Conflict is often a sign of change and growth; both are critical for the success of an organization(if done right). So, it is important to understand how the conflict should be handled so we, as an organization, could several conflicts as an essential tool to promote a growth mindset and facilitate a progressive outcome that ensures sustained growth.
Jennifer Goldman-Wetzler, author of Optimal Outcomes, has a lot to say about this topic through his book. Let’s dive in.
What drew you to a career specializing in conflict?
My father’s parents escaped Nazi Europe, tragically leaving behind family they’d never see again. This came with baggage you’d expect: lifelong pain and grief. Like many immigrants of their generation, it was difficult to process their feelings, and my grandfather’s pain came out in bursts of anger and rage. On the other side of my family, my maternal grandmother was the quintessential “conflict whisperer.” Just by the sound of her voice, she’d stop the bickering in my family. Learning to deal with my grandfather’s rage, and through my grandmother’s example, I became the “conflict whisperer” of my family, too. I eventually made it my formal career path.
Why do so many people get stuck in what you call a “conflict loop”?
When your conflict habits interact with others people’s conflict habits, they form a pattern of interaction that keeps you stuck in a conflict loop. Half a century of research has shown that conflict begets conflict. It’s the nature of the beast. Optimal Outcomes helps us deal with that reality, and learn to free ourselves from it.
- Where and how can anyone struggling with recurring conflict begin to identify the unconscious habits that create destructive conflict patterns?
You can take what I call a “proactive pause” or a “reactive pause.” A proactive pause is when you take a few minutes out of your day to stop and reflect on which of the four conflict habits you might be relying on in any given situation. A reactive pause is when you take a moment to notice what’s happening while it’s happening. You might catch yourself yelling at your kids, blaming yourself unnecessarily, or making yet another collaborative overture even though others are not responding in kind. The first chapter in the book helps you identify your own and others’ conflict habits, and the patterns they create. We’re also launching a free quiz you can take online.
- In Optimal Outcomes, you advocate mapping out the conflict as the first step to breaking free. What exactly does this practice involve?
Just as if you were drawing a map to identify different states and countries, to create a conflict map, you identify people, groups, events, backgrounds, relationships and anything else that might be relevant in your situation. The purpose of creating a conflict map is to tell a different story about the situation than you have in the past. This gives you new insight and suggests levers for change that had been impossible to see.
- Why isn’t simply walking away from a conflict, or ending a relationship, necessarily the best way to break free from recurring conflict?
Sometimes walking away is the way to break free from conflict, and the final chapter in the book will help you decide whether that’s the best path for you. But much more often, the costs of walking away are so high that it seems nearly impossible to do so. For example, imagine the costs of never talking to your father again, or of disowning your child. Or the costs of firing your best friend. You’re not free from conflict if you’re living with regret, guilt, sadness or pain.
- In a world where conflict is inevitable, what is your ideal future? How can Optimal Outcomes help to make it a reality?
My ideal future is one where people have the practices they need to free themselves from the conflict loop and achieve optimal outcomes. This book can make it a reality by showing people how to make the practices a part of their daily lives.
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