Coexistence 202: Conflicts

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Coexistence 201: Lying

A confict is a communicated struggle between two or more people who see a difference of views, interests or goals

  • Conflict is not fighting
    • Fights break out from conflicts because of immature and reactive approaches to conflict
  • Conflict is natural and can be very beneficial
    • Everyone can gain an increased understanding of one another
    • Groups can get along better after a conflict
    • Everyone can gain improved self-awareness from a good conflict
  • Every conflict goes through stages
    1. Disagreement about something that at least one person finds important
    2. Escalation into something that asks for action to be taken
    3. Negotiation of the conflict, where everyone brings out their perceived views
    4. Resolution of the conflict or bringing up additional conflicts

Being direct and forward risks conflict more, but it also allows for open dialogue

  • The ability to “talk straight” while maintaining tactfulness is its own social skill
  • Pay attention to the power dynamic
    • Overpowering – concerned with being the most powerful person in the conflict
      • Control and dominance over others with intensity and manipulation
        • Ignores boundaries and limits
        • Only acknowledges personal understanding of reality
        • Countering, blocking and diverting any perceived opposition
        • Subtly or directly blaming, judging and criticizing
      • General indifference to others with nobody allowed to exert their own power
        • Unreasonable demands with a lack of warmth or feeling when communicating
        • Unwillingness to hear others’ feelings or thoughts
        • Witty sarcasm or silently withholding
    • Passive Power – concerned with being liked by everyone
      • Never asking for demands directly
      • Avoids any confrontation, and makes demands that are inadequate for personal gain
      • Typically unwilling to bargain for what they want
      • Uses modifiers to lessen the impact of statements (sorry, I just…, I mean…)
    • Personal Power – belief in mutual benefit and coexistence
      • Promotes growth and well-being of everyone
      • Focused on what can be changed and what everyone really needs
      • Willing to take risks to gain from decisions due to plenty of self-respect

There are a few major conflict management styles

  • Which style to use depends on the relationship, situation, people involved and your goals
  1. Avoidance (lose/lose) – say nothing and don’t talk about it
    • Anyone who is afraid of a conflict will do this
  2. Accommodation (lose/win) – giving in to the other person’s wishes
    • This is done when people feel that their loss is better in the long run somehow
  3. Competition (win/lose or lose/lose) – pushing your own point of view without regard for the other person
    • People who use this regularly are accustomed to delivering all-or-nothing ultimatums
    • Can be aggressive in a direct way or passive-aggressive
    • Destroys relationships when taken to an extreme
  4. Compromise (partial-win/partial-lose) – each person gives up something to get something
    • This is used when there’s a belief that it’s impossible for both sides to be happy
    • When a mediator is asked to resolve the problem, this is usually the result
  5. Collaboration (win/win) – working together for a mutually satisfactory solution
    • This requires both sides to be open-minded to possibilities that haven’t been talked about yet

Prepare for your conflict

  • Don’t be afraid of offending
    • You’re walking into a conflict because you want change to happen, and often change is intrinsically offensive
    • If you care too much about others, your own interests will become too low a priority
  • Walk into a conflict prepared for the worst
    • By not preparing, you give them the opportunity to prepare more than you
    • Any negotiation should protect you against an agreement that you should reject
    • Prepare a BATNA (Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement), or a red line that will not be crossed
      • Make the most of your assets, the better your BATNA the greater your power
      • Look at the possible things that actually are negotiable that you don’t care about
  • Learn people skills
    • You need to be HARD on the problem and SOFT on the person
      • Everyone has something to gain from a conflict, but they might not know it
      • Many people are used to very dysfunctional environments, and some people will have a hard time with fair discussion
      • As much as you can, keep building the relationship with the people you have conflicts with
      • We all have conditioned responses, and it requires love to not tread on the “click-whirr” reactions of others
      • Use “I” and “We” messages more than “You” or “They” messages
        • Be aware of a Perfection mentality (this must be perfect) vs. a Discovery mentality (what are the possibilities?)
          • Perfection is wired to set up Winners and Losers
          • Discovery is built to set up Winners and Learners
    • Good relationships must be a priority or you will not be seeking “Win-Win”
      • Talk to the other person’s “best self”
      • Assume useful dialogue is possible, even when it seems unlikely
      • The point is to find out what’s happening, not whose fault it is
    • Be a good listener
      • It’s sometimes more offensive to misunderstand someone than it is to not listen to them
      • Think before reacting
        • Many things worded as attacks are usually not meant in that way
        • Resist the urge to attack back at what you see as an offense
  • If, for whatever reason, you are making things worse, stop trying to press it
    • Disagreements are always connected to feelings, so pressing your case won’t prove something to someone
    • Sometimes everyone needs to calm down before you can continue expressing your own thoughts
  • If they won’t negotiate for any reason
    1. Use principled negotiation to encourage them to do the same
    2. If they keep attacking to try to take control, refuse to retaliate and then redirect their attacks on the problem (Negotiational Jiujitsu)
    3. Resort to a third party with mediation (helping negotiate) or arbitration (making decisions)
      • Don’t try to force a negotiation if they don’t want a resolution, start considering your other options instead

There are many dirty tactics that are used in negotiation

  • Graham’s disagreement hierarchy demonstrates what a disagreement will be focused on
    1. Refuting the central point(s) the other person shared
    2. Pointing out the error of the other person by quoting them
    3. Contradicting the other person and then backing it up with evidence or reasoning
    4. Contradicting the other person without backing it up sufficiently
    5. Criticizing the tone of that person without addressing their points at all
    6. Attacking the characteristics or authority of the person without addressing the points at all
    7. Calling them names or using debasing insults without presenting any argument back
  • There are a few immoral ways to negotiate
    • Lies to divert or confuse the truth
    • Psychological abuse to make you give in
    • Pressure tactics to force you to make a mistake
  • Do not do the following when triggered by their tactics
    • Submit to the tactic, it will feel right at the moment but will ruin your chances at effectively gaining what you want
    • Try to fix their behavior
    • Spend any time alone with them
    • Reveal your weaknesses or give them an opportunity to learn about you
  • There are clear signs the person is completely amoral and simply want to take advantage of you
    • Speaking in a condescending or minimizing tone
    • They play the victim though they have certain advantages
    • Their mood will rapidly shift with the intent to control the dynamic
    • Complete unwillingness to own up to a mistake, or willing to admit to a mistake if the other one concedes
    • Blames you for their own worst qualities
  • If you know they will use underhanded tactics
    1. Recognize the trick being played
      • Only observe it in order to not be drawn in by it
      • Ignore the behavior and carry on without it affecting your train of conversation
    2. Draw attention to the trick being played if they won’t stop it
    3. Negotiate about the negotiation itself (i.e. about the rules for the negotiation to be conducted)

How to make a Win-Win resolution with principled negotiation

  1. Make a date
    • Give enough time for you to prepare and ask counsel from others
    • Make sure the timing is not obstructed by other obligations
    • Set the location in a “neutral zone”
    • Start off the engagement on a positive note
  2. Insist on using objective criteria
    • Have fair standards
    • Set out the “facts” and “givens”, realities and things that cannot be altered
      • Differentiate between evaluation and observation
    • Accept responsibility for your portion of the conflict
      • Acknowledge the conflict to the people involved
      • It doesn’t help to rant about the situation in general
    • Suspend your own judgments and needs in order to be fair
  3. Separate the person from the problem
    • Clarify both sides’ perceptions and needs
      • Differentiate needs, interests and strategies
        • Needs – what someone has to have, wants are usually extensions of needs
        • Interests – what people need to get in order to fulfill a need
        • Strategies – how people carry out the fulfillment of their interests
    • Recognize and legitimize everyone’s emotions
      • They are best seen as simply signals in response to needs being fulfilled or obstructed
      • Differentiate between acknowledgement and agreement
    • Communicate clearly and intentionally
  4. Focus on interests of people involved, not positions people are coming from
    • The interests of everyone need to be clarified
      • Goals – what do each of the parties want to achieve?
      • Trades – what are each of the parties willing to sacrifice for their goals?
      • Alternatives – what will each of the parties give instead of their traded items or what we they do if they can’t get what they want?
      • Relationships – what is the history of the involved relationships and how can it impact things?
      • Expected Outcomes – what do both sides see will happen with the given situation?
      • Consequences – what do both sides see will happen as a result of various decisions?
      • Power – who has the power in the relationship from resources, and who has the most to lose?
      • Possible Solutions – given everything, what possible compromises can there be?
    • Ask questions to explore interests and understand the others’ point of view
      • Test your assumptions by asking, and relinquish them if they prove to be false
    • Be open about your own interests and feelings, within the context of how much you can trust them
    • State the consequences of various options
      • If you decide to give an ultimatum, you have to stand by that ultimatum, and the negotiation isn’t going anywhere else
  5. Create options for mutual gain and negotiate a solution
    • Brainstorm
      • Make the assumption that undiscovered options exist
      • Broaden the options, be willing to change if need be
      • Be curious in difficult situations
        • In positions of conflict, our instinct is to abandon curiosity, which dehumanizes others
      • Look towards the future, not the past, to find answers
    • Look for a mutual gain (the “Third Option”)
    • Make their decision easy to choose
    • Be explicit about agreements
  6. Follow up on the solution
    • If the other person is non-compliant to their side of the agreement, revisit the issue
    • Look at the long-term time frame, and be gracious in their delivery of the results
    • Be explicit when the situation changes
    • Always expect and plan for future conflict
Next: Coexistence 203: How To Stay Legally Safe