Nearly all conflict in the world stems from one simple necessity – and it isn’t the need to win. Wars, corporate battles, department squabbles, and relationship foes are rooted in the same deep-seated need – the need to be right.
Compound the need to be right with an ineffective ability to persuade others to believe you are right can lure in feelings of inadequacy and, in extreme cases, an overwhelming feeling of threat. Not only are our emotions running wild with fear, anger, and frustration a physical reaction begins to occur.
When we sense we are in danger our body gears up to protect itself. You may have noticed your heart racing before a big presentation or your throat tightening as an argument escalates. This is the body preparing itself for what is called “fight-or-flight,” an immediate physiological reaction that occurs in response to a perceived harmful event. This was helpful when a local tribe was about to descend on your cave. Not so much in the board room.
Emotional intelligence expert Daniel Goleman calls this phenomenon “An Amygdala Hijack,” a response out of proportion to the stimulus because it has triggered a misperceived significant threat. The amygdala is the part of our brain that handles emotions.
Knowing that your self-control, listening, compassion and reason may be held hostage by the shut-down gremlin when you need them most, how do you keep that from happening in a high stakes meeting or negotiation?
If we can remain open we can flow more quickly through the phases of conflict: the crisis, the judge and grudge phase, the investigative phase and the transformation to collaboration. Often people get trapped in the crisis phase where they lose their executive presence.
Austrian neurologist, psychologist and Holocaust survivor Viktor E. Frankl said, “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
You can’t manage conflict if you can’t manage yourself in that opportune ‘space’ first.
Pay Attention to Stream of Thought
Prepare ahead of time by being a third-party observer of your thoughts. What are your expectations, judgments, disappointments, comparisons? Are you risk averse, fearing failure, avoiding joy, blaming, complaining? Do you feel guilty, overwhelmed, stressed, discontent? Don't judge your thoughts. Allow the thoughts to flow through you without you grasping onto them and ruminating over them.
Use The Five Second Rule - Count backwards from “5”
Count backwards from 5. Take a deep breath and be with the uncomfortable feeling you feel. Don’t turn away from it or it will haunt you. Naming your discomfort disarms its power. Within 90 seconds it will likely flow through you and not continue to usurp your reason. Get curios about the discomfort. What does the discomfort sound like? If it were a shape what would it be?
Bare Your Neck Like a Giraffe with “I bet you feel…”
If you are using a ‘screw you’ attitude to hide your feelings of helplessness, you’ll get back a ‘fine - screw you too.’ When you bare your neck in a space of vulnerability and find the courage to say, ‘I’m not sure I have the answer but I bet you feel frustrated too and I want to work together with you to make this work,’ - the other person’s fight-or-flight response will most likely relax so can begin to work together.
Execute The Pause Café
P – Pause and take a deep breath.
A – Ask yourself, “What is going on with me?”
U – Untangle the difference between “Assumptions” and “The Truth.”
S – Step back and allow the constricted view to open.
E – Extend Compassion to yourself. Put your hand to your heart and say, “May I be gentle with myself in this moment.” Then extend compassion to others. “May I be curious about her needs.”
If the conversation is going nowhere ask, “If it could be demonstrated that there’s a more effective or just solution to this problem, would you change your mind?” If they say, “Yes,” ask them on what specific issue they will meet you in the middle. If they say, “No” stop wasting your time. The other party likely has a personal or political agenda.
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P.S. Feel free to send this link to someone who could benefit from it. We are all walking down the same road in life.
Mary Lee Gannon, ACC, CAE is an International Coach Federation certified executive coach and 18-year corporate CEO who helps busy executive leaders swap the treadmill to nowhere for a new career, promotion, higher pay, confidence, calm and better connection with the people who matter while it still matters. View testimonials from her career transformation mavens and FREE career tools at www.MaryLeeGannon.com
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