Conflict seems to be the rule rather than the exception these days. This weekend I read a quote, “Trying to find the balance between staying informed, and total insanity.” Daily doses of conflict are becoming exhausting. The disagreement over issues and differences of opinions is not what makes conflict hard. Conflict is hard because of the pain that comes from making, and taking it personally.
The root of conflict is differences; in styles, personality, opinions, priorities, goals…you get it. There is no way that conflict can be avoided, it is as common as a cold. Something that is such a common part of life should be easier to master. So why can’t we get better at it? Why do we push hard to get our way, or avoid the messiness of conflict all together?
The complexity of making a rational decision, especially as the stakes increase, require evaluating all the facts, more facts than we can easily gather efficiently before we want to move on to something else. In a word, it is overwhelming. Daniel Kahneman won the Nobel Prize in Economic Science when he and his team’s research challenged the assumptions of traditional economic theory–that people make rational choices based on their self-interest–by showing that people frequently fail to fully analyze situations where they must make complex judgments. Most people prefer the simplicity of looking at the world based on their own preconceived views that were built by their limited experiences. When individuals have enough information to validate their own view of the world, that is generally enough to move forward. Most people don’t like operating in shades of gray, but prefer black and white, right and wrong. And they don’t like to leave things hanging, so they decide where they stand, and they move on. Collaboration and cooperation is only possible when we are willing to admit, to ourselves, to each other, that we may each only have a piece of the truth.
Creating Collaborative Partnerships with others is available to each of us if we can withhold our judgement and preconceived ideas long enough to listen to another view of the truth. Remember the story of the blind men and the elephant? One had the tail, one a leg, the other an ear, each touching a different part of the whole body. It took all of them to be able to see the bigger picture; developing collaborative partnerships to work through their conflict. This week reminds me of how difficult it can be to listen to each other, to imagine what another person sees, and why, and to get curious about a point of view that is different from my own. To seek first to understand and without demanding to be understood. To embrace rather than defend. How their view influences the bigger view. How our view is closer to the truth.
How serendipitous it is that this week Xponents is releasing our first online program: Creating Collaborative Partnerships. If you want some tips on how to improve your ability to collaborate, cooperate, and work with others more effectively toward a bigger possibility, we invite you to participate in the self-directed program, or the group mastermind.
Deb Siverson is an author and president of Xponents, Inc. Her book, “The Cycle of Transformation: Igniting Organizational Change through the Leader Coach”, encourages transparent and emotionally-connected conversations at work. Her company’s focus is to bring out the best in people by recognizing and aligning unique talent, values, and purpose.