“My co-worker really made me mad yesterday. He was so insensitive to my concerns! You should’ve heard what he said. The way he blew me off was just plain wrong and really has me upset and angry.”
For many of us, our knee-jerk reaction to disagreements or conflict situations is to look at the other person. To cast blame ‘over there’. Away from me. I can clearly see what “his problem is” yet am blind to my own contributions and shrug off any suggestion that I might be part of the problem too.
In my work with tons of organizations and teams, I’ve rarely encountered the person who easily or automatically starts by looking for his or her part in creating a conflict. After all, self-preservation is hardwired into our brains!
Yet, blame, finger-pointing, stonewalling, triangulating, or avoiding, never serve any of us.
What if I did contribute to the frustration I experienced yesterday? What if I began by looking inward…
It’s Not You, It’s Me
Sometimes, something gets triggered in us that makes it difficult for us to respond in a constructive way, despite our good intentions. There are certain behaviors, personality styles, approaches, that we might say “rub us the wrong way.” The conflict assessment tool I use (Conflict Dynamics Profile) calls these our Hot Buttons.
Here are a few examples of Hot Buttons:
- Timeliness: being late, being early
- Disorganized: unreliable, missing deadlines, procrastination
- Not keeping commitments, untrustworthy
- Abrasive or foul language
- Insensitivity, lack of compassion or empathy
- An attitude of arrogance
- Aloofness or indifference
- Impatience, someone losing their temper, yelling
- Overly focusing on “minor issues” and losing the big picture
- A need to always be right, a “know-it-all” attitude
- A victim attitude
Many of these are subject to our judgment or interpretation. For example, a behavior that I may perceive as being insensitive may not bother you at all. Thus, when my hot buttons get pushed, it truly is an “it’s ME and not You” occurrence! I’m the one who is having a reaction to an external stimulus (the person’s words, tone of voice, actions, lack of action, etc.). My reaction is linked with something going on internally – something about ME. Perhaps it’s an assumption I’ve made about this other person – consciously or unconsciously. It could be a belief I hold about myself that I feel is being challenged. Conflict situations really are a great opportunity to learn about ourselves and increase our emotional intelligence!
So when I feel my hot button(s) being pushed, a truly effective response is to take my focus off of that other person – what he/she is doing, saying, not doing, not saying, etc. – and place my focus on myself.
The accusations really say more about the condition of the accusers than that of the accused. – Roderick MacLeish
HOW Do I Do That??
What’s the first step in this ‘look-at-self-rather-than-other’ approach to handling conflicts? A good starting point is to take a quick self-assessment around constructive behaviors or actions we can exhibit during conflict, disagreements and frustrating conversations. I’ve created a checklist to help us keep a self-aware approach. Download the checklist by clicking on the image of it below.
After downloading & completing the checklist:
- Choose 1 of the items you checked with a “No,” that you would like to work with.
- Set an intention to be single-minded about doing a better job with this item next time you find yourself in a conflict situation.
- Write the statement from the checklist on an index card that you will keep with you at all times and read to yourself throughout the day. In this way, you are telling your brain – in advance – what you WILL do or say. This is a proactive method of encouraging the behavior you want to exhibit more of.
- Talk to your co-worker, boss, mentor, partner, spouse, or whomever you experienced a recent conflict with. Let them know that you are aware of the unhelpful behavior you exhibited. Let them know your plan for how to do it differently next time. Sharing your intention with another person is a great way to ‘make it real’ and create a sense of inner accountability.
Consider our 2-session course: “Constructive Conflict: How to Disagree without Damaging Relationships.”
You’ll find all the details here. Special New Year’s pricing applies when booking your session by February 27, 2015.
Please share your thoughts with us in the comments below.
With all best wishes,
De Yarrison, CPCC