Conflict, Vulnerability, Position – Understanding the Complexity

ConflictConflict is a natural and normal part of any team. That may sound trite, but think about it this way: Conflict is the start for something to be discovered. The discovery is what you can’t really see. It means becoming a bit of a sleuth to find what is hidden. This is the best way to manage and resolve conflict.

When people are in conflict, they are protecting their vulnerability. It is human nature to guard ourselves and feel in control by taking a stand that appears powerful when we feel vulnerable. This resolute position is only the tip of the iceberg. The position we see, the 10 percent above the water, is how to remain feeling safe. There is much more below the surface. This is when your explorer persona needs to step up.

Below is where a person’s feelings, emotions, beliefs, values, and past experiences reside. All the complexity of their life sits just under the surface. To express these parts can be extremely scary for most people, so instead they take their position.

What do you do when someone is so staunch in his or her position it heightens the conflict? In three words:

Stay curious. Listen.

Think about how you can, with compassion and caring, delve below the surface. Ask questions such as “I’m wondering how you came to that conclusion?”, “It sounds like this has happened to you before, what was that experience like for you?”, or “It seems that integrity is very important to you, how would you describe integrity?”

These questions show that you want to understand what is beneath the person’s position. Most people are willing to answer questions that are genuine. When your intention is understanding, your voice, tone, and curiosity will convey an authenticity that draws the other person into the conversation. Once a person is able to give voice to feelings, beliefs, values, and past experiences, their guard drops, their position softens, the conflict begins to resolve, and the iceberg begins to melt.