Description: Acknowledging the inevitability of conflict and suppressing the urge to fight or flee when emotions run hot.
Thinking Partner Notes
What’s the fiction: When the sh*t goes down, you can either fight or turn the other cheek.
What's really true: Fight or flight are not your only options. Embrace the emotions that arise through conflict to find your solution.
Example: Susan considered herself conflict-averse. She knew on a conceptual level it was valuable to have different perspectives and arguing was normal, but she avoided entering into any discussion that would seemingly go down this road. During meetings she often didn't voice her opinion, worrying that she might be attacked for it. Andre, her co-worker, was known to have strong opinions and have no problem declaring them. Since she didn't speak up, he often got his way even though others on the team valued Susan's direction more. During our Thinking Partner sessions we worked on speaking up to declare her opinion, and then what she would do when someone interrupted and challenged her (as her natural response was to shut down). We practiced not collapsing but instead receiving that person and diffusing their strong energy: To influence someone else, you must understand what already influences him or her and your communication must reflect that understanding.
Susan: "I think we should absolutely move forward on the campaign; even though we don't have the full support of the leadership team, we have to show them we are on track, and clients like what we are doing."
Andre: " I disagree–without total buy-in, it's too much of a risk."
Susan: (normally this is where she would collapse and just give in to Andre, this time instead she said): "Andre, I hear that mitigating exposure is important to you, can you tell me exactly what risks you are worried about?"
Andre: "I worry about some people on the leadership team like John, who always want to know everything before we make a move."
Susan: "We also have to show we have the self-direction and team capability to make decision too. What if you approach John and casually let him know what we are thinking, since you are most worried about him, then we will move ahead?"
They both got what they needed to proceed and the conflicting opinions made for a better solution. While it's not always this simple, the process of entering conflict to understand another person instead of defending your own position usually makes for effective forward movement and gaining self-trust to manage conflict.
Things to try: 1) Practice accepting criticism as an opportunity for betterment; 2) Practice including suggestions on how to improve an idea whenever you challenge or criticize it; 3) Practice identifying colleagues who are authentically opposed to your points of view and understanding why (Where do your differences lie and why? Where does your thinking converge and why?)
Next steps: 1) For the next week, as you go about your daily routine, carry a small notepad and pencil with you, jotting down the negative and positive thoughts about yourself whenever you notice them; 2) At the end of each day (and at the end of the week), take a look at your negative and positive thought patterns; 3) Discuss what you’ve identified with your Bleeker Thinking Partner. See if you can associate your feelings with the events, conditions or situations that triggered them.