Coexistence 202: Conflicts

Back To Main
Coexistence 201: Lying

Conflicts are inevitable

Most conflicts connect to a psychological or physical need

  • A conflict is a struggle between at least two people who see a difference of views, interests or goals

Conflict is not always fighting

  • Fights and arguments come from immature and inappropriate responses to conflict

Everyone has something to gain from a conflict, but might not know it

Most conflicts happen for a few specific and innocent reasons

  • Differing definitions for the same word or phrase
  • Answers to problems others see as backward or incomplete
  • False expectations about others’ behavior that assume malicious intent

Conflict is natural and can even benefit everyone

  • Everyone can gain an increased understanding of each other
  • Groups can coexist better after a conflict
  • Everyone can improve self-awareness
  • However, good conflicts only happen when both sides are willing to change or compromise

Bringing up issues risks conflict but allows open dialogue

  • The balance of speaking directly and tactfully comes through private victory over your emotions

Build rapport with people before you encounter conflicts with them

Understand them

  • We tend to insert our autobiographies into others and give them what we want or need
  • Understanding is vital to everything with someone
  • They may not see your good intentions behind what you do

Attend to everything, especially small things

  • Keep commitments and explain the situation thoroughly when you can’t
  • Everyone is highly sensitive to rejection and negativity
  • Clarify expectations, which are sometimes challenging to address

Show integrity

  • Honesty conforms words to reality, but integrity conforms reality to words
  • Gossiping may give the appearance of trust-building, but it shows you can’t keep secrets

Apologize sincerely and quickly whenever you hurt others

  • Apologizing requires vulnerability
  • Don’t sidestep the matter
    • “I was wrong.
    • “That was unkind of me.”
    • “I showed you no respect.”
    • “I gave you no dignity, and I am deeply sorry.”
  • You can only apologize genuinely from true character strength

Observe the power dynamic

Overpowering – trying to be the most commanding person in the conflict

  • Using intensity and manipulation to control and dominate others
    • Ignores boundaries and limits
    • Only acknowledges a personal understanding of reality
    • Countering, blocking, and diverting any perceived opposition
    • Subtly or directly blaming, judging, and criticizing
  • Generally indifferent to others, where nobody else is allowed to use their power
    • Unreasonable demands communicated without warmth or feeling
    • Unwillingness to hear others’ feelings or thoughts
    • Witty sarcasm or silent withholding

Passive Power – trying to get everyone to like them

  • Never directly asks for needs or wants
  • Avoids any confrontation and makes inadequate demands for personal gain
  • Typically unwilling to bargain or negotiate for what they want
  • Uses modifiers to lessen statements’ impact (sorry, I just…, I mean…)

Personal Power – believing in mutual benefit and coexistence

  • Promotes everyone’s growth and well-being
  • Focused on what can change and what everyone needs
  • Willing to take risks to gain from decisions due to plenty of self-respect

Observe the various types of power

Coercive Power – the ability to threaten force or make others compliant

Reward Power – the ability to offer rewards and benefits to others

Legitimate Power – established by social norms as a position of influence

Referent Power – affiliations with other people

Expert Power – knowledge or expertise on a subject

There are a few conflict management styles

The best style depends on the situation, relationship, people involved, and personal goals


Can be aggressive or passive-aggressive

Openly gives their demands but doesn’t consider others’ interests

  • Pushes their point of view without regarding the other person
  • People who use this regularly are familiar with delivering all-or-nothing ultimatums

Comes from an authoritarian mentality where one individual determines everything

  • Most traditional leadership roles are Win/Lose

Win/Lose at its farthest extreme doesn’t even consider others’ losses

Destroys relationships when used frequently or to extremes


Considers others more than self or not courageous enough to openly discuss demands

Gives in to the other person’s wishes through accommodation or submission

Lose/Win comes from a feeling that personal loss is better in the long-term than the consequences of personal gain


Not willing to openly discuss demands nor permit others to gain from a conflict

Avoidance is the most common form of Lose/Lose

  • Doesn’t talk about the conflict and avoids any further discussion about it
  • Anyone afraid of a conflict does this

Two Win /Lose people who refuse to change in a conflict will create a Lose/Lose situation


Desires self-interest but wants others to benefit as well

Seeks mutual benefit in all human interactions and always looks for a “third alternative”

  • Both sides must be open-minded to undiscussed possibilities

Win/Win comes from by a belief that nothing is too scarce for everyone to enjoy

Win/Win or No Deal

Focuses on the mutual win to where losses on any side are unacceptable

Partial Win/Partial Lose

Used when Win – Win appears impossible

A mediation usually comes to a Partial Win/Partial Lose result

How to walk into a conflict

Every conflict transitions through stages

  1. At least one person notices something amiss
  2. That person identifies what they want or need
  3. That person approaches someone else with a desire or demand
  4. Everyone negotiates the conflict by expressing desires or demands
  5. Resolution of the conflict or bringing up additional conflicts

1. Prepare for the worst before approaching the conflict

By not preparing, they could be more prepared than you

  • You must know what you want and don’t want
  • You should be able to guess what they likely want or don’t want

Rate desires on a 1-10 number scale

  • Be prepared to sacrifice your lowest-priority desires to get what you want
  • Confirm their needs and wants by researching and analyzing

A negotiation should protect you from agreeing to something unfavorable to you

Prepare a BATNA (Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement)

  • A BATNA is a red line that the other person will not cross
  • Make the most of your assets to make a better BATNA
  • The better your BATNA, the more power you have
  • Look at all possible negotiable things you don’t care about

Win/Win isn’t guaranteed, so don’t worry about offending

  • You’re entering a conflict because you want to see change, but change is often offensive
  • If you care too much about others, your interests become a low priority

2. Clarify expectations as you enter the conflict

Tell them the results you desire

Give guidelines about how to accomplish the results

Identify any human, financial, technical, and organizational resources available to help create results

Make standards of performance and set a future time to evaluate the desired results’ quality

Discuss natural and logical personal and organizational consequences of what will happen from the other party’s decision

3. Be hard on the problem and soft on the person

Be a great listener

  • Misunderstanding someone is often more offensive than not listening to them

Think before reacting

  • Many people unintentionally phrase statements as attacks
  • Resist the urge to attack back at a perceived offense

You only seek Win/Win when you make great relationships a priority

  • Appeal to the other person’s best attributes
  • Even when it seems unlikely, assume that meaningful dialogue is possible
  • Learn what’s happening, not whose fault it is
  • As much as possible, keep building relationships others you’re in conflicts with

Some people are so familiar with dysfunction they have difficulty with a fair discussion

  • We all have unhealthy conditioned responses, but love avoids activating others’ responses

Use “I” and “We” more than “You” or “They”

Have a Discovery over a Perfection mentality

  • Perfection sets up Winners and Losers (this must be perfect)
  • Discovery sets up Winners and Learners (what are the possibilities?)

Most people are unaware of how they are coming across when they are upset

Some behaviors always make the situation worse

  • Escalation – increasing negativity back and forth
    • Soften your tone
    • Acknowledge their point of view
  • Invalidation – painful insults
    • Accept their feelings as entirely valid
    • Respect their feelings and concerns, even if you don’t agree with them
  • Negative Interpretations – falsely perceiving others’ motives
    • Reconsider what you think about their motives
    • Push yourself to look for evidence that doesn’t fit your conclusion
  • Withdrawal & Avoidance – unwilling to commit to essential discussions
    • Realize your interdependence of others
    • Communicate the need for space and clarify when you want to discuss the matter again

If you are making things worse, no matter how, stop pressing it

  • Since disagreements always connect to feelings, pressing your case won’t prove anything
  • If you’re yelling, you’ve already lost the argument
  • Always be prepared to walk away, temporarily to cool down or permanently
  • Sometimes everyone needs to calm down before anyone can talk rationally

4. If they won’t negotiate at all

Use principled negotiation and encourage them to do the same

  1. See the problem from their side
  2. Identify critical issues and concerns (not people) involved
  3. Determine results that provide an entirely acceptable solution
  4. Identify possible new ways to achieve these results
  5. If they keep attacking, refuse to retaliate and redirect the attacks to the problem

Have a third party mediate (help negotiate) or arbitrate (make decisions)

  • A mediator is a neutral party to help both sides create a shared agreement
  • An arbitrator is a decision-maker appointed by the party with more power

If they don’t want a resolution, avoid forcing a negotiation and start considering your BATNA

Until the conflict is over, always be prepared to walk away from it

  • Never devote yourself to an agreement
  • Never compromise your standards or values

How to use principled negotiation to make a Win/Win resolution

1. Make a date

Give enough time to prepare and ask counsel from others

Make sure the meeting doesn’t interfere with other obligations

  • Think about the emotional state you and the other person will be in when you meet from where you both came from

Set the location in a “neutral zone”

  • Don’t use arbitrage disguised as mediation since it gives them an upper hand

Start the engagement on a positive note

2. Insist on using objective criteria

Have fair standards

Set out the “facts” and “givens”, or unalterable realities

  • Differentiate between evaluation and observation

Accept responsibility for your portion of the conflict

  • Acknowledge the conflict to the people involved
  • Ranting about the general situation doesn’t accomplish anything

Suspend your judgments and needs to think fairly

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 – how people meet needs
  • Strategies – how people fulfill their interests

Recognize and legitimize everyone’s emotions

  • Emotions are signals in response to fulfilled or obstructed needs
  • Differentiate between acknowledgment and agreement

Communicate clearly and intentionally

4. Focus on the interests of people involved, not the positions they’re coming from

Clarify everyone’s interests

  • 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 are the histories of all associated 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 possesses more power in the relationship from resources and who has the most to lose?
  • Possible Solutions – given everything, what reasonable compromises can everyone make?

Ask questions to explore interests and understand the others’ point of view

  • Test your assumptions by asking and change them if they’re wrong

Be open about your interests and feelings to the degree you trust them

  • Sharing information gives a reason for them to trust you and come to an agreement but also risks them using the information against you

State the consequences of various options

  • If you are confident about the situation, set the standard by making the first offer, but keep it flexible to allow a counter-offer
  • 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 that create mutual gain and negotiate a solution


  • Assume that undiscovered options exist
  • Broaden the possibilities and be willing to change if you need
  • Be curious in difficult situations
    • In positions of conflict, our instinct is to abandon curiosity and dehumanize others
  • Look toward 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

Revisit the issue if the other person is non-compliant to their side of the agreement

Look at the long-term time frame, and be gracious to their delivering results

Be explicit when the situation changes

Always expect and plan for future conflict

Negotiation uses many dirty tactics

Graham’s disagreement hierarchy shows the depth of a disagreement

  1. Refuting the other person’s central point(s)
  2. Pointing out the other person’s error by quoting them
  3. Contradicting the other person and then supporting it with evidence or reasoning
  4. Contradicting the other person without sufficiently supporting it
  5. Criticizing that person’s tone without addressing their points
  6. Attacking the person’s characteristics or authority without addressing their points
  7. Calling the person names or using insults without presenting a counterargument

Manage conflicts with disagreeable people with a few philosophies

  1. You can only change yourself and can only influence others if they let you
  2. Someone who doesn’t want to believe something can never have enough proof to change their mind
  3. Though we hate to admit it, we are all somewhat delusional and close-minded

Watch for immoral negotiation tactics

  • Lies that divert or confuse the truth
  • Psychological abuse to make other people relent
  • Pressure tactics that force others to make mistakes
  • Feigning ignorance to force the other person to confess or pity them

Avoid succumbing to their tactics

  • Submitting to the tactic will feel right at the moment, but will ruin your chances at gaining what you want
  • Trying to fix their behavior is impossible
  • Spending any time alone with them, since it magnifies their ability to manipulate
  • Revealing your weaknesses or giving them an opportunity to learn more about you

Watch for signs that the person is only trying to take advantage of you

  • Speaking in a condescending or minimizing tone
  • Playing the victim even with certain advantages
  • Rapidly shifting mood with the intent to control the dynamic
  • Completely unwilling to own up to a mistake or willing to admit if the other one concedes
  • Blames you for their worst qualities

If you expect them to use underhanded tactics

  1. Recognize the trick they’re playing
    • Only observe it to ignore it
    • Never let it affect the conversation
  2. Draw attention to their tactic if they won’t stop it
  3. Negotiate about the negotiation itself
    • Clarify new rules about the negotiation
    • If an underhanded tactic has worked in the past, it sets a precedent that all future conflicts should use that tactic

Be prepared for legal action if the conflict becomes severe

Next: Coexistence 203: How To Stay Legally Safe