What is Avoiding Conflict Costing You?
Imagine if your relationships were not limited by the fear of conflict or creating tension. Rather, you felt confident in leaning into these conversations and were able to be truthful and transparent. Each time you avoid your truth and move away from having a conversation that makes you uncomfortable you have robbed yourself of potential and the opportunity for advancement, connection, and powerful insight.
Slowly, unknowing, you will find yourself farther away from your true North. Over time sacrificing beliefs, integrity, and values and leaving you unable to recognize your reality.
So how can you get more comfortable with conflict? Kwame Christian is a master! He has a phenomenal podcast, Negotiate Anything, and a book titled Finding Confidence in Conflict. In this recent episode, he speaks about the power of “compassionate curiosity” which allows both parties to shift into a thoughtful and empathetic connection rather than tactical sparring. There are three specific steps to do this well...
Get curious with compassion
Joint problem solving
This week I will cover the first one and next week the final two. Stay tuned!
I think we can all agree that conflict has two elements, emotional and substantive. Most of the time we go right for the details and logically try to muster through the conversation. In reality, the “facts” are not as consequential as the emotions. It is our pride, our reputation, or our feelings that get in the way of constructive conversation.
By acknowledging emotion you are quickly connecting with the other person's emotional state. Basically, calling out the elephant in the room. Naming that emotional observation releases the need to show it in other forms (stonewalling, yelling, etc) and creates a calming effect. A simple sentence validates the other person’s feelings and humanizes the interaction... “You seem to be frustrated.”, “I am sensing that you are angry”. I am not asking you to say “calm down”, this will only make them more defensive. Rather, you are seeking to understand and validate their perspective, appreciate their feelings, and thus connect in a human way.
Without acknowledging the emotional elements at play it is near impossible to navigate the substantive elements.
If trust is low, there may be a need to become vulnerable yourself. This two-way street creates a shared experience and allows for the building of foundational trust. Kwame notes, “you need to have strategic disclosure. You need to be willing to disclose something that doesn’t necessarily hurt your position but triggers reciprocity and makes them feel safer to share.” By validating and legitimizing the other's feelings the tension will begin to lessen and you are able to move into the substantive discussion.
Successful relationships and conversations require you to leave your ego at the door. Only begin these discussions when you are ready to explore and learn from the other person. If you enter into conflict with a set agenda of “winning” that is a clear sign that you are not in a place of curiosity. Wait to have this discussion until you are ready to receive information and open to dialogue.
My Challenge to You:
Choose to be truthful and brave. These skills and confidence take time to conquer so start slow and be gentle with yourself.
Think about what avoiding conflict is costing you. How does it make you physically feel and how are your relationships and thoughts changed because of it? Do you want to continue down this road? This choice is yours.
When next tempted to challenge an idea, ask another question instead. Put yourself in their shoes and try to see the situation from their perspective. How does this change your mindset?
Next blog we will review the final two steps!