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He works to deadlines and likes getting a lot done in a short time. He has little time for small talk and when he rings he likes to get straight down to business. He has little tolerance of people who make excuses or give long-winded explanations and he expects people to keep their personal problems at home. He finds it difficult to listen to peoples’ problems.

He would like others to be direct, decisive, to get straight to the point and to be results focused. He respects people who act quickly, take risks and are high achievers. He values success, power and speed.

While Mike sees himself as enterprising, persuasive, decisive and a bit of an entrepreneur, others on his team have a different perspective on him. Sarah finds him arrogant, abrasive, insensitive and conceited.

Fiona on the other hand sees him as unprincipled, rash and a risk taker, whereas Darren experiences him as egotistical, inflexible, obstinate and rude.

Carer – Sarah Sarah is a polite, warm friendly person. She is sensitive, modest and unassuming. She is inclined to take other people’s problems to heart and likes to help. Relationships are important to Sarah. She is generous with her time and is a good listener. She feels a certain obligation to volunteer for the jobs that no one else wants to do. She dislikes conflict of any kind and works hard at keeping harmony in the team.


She has a gentle, low-key approach to others and likes to accommodate. She is seldom critical of others and she is usually generous with her praise.

She doesn’t want to appear demanding, insensitive or selfish. She is reluctant to be too direct for fear of upsetting others. Rather than express disagreement in meetings, she usually says nothing. This she knows can be interpreted as approval.

She feels Mike takes advantage of her good nature and willingness to please. He delegates the unimportant jobs to her and she feels resentful for being dumped on.

She has been in the same company for 15 years and is known by most of the staff. The main reason, of course, is that she takes the time to listen and enquire about the people and their families and shows sincere concern for them.

She is good at creating a two-way communication flow with the staff and getting people to work together in co-operative, harmonious ways. People feel valued by her and know she is genuinely interested in them and their issues.

Many people appreciate her thoughtfulness, loyalty, cooperative spirit and her sensitive, generous nature. However, Mike sees her as gullible and submissive, Fiona finds her smothering and illogical and Darren experiences her as hypersensitive and subservient.

Mike blames her for spending too much time with people and for being too soft with them. “Time is money and you are wasting it”.

He feels she should be more business than people focused. He gets angry when she accepts the blame when things are not right.

–  –  –

Sarah finds Mike arrogant, even hostile and doesn’t feel his insensitive approach gets the best from people. He is dismissive of her efforts in bringing people together to feel part of a team. She would not want to socialise with Mike outside of work and recognises that she has to work hard to tolerate him as a work colleague.

Analytical – Fiona Fiona is a perfectionist, and for her getting things right is more important than caring or being successful. She is thorough in her work, paying attention to detail. She is fair, principled and does not like taking risks.

She is adept at building highly effective processes that produce consistent results. This sees her accused of excessive regulation and a ‘do it by the book’ mentality. She keeps a tight rein on things. She is reluctant to delegate or give control to others, as they may not have her high standards.

Although not regarded as a people person, Fiona does not like to see people treated unfairly. She tends to be prudent and would prefer not to make a decision than make a wrong decision. She has charts posted that show process flow details, check lists and data inventories.

Mike gets frustrated by her ‘rather be safe than sorry’ attitude. He finds her nit picking, slow and pedantic. He complains about her negativity, always noticing the problems and what can go wrong.

He says it is as if every morning someone programmes her for the working day... she never deviates from the routine. You could set your watch by her movements. “If she spent as much time doing as she does making lists she wouldn’t need a list.”


Fiona would like Mike to put things in writing and give her time to think. He expects her to give an answer straight away. She gets frustrated when he gives her work at the last moment and still expects it to be done on time. She sees Mike as rash, compromising on standards and a bit of a gambler.

Fiona doesn’t need praise and can feel patronised easily. Sarah is reluctant to work for her as she is big on criticism and small on compliments. Fiona is a solitary person who likes her own company.

She is often criticised by Sarah for not being a team player and for her aloofness from people’s problems. Sarah finds her difficult to relate to, reserved, cold and unfriendly. Sarah regularly invites her to staff social gatherings and if she doesn’t refuse, she will be the first to leave. It’s as if she does not need people.

Fiona is suspicious of Sarah’s decisions, which are based on intuition and feelings rather than logic and evidence. She is critical that Sarah creates dependency by being too willing to help others. She reasons that this only prevents people learning from their mistakes.

Fiona does not tolerate sloppiness of any nature. She will even make a fuss about a comma missing in a report. People complain that she always seems to find something wrong with everything, that for her, things are always black or white, right or wrong.

Darren at times finds her unimaginative, inflexible, humourless and tunnel-visioned. He wishes she would be more open minded and more open to change.

–  –  –

He likes to be consulted by others in the team and would not want to be seen as rigid, inflexible or narrow-minded. He likes variety and wants things to be different. He becomes bored easily.

Darren is often in the limelight. He doesn’t like being confined to routines and get restless in long meetings. He tends to be a dreamer and looks beyond the mundane and the practical. He is inclined to focus on broad generalisations rather than on hard facts. He is openminded and often changes his mind when new ideas are presented.

The first thing Darren did when he joined the company was to request flexitime and take control over his day. He did not want to be trapped in a routine of having every day the same, and being obliged to do what someone else expected of him instead of stepping to the beat of his own drum.

Darren has creative flair and vision. He can function in chaos and confusion and is innovative in problem solving. People admire his ability to coordinate several projects at once.

Darren is playful and fun-loving. He loves the company’s social gatherings where he mixes well and is often the life and soul of the party.

People appreciate his energy especially when work is tough.

Somehow he sees the positive in even the darkest situation. He has a knack of generating enthusiasm in people and making crisis moments fun – “What good is worrying, just enjoy it”.

Fiona does not always appreciate his humorous slant on life nor does she share his “work should be fun” ethos. Darren thinks aloud, putting his ideas on the table. This annoys Fiona as she likes ideas thought through and justified.


She is upset at his disorganisation and the way he can jump from one topic to another. She wishes he would use less superlatives and was not so unconventional. To her he is frivolous and superficial. She is critical of his meetings, which usually start late and are casual and unstructured.

Darren wishes she would lighten up and be more tolerant of others and their mistakes. He feels restricted by her conservatism and he finds her narrow-minded. She just does not bring out the best in him.

Mike finds Darren’s need to consult everyone, time consuming. He gets frustrated because Darren starts several projects at once and then leaves them unfinished to begin even more. Mike needs Darren to be more focused, more decisive, to make up his mind and then stick to it.

While Sarah is fond of Darren and enjoys his company she can find him irresponsible, changeable and she can’t always rely on him.

–  –  –

Accommodating to the Style So here we have four people who are very different from and difficult for each other. It is almost as if they are from different planets. Why? Because they have different drivers, different values, different styles. Mike feels good when he can achieve, Sarah needs to care, Fiona is driven to get things right and Darren seeks variety. Each has strengths and these strengths can be experienced as weaknesses by other styles.

–  –  –

One or a combination of these basic styles drives us all. We can use all of them at different times but feel most comfortable and good when using our own style.

It is not that one way is right and the others wrong. It is that all styles matter and need to be accommodated. Know your drivers and you will know who will be difficult for you and why others will find your behaviour difficult.

The values need not be in conflict, they can dovetail and blend to create something powerful and effective. Mike’s drive combined with Sarah’s sensitivity, Fiona’s methodology and Darren’s creativity will be a powerful force in any organization.

This happens when people recognize the validity of each other’s style. In the naive state we argue and conflict. We are convinced that we are right and the other wrong. Alternatively we can problem solve and use the steps from chapter 7 to create win-win, dovetail strengths and be special.

–  –  –

Chapter 3 Fight the Difference or Celebrate it?

In this chapter:

N conflict is more to do with style than substance N whether conflict really is constructive N how rows can spiral out of control N the three basic choices in managing differences N stages leading to relationship breakdown N how ‘shoulds’ can be a cancer to relationships N win-win is about meeting both sets of needs.

Every day in the media we hear or read about war, violence, divorce and social unrest. Talk to your friends and they will tell you about their rows, arguments and difficult people. Your children will argue over the TV and you may even have experienced road rage.

Some people see conflict as a game, a combat sport and they look for sparring partners. Others can be devastated by the merest tiff.

Is conflict inevitable? Is a relationship without conflict healthy? Is harmony even desirable? Is conflict always bad and to be avoided?


–  –  –

Is conflict inevitable?

Conflict is not inevitable simply because we are different. We can disagree and not be in conflict. Conflict is more to do with style than substance. It happens because of what we do and say about the differences, rather than arising from the differences themselves.

Conflict starters The escalation or diffusion of conflict is to do with style, the words and the emotional energy used. There are a number of ways that conflict can esculate.

‘Typical of you.’ ‘No wonder you didn’t get that promotion.’ ‘You should take more pride in your work.’ ‘Why can’t you be more like your sister?’ Blame Accuse Interrupt Patronise Contradict Exaggerate Personal insults Hostile language Bring up the past Make assumptions Use labels or put-downs Don’t accept what the other person says Use ‘you never…’ ‘you always…’ ‘you should…’

–  –  –

Circumstances can escalate the conflict Issues that are resolved in minutes on that sunny beach in the middle of that relaxed holiday, can turn out very differently if you both have had a hard day, it is late in the evening and the children won’t settle!

Things that can turn a trivial issue into a major disagreement include:

N tiredness N stress N insecurity N illness N mood N alcohol Conflict is complex We might be arguing about money but the real issue may be about control. That sloppy report which is handed in late might be to do with a lack of recognition and a feeling of being taken for granted.

When a minor incident erupts into a major row, there is likely to be a deeper, more complex issue at stake. The screwdriver left in the wrong place, the toothpaste squeezed in the middle, the car parked at an angle … suddenly you feel you have walked on a landmine – you probably have! The row is not about the screwdriver or the car but a deeper unfulfilled need … perhaps to be valued, to be involved, to be accepted.

As the issue is hidden, we may not be conscious of what it is that is upsetting us until we talk about it. Until people talk about and discover the underlying need, they will be dealing with the symptoms, patching things up, becoming more frustrated and growing apart.

Little hurts Have you ever noticed how a small graze or cut finger can really hurt when you brush against someone? Without the sore, it would have gone


unnoticed. When life is going well, we also have a buffer, which protects us in the small ‘brushes’ with life. If the little conflicts of life hurt deeply, it may be useful to notice any other sore or deeper issue.

Is conflict constructive?

Many people suggest that conflict is healthy and constructive. While conflict can provide broader perspectives and deeper understanding, for most people conflict is destructive.

A conflict is constructive only if as a result:

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