Conflict Resolution

All polishing is done by friction. —Mary Parker Follett

There are many books out on this topic, Crucial Conversations, Fierce Conversations, Difficult Conversations, to name a few. They all point to the lack of “straight talk” in organizational life and our fear of engagement when we disagree with others. I think of conflict as situations in which the concerns of two or more people/parties appear to be incompatible. “Appear” is the operative word. The key is engaging in meaningful dialogue to find where there is compatibility and what can be done to address the concerns that are causing tension. Tension is not a bad thing—without it nothing moves!

When people gain new awareness around three concepts, they become much more confident and adept with conflict: the power of polarities, emotional intelligence (EQ) and system intelligence. Also, when dilemmas are tackled through well designed meetings with the right people in the room having key conversations—over 500 at once is no problem!—seemingly intractable issues get solved. 

Polarity Management® provides a systematic means of exploring the gold found in the paradoxes inherent in all human endeavors. The truth is, some “problems” are on-going and can never be solved in a traditional sense. These are polarities or paradoxes—situations in which both seemingly conflicting points of view are true. Once people learn how to have a both/and mindset, polarities produce opportunities for balancing not fighting. Barry Johnson’s powerful concepts bring vitality and cohesion to leaders, groups, organizations and governments.

I use the Genos Emotional Intelligence (EI) Assessment for individuals and teams to get a reading, not about raw intelligence, but about how effectively their EI is perceived by themselves and those around them at work. The rating scales are on seven skills: 1. Emotional Self-Awareness, 2. Emotional Expression, 3. Emotional Awareness of others, 4. Emotional Reasoning, 5. Emotional Self-Management, 6. Emotional Management of Others, 7. Emotional Self-Control. Given your scores, learning modules are offered. When combined with coaching, sustainable positive change is possible.

The Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument (TKI)  is a great tool I suggest for teams to appreciate individuals’ preferred conflict style as well as those of their team mates. People learn the costs and benefits of each mode and in which situations to use each them. The five modes are avoiding, accommodating, compromising, competing and collaborating. By utilizing the scores of the whole team as well as each person, possibilities for better dialogues around conflictual issues emerge.

System intelligence is not as popular but is as critical for navigating through conflict. Barry Oshry’s groundbreaking book, Seeing Systems, shows how to overcome the “systems blindness” that befalls members of organizations (families and communities too—any system.) As a result of years of study and data, he devised the Organization Workshop: Creating Partnerships which is transformational for participants. As a certified trainer and long-time student of Barry’s, I offer the Organization Workshop to clients who admit to:

  • Results that are suffering due to lack of collaboration
  • Going through a major change process
  • A culture of more blame than understanding
  • “Us” and “Them” conversations
  • Silo behavior
  • Absence of trust
  • Unresolved conflict

By learning to see how we are all influenced by being Tops, Middles, Bottoms or Customers (everyone fluctuates between those spaces throughout each day!), conflicts get eased and true partnerships are forged.

To learn how your team or organization can benefit from understanding polarities, conflict styles, and improved emotional and system intelligence, give us a call.