I recently posted this great quote from Alain de Botton about the way religion can teach us lessons about life:
Religions are supremely effective at education, because they know that we forget everything. They are based around rehearsal, repetition, oratory and calendars. They create appointments for us to re-encounter the most significant ideas. Every day has a spiritual agenda. In the secular world, we think you can send someone to school or university for a few years and it will then stick with you for forty years. It won’t. Our minds are like sieves, yet we unfairly associate repetition with being stifled. The Jewish or Catholic calendars are masterpieces of synchronisation: every day brings us back round to some important idea. You might need to repeat important truths 4 or 8 times a day.
And it made me think of the perennial challenge I face. I publish a blog that has many different perspectives on conflict, but whose major purpose is to help people find what I call conflict discipline: disciplined, step by step processes like the Creative Conflict Model behind this blog or like the Interest Based bargaining of Roger Fisher and William Ury. The point is to have process, like Atul Gawande suggests in his great book ‘The Check List Manifesto’. Almost any process is better than no process, just as almost any model is better than no model as a start to better handling of a problem like conflict. Air line safety has improved immeasurably through check lists before take off, while flying and on landing that reduce human error. Conflict check lists by extension could save millions of lives.
So I thought I would compile one of our Top Ten Conflict Tips on better daily conflict ritual or habits:
- Early in the day, think about your work and personal life and see if there are any areas of conflict that you are ignoring or suppressing and make a note of them: your conflict denial
- If you, for example, are facing some significant decisions, ask who else will be impacted by your decision or who is making decisions that significantly affect you
- Can this decision best be made in isolation or should you consult the others impacted/ensure you are consulted?
- Whenever you think you are headed for conflict, take a few minutes (or longer for more complex issues, hours, even days) to prepare using a disciplined process in writing
- This could be our Creative Conflict Model consisting of the Seven Steps of Getting Real, Getting Clear on Your Interests, Getting Empathetic about the Other Side’s, Getting Creative about Solutions, Getting Stereoscopic and seeing both sides of the conflict, Getting Specific on the Deal and Getting Wise by learning from the Conflict or past relevant ones
- Make sure during conflict, you tap into your emotions and understand them without suppressing them or venting them at the other side. Try also to understand what is driving their emotions
- Remember how strong our self righteousness is in conflict as in the rest of life
- Try to avoid escalation and maintain proportionality in how you respond to any provocation, even asking the other side what it is doing?
- At the end of the day, you might even do a brief mental or written After Action Review as to how the day’s conflicts have gone
- And if you don’t think you have any conflicts, think again and see if conflict denial is at work. 🙂
Conflict Denial: Conflict? What impending conflict? Neville Chamberlain achieves ‘Peace in our Time‘ in Munich in 1938