Conflict Resolution – What Are The Feelings Underneath?
My name is Sari van Poelje. I’m the Director of Intact Academy and of Agile Business Innovation. We help businesses innovate more quickly than their products so that they can accelerate their time to market. If you want to know more about that, please go to our websites: www.intactacademy.com and www.agilebusinessinnovation.com
We were talking about styles and types of conflict. Now we’re going to talk about conflict resolution. Conflicts are something that appear in our daily life, but also over a lifetime as well. I sometimes wonder what does a conflict actually mean? A conflict can be the pathway to re-deciding your life. For instance: You start fighting about who puts out the trash, and you end up walking away thinking, “nobody loves me anyway!”. Or you’re fighting about who puts out the trash, and you walk away thinking, “I always have to do everything around here!”. Or you walk away and think “Tenderness is more important than trash”. Conflict can be a pathway to reconfirmation of what you already know, or a conflict can create a doorway to something new in your life.
You can redesign your pathway in life. You could have that same conflict about who puts out the trash and decide, “this person loves me and this is just a conflict about who puts out the trash. How are we going to deal with this?”. Or you could have the same conflict and think, “obviously, I’m in a relationship where everybody does something to their own ability, and maybe I’m taking too much responsibility. Can I let go of that responsibility and relax into being instead of doing?”. At the social level, we talk about who puts out the trash, but our experience of conflict is always emotional. What might be interesting is to find the word that expresses what you usually feel in a conflict.
My experience of conflict between people is that the feeling they have after a conflict is always familiar. No matter what conflict they’re having, or with whom they have conflict, that person who puts out the trash walks away thinking, “nobody loves me!”. They always feel a victim of circumstance after conflict. They always feel this impotent sadness, which hides the anger underneath.
For many reasons that person who walks away thinking, “I always have to do things around here”, walks away angry. Underneath they are always sad, because they feel alone, nobody’s supporting them in what they’re doing. If it’s about the trash, or it’s about their new job, or it’s about the strategy within the organization they are in, they’ll always walk away thinking they must put out the trash in whatever form that takes.
Focus on the feeling and think about what it is you are missing. Each feeling gives us information about the need you have underneath. The guy who walks away thinking, “I always have to do things around here”, walks away with the sadness of never being supported. That feeling of sadness tells you something about the need for having that arm around their shoulder. Having an experience of support.
The other thing that you could focus on during a conflict is to step away and think, “I’ve had this conversation about trash many times. Yes, I’m feeling that way but what opportunity does this give us?”. You could have that same conversation, have a laugh together and say, “we’ve been here before. What is it we haven’t thought about together that gives us an opportunity for change in our relationship?”.
You could start hearing an attack as a way of reaching out by someone who doesn’t know how to reach out differently. I know people focus on the slap in the face, but the slap in the face is also a hand reaching out to you. Can you hear the attack as a request for support? If you can, not only of the other person, but also of yourself, what does that tell you?
Those are my three invitations. The reasons for a conflict seem grounded in fact but are actually very emotional. Look at the feeling underneath, the opportunity, and the request for support.
That’s the first step in conflict resolution.