Conflict seems to be more and more a part of our daily lives.
From listening to the news, to watching TV dramas, or viewing social media channels we are exposed to conflict situations constantly and consistently. It is no wonder that problems with getting along with others seems to be a reoccurring theme. The most requested workshop I receive is on the subject of conflict resolution.
At the core of all this conflict is fear, and fear can be displayed in different ways.
One way is to make ourselves smaller, and the other is to make ourselves larger. Think about the behavior of an animal that feels threatened and trapped. It will cower in the corner (i.e. retreat), or it will display teeth, snarl and growl at you…basically saying, “Stay away, or I will hurt you”.
Humans do the same thing. We either retreat or display anger to try and protect ourselves. Another form of that anger is referred to as passive aggressive anger…we don’t make ourselves “bigger in the moment”, we retreat and find a way to get back at the person in a more subtle way. This is the most common form of anger I encounter in the work world.
For example, if your boss yells at you in a meeting and you feel embarrassed, you may not say anything at that time but later, you find yourself showing up late to work or procrastinating on meeting project deadlines. Sometimes, individuals are aware of this passive aggressive behavior and sometimes…they are not.
Keep in mind that anger, whether aggressive or passive, is actually a defense mechanism used to try and protect a part of ourselves that feels vulnerable.
Did you catch the word vulnerable?
If you read my last two blogs, you’re aware they were on the subject of vulnerability and trust. I’ve been exploring Patrick Lencioni’s model on The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, and the Fear of Conflict follows the Absence of Trust.
In other words, if you are not willing to be vulnerable and trust yourself and the other party to deal with the issue, you are operating in fear of potential conflict. Therefore, you will not be fully present mentally or emotionally to do the job you were hired to do, because a part of your mind is consumed with hurt or angry feelings.
The key to dealing with conflict is in being willing to address it directly. Often, I see situations in which colleagues avoid talking about a situation that is conflict laden, because they don’t trust themselves or the other party to know how to handle the conversation. Therefore, they stay invulnerable or shut down to exploring the feelings that are feeding the discontent.
In the last blog, I explored what might have happened had the manager been able to say to her team member,
“I hear you feel that I do not support you. I am confused by that because from my point of view, I have taken these actions (list the actions) to support you. I am not sure how to help you feel supported going forward. Can you help me understand what you want and need from me as a manager?”
This action puts the conflict issue directly on the table. It forces the conversation that has previously been avoided, to the surface. Opening up this type of conversation is the only way the issue has the potential to be resolved; otherwise, both parties are doomed to feeling hurt, afraid of retaliation, and worried about their jobs.
Conflict issues are never comfortable to address, but if you are willing to host these types of conversations, you will gain more self-trust and will experience a deep sense of relief in your body. Literally, you will feel your muscles relax, because you’re not walking around on egg shells or tip toeing around a topic!
Dedicated to raising your consciousness!