After this session, you will be better able to… • Appreciate the importance of developing your skills in conflict competence • Define the basic dynamics of conflict • Understand strategies to more effectively engage in conflict • Identify your personal triggers and hot buttons
From the pages of… • Becoming a Conflict Competent Leader • By Craig Runde and Tim Flanagan • Developing Your Conflict Competence • By Craig Runde and Tim Flanagan • Center for Creative Leadership
Conflict is… • Any situation in which people have apparently incompatible interests, goals, principles, or feelings. • Triggered by • Precipitating events – someone says or does something that causes us to believe that their interests, goals, principles, or feelings are incompatible with or threatening our own • Hot buttons – situations or behaviors in others that tend to frustrate or irritate us enough to cause us to overreact • Inevitable
How do you describe conflict? • Acceptance • Aggression • Always there • Ambivalence • Anger • Annoying • Anxiety • Argue • Avoid • Banter • Battle • Beneficial • Calm • Challenge • Chaos • Complex • Constructive • Costly • Defensive • Differences • Emotional • Exhausting • Fearful • Fun • Harmony • Hate • Hide • Innovation • Intense • Intimidate • Messy • Natural • Negotiation • Painful • Peace • Resentment • Retaliation • Revealing • Rough • Stressful • Synergy • Tension • Trust • Unavoidable • Understanding
Types of Conflict • Cognitive • Focused on tasks and problem solving • Seemingly incompatible differences of ideas • Arguments can be spirited, but the emotional tone remains neutral or even positive • Can lead to creativity, energy, higher productivity, and strengthened relationships • Affective • Blaming people or proving the other person is wrong • People feel threatened; typically associated with negative emotional tone and ongoing tension • Can lead to poorer morale, bad decision-making, and destroyed relationships
Cost of Conflict • Stress • Wasted time • Lowered morale • Increased turnover • Higher absenteeism • Grievances • Lawsuits • Poisoned relationships • Aggression, retaliation • Harmed reputation • Derailed careers • Anger, fear, defensiveness, negativity, hurt, embarrassment
Benefits of Conflict • Improved communication • Open information sharing • Vigorous creation of ideas • Higher-quality decision making • Improved working relationships • Innovative solutions • Less stress, more fun!
What is conflict competence? • The ability to develop and use cognitive, emotional, and behavioral skills that enhance productive outcomes of conflict while reducing the likelihood of escalation or harm
10 Truths of Conflict Competence • Conflict is inevitable and can lead to positive or negative results depending on how it is handled. • While people generally see conflict as negative and prefer to avoid it, better results can emerge from engaging it constructively. • In order to overcome reluctance to address conflict, people need to believe it is important to do so, thus recognizing the tremendous value of managing conflict effectively.
10 Truths of Conflict Competence • Individual conflict competence involves developing cognitive, emotional, and behavioral skills that enable one to cool down, slow down, and engage conflict constructively. • Cognitive skills include developing self-awareness about one’s current attitudes and responses to conflict and an understanding of conflict’s basic dynamics.
10 Truths of Conflict Competence • Emotional skills include understanding one’s emotional responses to conflict, regulating those responses to attain and maintain emotional balance, understanding and responding to the emotions of one’s conflict partners, and, when necessary, slowing down to allow extra time to cool down.
10 Truths of Conflict Competence • Behavioral skills include engaging constructively by understanding others’ perspectives, emotions, and needs; sharing one’s own thoughts, feelings, and interests; collaborating to develop creative solutions to issues; and reaching out to get communications restarted when they have stalled. • Engaging constructively also involves reducing or eliminating the use of destructive behaviors characterized by fight-or-flight responses to conflict.
10 Truths of Conflict Competence • In team settings, conflict competence includes creating the right climate to support the use of the “cool down, slow down, and engage constructively” model among teammates so they can have open and honest discussion of issues. Creating the right climate includes developing trust and safety, promoting collaboration, and enhancing team emotional intelligence.
10 Truths of Conflict Competence • In organizational contexts, conflict competence involves creating a culture that supports the “cool down, slow down, and engage constructively” model. This includes aligning mission, policies, training programs, performance standards, and reward structures to reinforce the conflict competence model. It also includes creating integrated conflict-management systems to support these cultural changes.
A conflict-competent leader… • Must be able to self-diagnose and have a high degree of self-awareness in order to handle personal conflicts effectively • Must be an expert observer of others so evidence of conflict can be spotted early • Must be able and willing to intervene in the discussions of, coach, and influence those who are in conflict • Has the ultimate goal to build organizational conflict competence, where all team members are self-monitoring and conflict is viewed for its strategic value
The Leader’s Journey to Conflict Competence • Emotional development: • Build awareness of your own responses to conflict and your hot buttons/triggers. • Cognitive development: • Learn mental models and basic dynamics • Behavioral development: • Practice applying new skills. Cool down, slow down, and engage constructively.
Conflict response is a choice. • Conflict behaviors are learned. • Gut responses are affected by emotions, which can lead to destructive responses to conflict. • Learned choices start from understanding how we typically respond to conflict to see how we are naturally effective and to uncover weak spots. • Conflict responses evolve over time with experience, reflection, and feedback.
Emotional Development • How do you currently respond to conflict? • What are your hot buttons and triggers? • How do you regain emotional balance or “cool down”?
Exercise: Current Response to Conflict • How often do I face conflict at work? • When conflict occurs, do I prefer to avoid dealing with it or give in to others? Do I come off too aggressively at times? • Do I take time to listen to other people’s thoughts on an issue? • When conflicts emerge, am I aware of my feelings and those of others? • Do I rush to solve problems before I’m sure what the issues are? • Do I collaborate with others to come up with solutions, or do I make most of the decisions on my own?
Hot Buttons/Triggers • Situations or behaviors which can hold an emotional charge • Once triggered, the person will attribute negative motives to other person, overreact, and set off the retaliatory cycle.
Common Hot Buttons There are several types of people who may push your buttons, create an overreaction, and potentially cause conflict. • UNRELIABLE: Those who are unreliable, miss deadlines, and cannot be counted on • OVERLY ANALYTICAL: Those who are perfectionists, over-analyze things, and focus too much on minor issues • UNAPPRECIATIVE: Those who fail to give credit to others or seldom praise good performance • ALOOF: Those who isolate themselves, do not seek input from others, or are hard to approach
Common Hot Buttons (cont.) • MICRO-MANAGING: Those who constantly monitor and check up on the work of others • SELF-CENTERED: Those who are self-centered or believe they are always correct • ABRASIVE: Those who are arrogant, sarcastic, and abrasive • UNTRUSTWORTHY: Those who exploit others, take undeserved credit, or cannot be trusted • HOSTILE: Those who lose their tempers, become angry, or yell at others
Exercise: Reflecting on Hot Buttons • Identify a recent situation where you experienced a trigger or hot button. • With a partner: • Name your hot button. • Briefly describe the situation. • Explore why this situation or hot button gets to you. • Consider the situation from the button pusher’s perspective. Are there any positive aspects of the button pusher’s behavior? • Switch turns with your partner and practice listening for understanding.
Regaining Emotional Balance • Cognitive reappraisal (aka “reframing”) • Examine the facts underlying a conflict for nonthreatening, alternative explanations. • Mindfulness • Pay attention on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally to things as they are. • Observe what you are feeling and thinking, rather than being caught up in the thoughts and feelings. • Changing focus • Disrupt negative emotional reactions by breaking the mind’s absorption on thoughts related to the conflict.
Regaining Emotional Balance • Cultivate positive emotions. • What brings you a deep sense of peace, contentment, and happiness? • Use humor and laughter to foster a sense of gratitude. • Think of what things inspire you and make you happy. • Positive emotions have a cumulative effect, so reflect on these uplifting thoughts daily.
Regaining Emotional Balance • Resilience • It takes time to recover from strong negative emotions. • Decrease the time it takes you to recover from emotional hijacking by building your capacity to respond effectively.
Conflict Resilience Quotient 1 = Less True 5 = More True After most interpersonal conflicts, I usually tend to: • Recover quickly and do not worry, agonize, or stay preoccupied about what the other person said or did that offended me. • Forgive and do not bear a grudge about the other person and what s/he said or did. • Reflect on what I learned from the conflict that will help me manage future disagreements. • Reach out to make amends with the other person. • Take responsibility for my part of the conflict and consider what I may have done differently.
1 = Less True 5 = More True After most interpersonal conflicts, I usually tend to: • Not share my side of the situation with others in self-serving and distorted ways. • Feel hopeful that things will be better and consider how I will try to contribute positively to this happening. • Move on and not see myself as a victim or feel sorry for myself. • Not continue to perceive the other person in negative ways. • Not bad-mouth the person to others. • Identify what may have been important to the other person that I did not realize before.
1 = Less True 5 = More True After most interpersonal conflicts, I usually tend to: • Apologize for my part of the conflict. • Have a better appreciation for and understanding of the other person’s perspective on the issues, even if I don’t agree with it. • Not criticize, blame myself, or engage in other self-deprecating behaviors about what I did or said (or didn’t say or do). • Let go of blaming the other person for what s/he did or said (or didn’t say or do).
Scoring Key 15-39: You likely already know you are not conflict resilient and coaching is highly recommended. 40-54: Your conflict resilience quotient is low and conflict coaching is recommended. 55-69: You are conflict resilient with a few areas that could use some work to strengthen your skills even more. 70-75: You are definitely conflict resilient. From Cinery Coaching
Regaining Emotional Balance • Core concerns approach • Create positive emotions by focusing on five core relational concerns common to all people. • Appreciation – acknowledge others • Affirmation – build connections • Autonomy – right to make own decisions • Status – acknowledge skills/talents • Role – define importance of each job
Regaining Emotional Balance • Show respect. • Canadian Human Rights Commission Model • VALUED • Validate • Ask (open-ended questions) • Listen (to test assumptions) • Uncover interests • Explore options • Decide (on solutions)
Regaining Emotional Balance • Slow down. • When negative emotions are aroused in conflicts, we enter a refractory period, in which emotions hold sway over our rational mind. • Take a time out to allow yourself extra time to apply some cooling-down techniques. • Practice language. • “I’m upset right now and need some time to cool down so I can listen to you with the attention you deserve.” • “This is an important issue and deserves our full attention. I need a little while to reflect on this so that I can do it justice.”
Cognitive Development • What are some basic responses to conflict? • How can I constructively respond to conflict?
Responses to Conflict Which responses do you use most often? Why? How can you be more effective?
Constructive Responses • Reaching out • Perspective taking • Expressing emotions • Creating solutions • Reflective thinking • Adapting • Delay responding
Reaching Out • An overt attempt to resume communications with one’s conflict partner once a conflict has arisen • Give an overt invitation. • Intend to address emotional damage. • Offer to take responsibility and apologize. • Express interest in resolving the issue.
How to Reach Out • Give an overt invitation. • “I would very much appreciate an opportunity to discuss this with you again.” • “Would you please join me in reviewing our recent conversation?” • Intend to address emotional damage. • “I’d like to talk about the damage to our relationship.” • “Can we focus on the emotional hurt before we start talking about our disagreement?”
How to Reach Out • Offer to take responsibility and apologize. • Which of the following statements in a good apology, without an excuse? • “I’m sorry. I didn’t realize that I hurt you. Please forgive me.” • “Did I really sound angry? I was just trying to be very clear.” • “When you yelled at me, I should have kept my cool. I apologize.” • “I am sorry. What I said was mean. I know that I hurt you. I hope you can forgive me.”
How to Reach Out • “I’m sorry. I didn’t realize that I hurt you. Please forgive me.” (Not realizing or remembering may be true, but ultimately is an excuse.) • “Did I really sound angry? I was just trying to be very clear.” (Let me rationalize my misbehavior.) • “When you yelled at me, I should have kept my cool. I apologize.” (But you were wrong, too.) • “I am sorry. What I said was mean. I know that I hurt you. I hope you can forgive me.” (This is the only good one. It acknowledges the damage, accepts responsibility, and seeks forgiveness.)
How to Reach Out • Express interest in resolving the issue. • “I’m sure we can find common ground.” • “Although we see it differently now, I can’t help but believe we can find a way to make it work.” • “We both have strong reasons for our views. Let’s see if we can find some connections in our perspectives.” • “I’d like to explore this further. Will you join me?” • “Imagine if we found a way for our ideas to work together. How great would that be?”
Perspective Taking • Put yourself in the other person's position and try to understand that person's point of view. • Listen for understanding. • Focus only on the substance. Check for understanding and satisfaction. • Focus on the other party’s emotions. Demonstrate empathy.
How to Listen Well • Remove all distractions and listen fully. • What is being said? • Is anything not being said? • What hidden messages exist below the surface? • Are the words and body language delivering the same message?
How to Focus on Substance • One must demonstrate understanding to the satisfaction of the conflict partner. • Summarize frequently. • Check for understanding. • Ask questions related to the content. • Demonstrate your understanding.
How to Focus on Emotions • The ability to show empathy during conflict is the most effective way to demonstrate emotion-focused perspective taking. • Label the feeling you’ve observed. • “You must be very frustrated at the way I’ve responded.” • NOT “I really understand how you feel.”