Did you ever get in trouble as a kid and have a teacher or parent make you sit down and talk or write about your behavior? Yeah, me neither. If you were one of these hypothetical children who did get in trouble you would have probably thought that talking through whatever made you act out was “stupid” or “a waste of time” (again, I’m speculating since I was a perfectly behaved child). Your preferred response to (hypothetically) having an argument with your brother was probably to either go to your room and isolate yourself or to break his Nintendo (because theoretical older brothers are jerks and deserve to be punished).
Have you ever considered why these two vastly different behaviors are such a natural reaction to conflict? We are internally programmed to respond to conflict with “fight or flight” that gets translated in our actions as either total silence or acting out violently. In the real world neither of these two responses are effective means of resolving conflict. There are no shortage of books and seminars which attempt teach the methods of conflict resolution. Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When the Stakes are High is a 2002 book that addresses this issue. The conflict resolution methods taught in the book have been incorporated into an intensive two-day seminar.
To learn more about corporate conflict resolution techniques as our company grew, TheBestSchools.org’s James A. Barham attended the Crucial Conversations seminar. In his review he outlines how the techniques in Crucial Conversations help to get past the “silence or violence” reactions so that meaningful conflict resolution can occur. He details and reviews the eight sections covered in the seminar:
- Getting Unstuck
- Start with Heart
- Master My Stories
- STATE My Path
- Learn to Look
- Make It Safe!
- Explore Others’ Paths
- Move to Action
These eight sessions teach that resolving conflict starts with self-reflection and evaluation of one’s own position (Getting Unstuck and Start with Heart). From this point we can work on clear communication that separates objective from subjective in a respectful manner (Master My Stories and STATE My Path) all the while having empathy for the other participants in the conversation (Learn to Look, Make It Safe! And Explore Others’ Path) so that all involved can Move to Action.