May 2010

CH2 BOOK EXCERPT - From Local Author, Lee Ozley!

Author: Lee Ozley

WHY AREN’T YOU MORE LIKE ME? Dealing with Conflict

“Why aren’t you more like me?” Whenever I hear someone say this, I respond, “Which me do you want them to be like? Is it the ‘me’ you think you are or wish you were? How accurate is your perception of yourself? Is it the ‘me’ others perceive you to be?”

In my experience, a person’s perception of him/herself is seldom, if ever, the same as others’ perception of that person. I might honestly believe that I am very good father, husband, grandfather, friend, coach, adviser and consultant. Having said that, I am not at all sure that I would really want others to be “like me.” If one is truly honest with her/himself, we know things about ourselves that we really don’t like or we wish were different. If everyone with whom I interacted were just like me, not only would life be terribly boring, we would still be different.

PRINCIPLE: Unless you’re only dealing with robots, all human interactions will contain some level of conflict. Given some improvements in artificial intelligence, this axiom may apply to robots as well. Given the fact that conflict is, virtually, inevitable, what choices does one have in dealing with conflict?

ALTERNATIVE 1: Simply ignore the situation or “sweep it under the rug.”

While this alternative avoids any unpleasantness at the time, it has the effect of being “stored” in the hard drive of the human psyche and is really not gone. At some point in the future, the emotions surrounding the incident (although hidden, we think), will inevitably come out. In other words, the feelings and emotions surrounding the conflictual event will come out.

For example, my wife and I were having dinner at a very elegant restaurant with another couple recently. This couple had been friends of ours for more than 20 years. They had been married for some 25 years—second marriage for both. After we had finished our entrée and were awaiting our dessert, the husband (Bob) abruptly got up from the table and, without saying a word to any of us, left the table and walked across the restaurant to another table to speak to another couple. Upon his return, his wife (Jane) exploded, saying, “Bob, you are the most uncouth and rude person I’ve ever known.” Bob responded, “What did I do?” Jane retorted, “You left the table without saying a word to any of us and just walked off. This is the 23rd time you’ve done that since I’ve known you!” Bob’s rejoinder was, “Why the h—- didn’t you say something about this the first time it occurred? I was just saying hello to Bill and Susan.”

Suggestion: Ignoring a conflict by putting it away without discussion and/or addressing the cause of the conflict is not a particularly helpful alternative. It does eliminate a discussion at the time the events occurred. It does not, however, truly go away. It is somewhat like a “lost file” in our computer. The “file” really isn’t lost and gone forever. It’s still lurking somewhere on our “hard drive,” just waiting to come out.

ALTERNATIVE 2: Deal with the situation immediately, on the spot.

While this alternative gets the emotions and feelings out quickly and at the time the triggering events occurred, the “discussion” occurs while a least one party to the conflict is very upset and is not, in all likelihood, able to deliver his/her feelings in a calm and dispassionate manner.

ALTERNATIVE 3: Wait until the time is right.

Unfortunately, the “right” time may be quite some time after the events that created the conflict. In my own case, for a long time I would experience a conflict situation and delay any discussion with anyone else until I had had time to really think through the circumstances, examine my own role in the situation and then conclude if the problem was with someone else or with me.

Usually after this thought process, I would conclude that the other person(s) had done something that caused a problem for me and that it needed to be addressed and discuss it. This alternative does preclude someone from “popping off” when he/she is upset, hurt and/or angry.

On the other hand, there are some “downside” impacts:
• By the time the person chooses to discuss the situation, the other(s) involved have completely forgotten about the situation and will be at a loss to understand why it is being brought up for discussion at this time.

• The intervening period between the occurrence of the event(s) and their discussion allows the issue to fester and grow, resulting in more “heat” or energy being displayed than the situation actually warrants.

• It is very easy, after “stewing” for a period, for the person to revert to Alternative 1.

ALTERNATIVE 4: Provide feedback in a calm and caring manner without anger.

This alternative is, in my experience, the preferred approach. The balance of this book will focus on suggested tools and techniques to deal with conflict in the most productive manner possible.

PREFERENCES IN DEALING WITH CONFLICT
Research has shown that individuals have preferences in how they deal with conflictual situations. The odds are that two people in a conflictual situation prefer different ways of dealing with conflict.

Drs. Kenneth W. Thomas and Ralph H. Kilman, some 30 years ago, developed the Thomas-Kilman Conflict Mode Instrument which I have found very helpful. The conceptual model that Drs. Thomas and Kilman developed describes two basic dimensions of a person’s behavior in conflict situations—assertiveness and cooperativeness.

They go on to define five specific methods people may use in dealing with conflicts. These five methods are competing, collaborating, compromising, avoiding and accommodating.

Each one of these methods, of course, results in both positive and negative effects.

Competing is a “take charge” assertive and uncooperative mode. It is most effective when:
1. Quick decisions/actions are required;

2. The issue is an unpopular one that no one wants to address;

3. The issue is vital and you know you are right.

The negative side of competing is that one will find him/herself surrounded by “yes” men and women who are afraid to admit their ignorance and/or fears. There will also be no real commitment to the decisions/actions—people just “go along” with the decision/action.

**Accommodating is unassertive and cooperative—the opposite of competing.
It is most effective when:**
1. Continued competition would only damage the situation;

2. The issue is much more important to others than it is to you;

3. You want to build up some “credits” in the bank.

The negative side of accommodating is that people feel that their ideas/input are seldom heard and resentment builds up.

Avoiding is unassertive and uncooperative and is most effective when:
1. The potential damage is greater than the potential benefit;

2. You really don’t care;

3. Others can resolve the issue better than you can.

The negatives associated with avoiding include repressed and/or hard feelings; people feel that they are “walking on egg shells,” that they never win or that they are “put upon.”

Compromising is a sort of intermediate step in both assertiveness and cooperativeness. The times when compromising is most effective are when:
1. Expediency is required;

2. Time is not available for collaboration;

3. People have equal power and are committed to mutually exclusive goals.

Compromising, unfortunately, can result in “winning the battle but losing the war,” leaving no one fully satisfied and may well result in a decision that is not the best solution to the situation.

Collaborating is both assertive and cooperative – the opposite of avoiding. Collaborating:
1. Creates commitment;

2. Gathers input and insight from those with different perspectives;

3. Merges insights by incorporating the concerns of others.

While collaborating almost always results in the best and most appropriate conclusion, it takes time and good interpersonal skills. Knowing and understanding your preferred mode of dealing with conflict as well as the preferred mode of others with whom you interact can be very helpful in avoiding conflict in many cases and resolving conflict more effectively when it occurs.

Imagine two individuals in conflict who are both competitors. Each one must win and only one can! Who will win the battle?

On the other hand, when two avoiders face a conflict situation, what happens? NOTHING!

Yet the conflict situation still exists. I have completed the Thomas-Kilman Conflict Mode Instrument at least a dozen times and my profile has not changed.

I recommend that readers consider completing the Thomas-Kilman Conflict Mode instrument so that they can better understand themselves. Copies of the instrument can be ordered on the Web at cpp.com.

For more on conflict resolution, check out of Lee Ozley’s Web site at leeozley.com. The book WHY AREN’T YOU MORE LIKE ME? Dealing with Conflict may be ordered directly from the publisher at (800) 827-7903 or online at wordassociation.com.

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