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Without realising it, we can become stuck in how we view things. The first way we look at something is not always the only or the ‘best’ way.
The more ways we can view a situation, the more possibilities we will discover and the more creative we can be.
Where do you see the circle in the diagram overleaf:
N at the lower right hand corner of the rear panel?
N at the centre of the front panel?
N at the lower right corner of the front panel?
N at the centre of the back panel?
Beware of expecting others to see what you see.
CONFLICT MANAGEMENT IN THE WORKPLACEDifferent views An old story tells how five blind men once went to find out what an elephant was like. They found one and felt it all over. One found its waving trunk. ‘It’s like a snake,’ he said.
Another found its tail. ‘More like a rope,’ was his opinion.
A third touched one of the elephant’s big ears. ‘It’s like a fan,’ he said.
‘No, like a pillar,’ said the fourth, feeling its great leg.
The last man leaned against the elephant’s massive side. ‘It’s like a wall,’ he declared.
Each of them experienced the elephant from his own point of view, and each came to a different conclusion. That is the trouble with points of view.
If you want a true view of anything, you must look at it from every angle.
Otherwise, if you stick to your own point of view, as someone has said, you will sit on the point and lose the view.
We all have slightly different views on the world. Our window on the world is filtered by our early experiences, beliefs and memories. These filters allow us to deal with the two million bits of information that we are exposed to at any one moment. It is impossible to process all this data. So we delete, distort and generalise the incoming information.
However, many of us believe that the way we experience the world is the way it is. It is your unique view … it is the truth for you. Others will have a different view. Their truth, while being different from yours, is right for them.
Your reality is not totality Of course we don’t have totality.
What we experience is subjective, partial and likely to be distorted.
People believed the world was flat until fifteenth-century explorers discovered that we can go to the East by sailing west. When Albert Einstein was ten years old, his teacher told him that he would not amount to much. Mr Gottlieb Daimler, the founder of Daimler Motor Company, said that the car would never catch on because there
CONFLICT MANAGEMENT IN THE WORKPLACEwould never be enough chauffeurs. The president of Decca Records, rejecting the Beatles, said, ‘We don’t like their sound and guitar music is on the way out anyway.’ Our views are always restricted to the window we have on our world and its filters. Without realising it, we are discounting something from what is out there.
‘I didn’t notice what she was wearing.’ ‘I didn’t realise you felt like that about me.’ ‘I didn’t hear him say that.’ How much can you trust your experiences?
Is the world flat? Well it certainly looks it. Is it stationary? It has that appearance. However, the astronomer will tell us we are rotating at thousands of miles an hour. Is the chair you are sitting on solid? If I strike my hand against it, it certainly feels solid. However, the physicist will tell us it is a moving bundle of energy.
Mike is quick to act. Sarah finds him abrasive and Fiona sees him as rash. Who is this person? Is he quick to act, rash or abrasive? He is all three, it depends on the window and the view. They are opinions, each one created from a partial view with information discounted. Who is right? Everyone and no one.
A bucket of water can be a home to a fish, a cool drink to an elephant and a lake to an ant. What you experience reflects who you are. If someone is difficult for you, how much does that reflect you? There will be other people who won’t find that behaviour difficult … they have a different window on it. Maybe people are difficult because of who you are!
Who is right?
Fox-hunting is a sport to some people and slaughter to another. Everyone thinks he is right, and each opinion will be right for that individual.
There is always more than what any of us are noticing at any given moment. Expand your view to grow in wisdom.
Can you see the hero?
Because you don’t see something, it doesn’t mean it is not there. Even though you can’t see the stars when the sun comes up, they are still there.
You might see this person as abrasive. Behind abrasiveness is quickness to act; this is a strength, even though you might not see it as such. Every villain is likely to be a hero in his own story.
Recognize the positive intention Conflict often comes from goodwill, people thinking they are doing right but in fact getting it wrong. Having been round the block three times looking for a street, you suggest to your partner that he stops and asks someone … and the advice is rejected. Although you were only trying to help, your partner heard an attack on his competence.
I care – you feel smothered I am assertive – you see me as aggressive I am principled – you experience me as stubborn I am ambitious – you see me as ruthless Intent and impact We are inclined to draw conclusions about people’s intentions from how their behaviour impacts on us. I feel hurt, therefore you intended to hurt me. I feel put down, so your intention was to humiliate me.
This is not always the case. When someone says ‘But I was only trying to help you’ they are really saying they have a positive intention, even though your experience of it was negative.
CONFLICT MANAGEMENT IN THE WORKPLACEBeware of making assumptions about people’s intentions. You may wish to assume the best about the person, not the worst. In his view he is a hero. Acknowledge this, ‘I appreciate you want to help, however, I feel smothered and in future I would like to … ’ Now there is the possibility that real understanding and collaboration will ensue.
State your positive intention Ask yourself what is your real purpose in what you are about to say or do.
‘I don’t want to waste your time and I’d like to clear up some misunderstandings …’ To enhance co-operation, tell your truth in a way that the other recognizes your positive intention.
Watch your language While I experience you as abrasive, to say ‘You are abrasive’ is unhelpful and likely to lead to argument, as it is not how you see yourself. The view through your window is ‘I am quick to act.’ ‘You’ language is likely to be confrontational. Talk about what you experience about the other person through your window … and don’t expect them to have the same view as you!
Do say ‘My view is …’ ‘My perception is …’ ‘What I experience is …’ ‘What I need is …’ ‘My concerns are …’ Beware ‘You never …’ ‘You are …’ ‘You should …’
Opinions or facts?
In the film Annie Hall, Alvie Singer complains ‘We never have sex’.
‘We’re constantly having sex’, says his girlfriend.
‘How often do you have sex?’, asks the therapist.
‘Three times a week’, they reply in unison.
In conflict we are inclined to treat opinions as if they are facts. Opinions are not right or wrong, they are points of view. They are what you are noticing through that window of yours, which of course, is different to what others are noticing through their windows. Having sex three times a week is a fact. Whether that is too much or too little, is an opinion.
Truth or importance?
You drive too fast.
I deserve a pay rise.
These opinions are not about what is true but what is important to you.
If different things are important to you, these opinions of mine will seem a nonsense and we will just argue. When arguing, I am convinced that I am right and this only distracts me from exploring your world. It is not whether one view is right and another wrong, it is that both views matter.
One view is seldom enough.
People who run with the mind set ‘I am right’ will be inclined to see others as the problem and that they should change … they are the ones who are being unreasonable, closed and stubborn. In reality, it is the arrogance of the ‘I am right’ attitude that is likely to perpetuate the problem.
CONFLICT MANAGEMENT IN THE WORKPLACE
Changing someone Trying to change someone rarely results in change. Change is more likely to come from understanding. Wanting to change someone implies there is something wrong with that person and of course this only leads to defensiveness and argument. Seeking to understand, suggests the other person is OK in her view of the world. This is the mind set that creates collaboration and mutual problem-solving.
Rather than judge behaviour, connect with needs.
Blame Blame looks to the past and who was right or wrong. You may wish to keep the focus on the future and how the situation can be solved. When your dog goes missing, where is the energy better spent … looking for the dog or arguing over who left the gate open? When we feel accused, we can spend the time in futile arguing rather than productive problemsolving. Avoid making the other person wrong.
Sense and nonsense When we argue, we tend to offer our opinions, use ‘shoulds’ and give advice.
‘You should be more considerate.’ ‘Slow down.’ ‘If only you wouldn’t be so selfish.’ These opinions and advice are like the tip of the iceberg of your thinking.
Underneath, and unseen, will be your experiences, beliefs and concerns, from which you form these opinions and advice. They make total sense to you.
However, to someone with a different set of experiences, beliefs and values they become nonsense. Of course, this person will offer different opinions and advice in line with their values, beliefs and experiences.
When we argue, we are likely to be at the tip of the iceberg, trading in the surface thinking of opinions and ‘shoulds’.
Understanding is about exploring the unseen bits of other people’s icebergs, their thoughts, feelings and intentions. It’s about exploring information on themselves that they have access to but that you don’t yet see. Arguing drives people apart, understanding draws people together. Rather than contradict a view, you might wish to add to it.
Chapter 2 Differences in Personality Types
In this chapter:
N the four basic personality types N typical sources of tension across these styles N strengths can be experienced as weaknesses N the type that will find your behaviour difficult N dovetailing the differences.
Sarah and Mike are driving up the motorway to attend a business meeting. Sarah turns to Mike and asks “Would you like to stop for a coffee?”. “No thanks”, he answers truthfully. So they didn’t.
An atmosphere develops between them, which eventually Mike notices.
“Anything the matter?” he asks. “Yes, I would have liked a coffee” and he replies, “Well why didn’t you say so”.
Communication Styles Sarah did say so, but in her indirect way. However, Mike has a more direct style and he heard a question of him not a request from her. Mike doesn’t understand Sarah. Sarah doesn’t understand Mike. It feels as if they don’t even speak the same language … they certainly have different communication styles.
While we may have the same mother tongue, English, somehow we speak different languages. French, English and Italian use the same alphabet but are different languages. Conflict often happens because we are not aware
CONFLICT MANAGEMENT IN THE WORKPLACEwe have different styles of communication, in effect that we speak different languages.
The four Personality Types Dr Carl Jung in the 1920s studied personality types and described four basic styles. This provides a simple model to understand why people are experienced as different from and difficult for each other. Variations of his model have been validated with hundreds of thousands of people across many cultures, East and West.
Each of the four types has a different way of viewing the world and of communicating with other people. They each have a language preference.
Research shows that people who are fluent across the four languages have most rapport and least conflict. People who are inflexible and locked in their own style are experienced as difficult and the source of conflict.
Difficult people are usually inflexible people.
Go-Getter – Mike Mike is driven by the need to achieve, to get things done quickly and efficiently. He hates it when his time is wasted or when people take a long time to get to the point. He would not want to be seen as gullible or indecisive. His communication style is functional and direct.
His energy is high and somewhat ‘in your face’.
Mike gets straight to the point. He doesn’t hold back. If something is a non-runner he says so without any attempt to spare people’s feelings. A flaw is a flaw...a spade is a spade. Why waste time on it? So he doesn’t. If his colleagues continue to discuss it, he switches off.
Mike is someone who is driven by results. This is how he feels good about himself. He is the ‘get it done’, ‘no problem’ type of person. He
is a doer rather than a talker or thinker. He is decisive, and even though not all his decisions are the best ones you are likely to hear him say, “you win some you lose some”. He believes that indecision is also a decision, and a bad one!