Conflict Resolution Strategy: Conflict Focus

I can’t resist posting a part of a great piece from AJ Jacobs in today’s Guardian newspaper because it is so relevant to most conflict handling: don’t multi-task during conflict if you want a good outcome.

As a Zen Buddhist might say: read when you read, write when you write, conflict when you conflict, die when you die: and I have highlighted: Our brains can’t handle more than one higher cognitive function at a time. This is part of what AJ says; do read his whole article at

I collected a shelf-full of books on attention. I won’t even mention how hard it was to focus on them. (Note to William James: I love you, but go easy on the dependent clauses.) What I took away was this: multitasking is a life-or-death problem. And not just because driving under the influence of text messaging causes 630,000 crashes a year. According to Maggie Jackson, author of an intriguing and frightening book called Distracted: The Erosion Of Attention And The Coming Dark Age, the culture of distraction is changing the way we think. It’s making it harder for us to solve complex problems. In his article Is Google Making Us Stupid? (hint: yes), Nicholas Carr writes: “Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a jetski.”

Our hopscotching brains make us more depressed (it’s harder to focus on the positive), less able to connect with people and form a conscience. And it’s an insane delusion. Multitasking makes us feel efficient, but it actually slows down our thinking. Our brains can’t handle more than one higher cognitive function at a time. We may think we’re multitasking, but in fact we’re switchtasking, toggling between one task and another. The phone, the email, the phone, back to the email. And each time you switch, there’s a few milliseconds of start-up cost. The neurons need time to rev up.

About creativeconflictwisdom

I spent 32 years in a Fortune Five company working on conflict: organizational, labor relations and senior management. I have consulted in a dozen different business sectors and the US Military. I work with a local environmental non profit. I have written a book on the neuroscience of conflict, and its implications for conflict handling called Creative Conflict Wisdom (forthcoming).
This entry was posted in Neuro-science of conflict, PERSONAL CONFLICT RESOLUTION: CREATIVE STRATEGIES, Uncategorized, Ways to handle conflict. Bookmark the permalink.

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