art work by John Ceprano
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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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One Step at a Time After Conflict

One of the things I observe about some conflict management coaching clients is a tendency to try to resolve their disputes too quickly. I’ve done this myself and found that such attempts can often backfire. This is even if those of us who reach out too fast have resolution and positive intent motivating us. Other times the reasoning might be a matter of trying to move on so we can feel better and get past the high emotions and adverse impact on the relationship.

Whatever the intent may be for trying to resolve matters in a timely way, it isn’t always the case that the other person is ready. So, the above actions and others aimed at getting past the dissension may be experienced as far-reaching (in a negative way), too aggressive, unthinking and, generally, not the optimal approach.

Previous blogs have discussed the importance of methodical preparation when embarking on a difficult conversation. This week’s Conflict Mastery Quest(ions) blog talks about methodical ways to move on from an interpersonal dispute by considering not only our readiness and intent but also, the other person’s. As in the photo here, one small step at a time is often the more prudent approach rather than trying to reach for something that’s not quite (yet) there.

To answer the questions below I suggest you consider a dispute you have had that ended poorly, and you want to resolve matters as soon as possible.

  • What happened in this conflict between you and the other person? How did things end?
  • How are you feeling about this conflict right now? What do you know about how the other person is feeling about things?
  • What is motivating you mostly to resolve matters?
  • What would resolution look like for you?
  • What might the other person want as a resolution?
  • How ready are you to resolve matters on a scale of 1-10, 10 being very?
  • Where might the other person be on the scale, from what you know about them?
  • If you don’t know the answer to the above question or the number is lower than yours, what might be a first step in determining their readiness?
  • What else do you want or need to consider about trying to resolve matters before you proceed? What does this step involve that you haven’t contemplated yet?
  • What value is there in going slowly – thinking out the steps and the other person’s possible responses before proceeding?
  • 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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Speaking the Truth When in Conflict

One of the reasons many of us back away from conflict or yield to the other person is because we fear our truth – the truth of what we have to say and are feeling – will hurt the other person. We might fear they will react in a way we will not be able to handle. We may think they will end the relationship or retaliate somehow.

As a consequence of these fears and others, we may tend to sugar-coat our feelings, lie a little, dismiss the importance, make light of the situation and our feelings, change the subject quickly, and a host of other responses. When we hide our feelings and are not being true to ourselves we often end up hurting ourselves. We feel dishonest, inauthentic, sad, dissatisfied, unfulfilled, unresolved and we may fall into self-blame and other destructive feelings that serve no purpose – other than more of these sorts of emotions that tend to keep us immobilized.

Telling the truth is not always the easiest thing to do, of course, when whatever we fear keeps us from doing so. The fears may become even larger because we know our voices will quiver and getting the message out will be difficult – we might think impossible.

This week’s Conflict Mastery Quest(ions) blog asks you to consider a truth you need and want to express though you fear your voice may shake or you won’t communicate as effectively as you want.

  • What is the situation?
  • What is your truth that you want to express to the other person regarding this conflict ?
  • What’s most important to you about that truth that you want the other person to hear?
  • What has kept you from expressing that truth – such as, what are your fears about the other person’s reaction?
  • What is working for you by not raising this truth?
  • What is not working for you besides the fact that the other person doesn’t know what you have to say?
  • What is the best result that could happen if you voice your truth?
  • If you don’t express your truth what then?
  • If your voice shakes or you otherwise converse in a way that shows you are uncomfortable why does that matter?
  • What matters most – speaking the truth even if it’s in a shaky voice or not stating the truth?
  • 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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Being Unafraid to Feel

“The bravest thing you can do is be unafraid to feel”- Bridgett Devoue

When we feel emotional about a conflict – hurt, anger, betrayal, disappointment, and so on – it is a clear sign that something important to us is being challenged or threatened or undermined. That might seem like an understatement. However, the importance of acknowledging what emotions we are experiencing and why cannot be overstated. That is, it’s important and brave to remain unafraid to feel what is going on for us at these times.

This is for many reasons, one of which is that when we step back – and identify the emotions and to what they relate – we gain a better understanding of what motivated our reactions and ongoing ruminations. Also, by taking some time and thinking things out a bit, we start to make a shift to reflection from reaction, which helps move us into a more productive mind set. That shift often facilitates the ability to gain a better perspective, including an understanding of what is motivating the other person. Or, at least, we might move into a better head space to be able to engage them in a conversation – rather than a confrontation – about what is going on between us.

This week’s Conflict Mastery Quest(ions) blog invites you to consider an interpersonal dispute about which you are aware you are feeling afraid to let yourself feel or name your emotions about the other person, the situation or yourself.

  • What is the dispute about?
  • What three words describe what you are feeling about the other person?
  • What three words describe what you are feeling about yourself?
  • What are you afraid of feeling?
  • What are you afraid of saying to the other person?
  • What is the brave thing to do about the situation?
  • What is the brave thing to say?
  • What is the brave thing to feel about yourself?
  • If you were to feel what you are keeping inside, what do you fear might happen?
  • If you were to express what you are feeling how might that help?
  • What else occurs to you as you consider these questions?
  • What insights do you have?

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

Posted in Conflict Coaching, Conflict Management Coaching | Leave a comment