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BBMD tip of the week
While there are definitely gender differences, on average, between how women and men approach conflict, we aren't here to teach you how to:
"<insert anything we teach> like a man"
"<insert anything we teach> like a woman"
We're here to teach you how to be effective, regardless of whether you identify as masculine, feminine, somewhere in between, or all/none of the above.
So what are the keys to engaging in conflict effectively?
- Reframe - Your relationship with conflict and your expectations going into one
- Own - The emotional state, or "frame," of the conversation
- Seek to Understand - Your counterpart's values, priorities, emotions, and goals
- Assert - Yourself, your values, your priorities, your emotions, and your goals
- Persist - Toward either (a) a solution that's acceptable to all parties, or (b) the conclusion that no such solution is possible
The first and most important step of this process is reframing.
When most people think of conflict, they associate "damage" as an inevitable result. However, conflict is defined by us simply as "a state of mismatched or competing goals."
When we understand that conflict doesn't have to involve any kind of damage, relational or otherwise, it frees us to see conflict for what it truly is - the state in which the real progress and growth, in any relationship, occurs.
Conflict has the potential to be productive or destructive, pleasant or painful, and which side of the spectrum it ends up on relies largely upon your expectations going in.
Okay, so now you've developed a positive personal relationship with conflict - congrats! But what about your counterpart? What if they're not on the same page? The fact of the matter is that you cannot control whomever you're engaging with, so it's on YOU own the emotional frame of the conversation, regardless of your counterpart's actions.
If things are pleasant and productive, that doesn't take a whole lot of effort.
However, when you feel the emotional resonance between you and your counterpart start to dip, when you sense that emotions are becoming negatively charged, it's your job to take ownership in that moment and steer the ship toward smoother waters.
Don't worry though, there's a little thought exercise you can use to help control the situation. Whenever you see someone start to get worked up, when you see that their emotions are beginning to control them instead of the other way around, imagine that they *poof* just turned into a toddler throwing a temper tantrum. It'll enable you to maintain:
- Empathy for your counterpart - they're just a toddler after all!
- Control over yourself - it's a lot easier to react adaptively when you don't view your counterpart's negative emotional swings as a threat
- Levity - A sense of humor and lightness is key to moving past the moment of conflict without your counterpart losing face; graciousness wins here
Once you've reframed and owned the conflict, the rest is honestly downhill from there.
Lean into empathy, first seeking to understand your counterpart's position. This will make them feel heard and valued, while also providing you an informational advantage.
Next, assert your own position. We use the term "assert" very intentionally - assertiveness is the midpoint on the line between weakness and aggressiveness, so make sure that your statements cannot be misunderstood as either weak or aggressive, and you're doing it! Simply state your points in a pleasant yet matter-of-fact tone, and let silence do the work from there.
Lastly, engage the entire time with a sense of certainty that you'll either reach a mutually beneficial agreement, or you'll discover that no such solution is possible. When we persist forward toward a solution with an understanding that the "worst case" won't occur unless it's already inevitable before we've started (ie we'll leave no stone unturned in our seeking for a solution), it "takes the sting out" of the conversation and removes fear from the equation, allowing us to move more freely and effectively.
Oh and by the way, PRACTICE THIS STUFF BEFORE IT COUNTS!!!
This is all a lot easier said than done, and you don't want to be caught trying to remember these steps in your head for the first time during one of the most important negotiations of your life.
Which is exactly why our curriculum is structured in such a way that you get to:
- Learn about the theory
- Practice using role-play scenarios and other activities
- Watch us deliver a model response/example
- Practice again until you have your own version of "perfect" down pat