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Retaliation – What For?

“Nothing produces such odd results as trying to get even.” (Franklin P. Jones)

What does it mean to ‘get even’?  Simply defined – using the word retaliate – it is “to hurt someone or do something harmful to someone because they have done or said something to hurt you.”

I have noticed in my work as a conflict management coach that a tendency to retaliate is not an uncommon way for many when reacting to being offended. Over time, I have coached people who retaliate and coached clients on the receiving end of retaliation. It is, to me, a complex reaction that is likely rooted in, among other things, what people learn growing up about how to defend themselves. I am coming at this as a coach and conflict specialist and so, I’m basing information on my observations in that capacity and not delving into the possible psychological reasons to explain this way of managing conflict.

Why do people retaliate? Clients have shared a range of reasons about why they try to get even. The main general impetus – as in the above definition – has to do with getting back at someone for what they said or did to offend them. How we experience being offended – that spurs us on to retaliate – is subjective and the reasons endless. Whatever the offense and the degree to which it hurts, people who retaliate just want the person to ‘pay’ for doing so. What that means in terms of retaliatory deeds is equally as variable as what hurts us.

How do people retaliate? I have heard many ways about how people retaliate, too. Here are a few examples, also from the workplace context, of how people ‘get back’. It may be by not giving someone a promotion or opportunity, not letting someone talk in a meeting, ignoring and not including them in conversation, gossiping about them, telling lies about them, influencing others to push back their ideas and efforts, bullying, not giving good references, and so on. Again, there is an endless list of retaliatory actions.

This week’s Conflict Mastery Quest(ions) blog asks you to consider the questions below if you are someone who tends to get back at someone who offends you. Understanding the motivation is helpful to be able to make a shift in that approach if you realize that it is an unproductive response.

  • What is one example of a situation when you got back or tried to get back at someone?
  • What motivated you to do so?
  • Why is that important to you (your answer to the above question)?
  • How might you describe the feelings you were experiencing about the other person before you retaliated?
  • How did your efforts – to get back – succeed?
  • How did that feel for you to get back at that person?
  • What was the impact on the other person?
  • How did the other person respond to you?
  • If your efforts to get back at the person didn’t succeed what happened? What was the learning in this?
  • What doesn’t work for you about choosing retaliation as a way of managing situations such as you described in this situation? What options might be more productive?
  • 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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Inaugural Conflict Coaching Summit

We hope you will attend the INAUGURAL CONFLICT COACHING SUMMIT starting September 9! There will be 6 fabulous speakers every 2 weeks presenting on conflict management coaching concepts! All proceeds will go to Mediators Beyond Borders International and Peacebuilders International! www.conflictcoachingsummit.com

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How Can We Understand Everything?

Miles Davis once said, “If you understood everything I said, you’d be me.” That quote stuck with me and I have repeated this phrase and variations of it when talking about interpersonal conflict, and how we often react to misunderstandings because we missed what the other person meant or where they were coming from. You, like I, have undoubtedly encountered many situations when that occurs. In fact, it is easy to misinterpret what others say, if we don’t have a context, a relationship built on trust, cultural similarities or understandings, openness, or the same senses of humours or appreciation for the other’s. Further, disparate values and beliefs, biases, mindsets, life experiences, and many other variables have an impact on our understanding of one another – what they say, what they do, how they interact, and so on. Essentially, we are not them and they are not us – so how can we understand everything they say or do?

It is often the case that we assume we know what people are saying and why – and react accordingly. We use our lens, our values, our expectations, our hopes, and other frames to interpret what we are hearing or seeing. If we know the other person well many of our perceptions are validated by the history we have with them, though we may not be absolutely clear on everything. That said, our assumptions are often within the realm of possibility if we have a close relationship. In these cases, when we disagree or adversely experience what they are saying or doing, we are more apt to engage the other person in a conversation – to gain a better understanding of their words or actions. When we don’t know people well or the relationship is breaking down, lack of connection and incorrect attributions preclude building trust and developing a relationship in which it feels safe to raise questions and discuss what is going on. In either case, the continuing unknown can result in growing tension and ongoing dissension, in developing more and more adverse assumptions, in questioning our judgement, in faltering trust in the other person – and even ourselves.

This week’s Conflict Mastery Quest(ions) blog suggests you consider a conflict situation – an argument that evolved because it was clear you and the other person did not understand one another – or, at least, one of you didn’t get what the other was meaning.

  • What misunderstanding happened that resulted in an argument?
  • As far as you can tell, what did you specifically misunderstand about the other person? The situation? The interaction between you?
  • For what reasons might the other person have said or done that which has caused you upset?
  • What words might you use besides upset?
  • What would you prefer the other person had said or did instead, in this circumstance?
  • What did the other person seem to misunderstand about you? The situation, The interaction between you?
  • What seemed to be causing that person upset – such as, how might they have interpreted what you said or did?
  • What other words might the other person use to describe their experience in that conflict with you – from what you can tell?
  • What do you need from the other person to be able to move on? What might the other want or need from you to move on?
  • What are you most curious about right now?
  • 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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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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