Understanding Conflict: Perspectives, Problems, and Empathy
Conflict a signal that something new is trying to happen.
We often don’t think of conflict in this way; instead we may think of (seemingly) pointless debates, personality clashes, hurt feelings, and distractions from the “real work.” But what if we got good at being able to disagree productively with one another? What if we could be fierce and engage in passionate discussions around issues of importance without worrying that they would devolve into mean-spirited personal attacks? How much more effective would our teams be if they could do that?
In this session, after discussing how our perspective on conflict shapes our experience of it, we will explore our own (often problematic) tendencies in conflicts, what triggers those behaviors, what more noble intentions they are trying to serve, and what choices we have about what to do instead. Drawing on the work of John Gottman, Patrick Lencioni, and Marita Fridjhon & Faith Fuller, this workshop will help you to better understand how to avoid the dilemma of choosing between artificial harmony and unproductive conflict and leave you with a plan for how to apply that new understanding.
Outline/Structure of the Workshop
Table Group Activity: What color is conflict for you? (20 minutes)
- Choose color swatches, discuss at table: 10 minutes
- Large group debrief: 7 minutes
Presentation: Why get good at conflict? (10 minutes)
- Conflict is inevitable
- Productive conflict is necessary
- Just because conflict is natural doesn't mean we're naturally good at it
- "Conflict is a signal that something new is trying to emerge"
- Our perspective on conflict shapes our experience and what is possible in it (relate back to color activity)
- Self-mastery/self-confidence is needed to be fierce
- End with partner discussion
Presentation: Intro to the Team Toxins (5 minutes)
- The Four Horsemen: Contempt, Blaming, Stonewalling, Defensiveness
- They’re natural; we all do them; they're "well-intentioned and unskillfully done"
- Let’s explore them to get a better understanding
Solo work: Dipping your toe in (5 minutes)
- Handout with toxin grid on it; move your finger around
- Think of a team or group where that toxin was particularly present; grab the label with that toxin on it.
Trio activity: What the is sound/gesture/stance of your toxin? (5 minutes)
- Get into trios/quads around each toxin
- Come up with a sound or gesture that represents that toxin (90 seconds)
- Demonstrate it to at least two other groups
Trio activity: What situations bring that toxin out? (15 minutes)
- In the same trio, discuss situations that would trigger the toxin (5 minutes)
- Group debrief (7 minutes)
Trio activity: How is it trying to help? (15 minutes)
- Tell them: “These behaviors are well-intentioned and unskillfully done.”
- In same trios, discuss: “What is the belief behind the toxin? How is it trying to help?” (5 minutes)
- Group debrief (7 minutes)
Trio activity: What’s your toxin? (15 minutes)
- Now, pick the one that’s your ”go-to”/favorite; grab the label with that toxin on it.
- Get into new trios/quads around each toxin (3 minutes)
- Discuss: “What situations bring that out in you? How is it trying to help?” (5 minutes)
- Group debrief (5 minutes)
1-2-4-All: Antidotes for the toxins (20 minutes)
- Discuss: What can you do when you start to notice the toxin coming out? (15 minutes)
- Share any antidotes that weren’t mentioned (5 minutes)
Think & Pair: Action Planning (10 minutes)
- Write: What are you going to do with what you’ve learned?
- Share your answer
- Discuss: “What will be hard about that? What did you learn today that will make it easier?”
This workshop uses table groups, triads, and individual reflection to help the participants find their own answers to these questions (and more):
- What is my perspective on conflict?
- How does that perspective shape my experience of conflict?
- What becomes possible if I take a different perspective?
- What problematic behaviors do I exhibit in difficult situations?
- What are the good intentions behind those behavior?
- How can I choose better behaviors to fulfill those intentions?
- How can have more empathy for myself and for others when those problematic behaviors crop up?
- What would the impact of making those changes be for me and for those around me?
Anyone who wants to learn more about they approach conflict and wants to be more confident about engaging in it skillfully.
Prerequisites for Attendees