emotional pain about the internal and external conflicts they bring to us that have their roots from childhood experiences. And it won’t be a new message to those who have experienced traumas in their personal or professional lives.  And it won’t be a new message to those of us who reflect on repeated behaviours that do not serve us well ourselves, and we realize we are repeating unhealthy patterns that have become part of how we cope with conflict.

It is common for many of us to carry around unresolved hurts from broken family or personal and professional  relationships, childhood or adult trauma, unreconciled issues from our upbringing and so on, if we have not had help to do the work of healing. The experiences that stay with us – that we continue to hold onto and play out – are ones that show up in a range of ways that can be destructive and impede our ability to maintain healthy relationships with some people. We may react to and treat these people from this negative frame of reference though the same dynamics do not necessarily apply.

To do the work properly it usually requires psychotherapeutic interventions. And by seeking help we are better able to gain perspective and find ways to move forward without repeating the same patterns. One of those patterns may be to find fault with the person in front of us in certain situations when in fact, the challenges we are facing stem from past relationships and experiences that remain unresolved, unhealed, painful.

This week’s Conflict Mastery Quest(ions) blog focuses on an interpersonal dispute in which you are or have engaged – one in which you think or know your reaction was not specific to the other person and the dynamic between you. Rather, your way of defending yourself and reacting reflected old wounds that remain unhealed. To do so I suggest you bring to mind a recent interpersonal dispute in which you know you bled on the person who didn’t cut you. NOTE: This blog and its questions are not a psychotherapeutic intervention by any means. It is a way to develop some insights you may not already have.

  • What is the recent interpersonal dispute about?
  • In what ways did this situation raise old issues for you?
  • What specifically are those issues (if you didn’t name them in response to the above question)?
  • In what ways did you bleed on the other person that is related to the old wound? How did the person respond?
  • How did past unresolved thoughts about the person in your old situation impact how you thought about the person in the more current dispute?
  • What unresolved feelings about the other person also leaked into this more current dispute as to how you perceive the other person?
  • What behaviours, reactions etc. do you know, with some confidence, that you are repeating?
  • What don’t you understand as yet about how and why you are repeating a pattern that doesn’t work for you? What do you understand with some certainty about the repeated pattern?
  • What do you think needs to be healed?
  • How will you go about the healing process?
  • What else occurs to you as you consider these questions?
  • What insights do you have now that you didn’t have before you answered these questions?
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