Surfacing our Inner Stories for Constructive Conflict

From Jennifer Tankersley

This powerful sculpture often comes to mind when I am working with my clients on managing conflict. Although on the surface, these crucial conversations are happening between grown men and women, the break-down in communication is often happening at a much deeper (and less resourceful) level.

Embracing the value of conflict is a fundamental leadership competency – inviting differing opinions and being willing to challenge status quo. However, as quoted from the Fifth Discipline Fieldwork by Peter Senge “our ability to achieve the results we truly desire is eroded by our feelings that:

· Our beliefs are the truth

· The truth is obvious

· Our beliefs are based on real data

· The data we select are the real data”

As a coach it is my role to help surface those beliefs.  What assumptions are you making? How might we test that assumption? What’s the story you are telling yourself now? What else could be true?

When we move from being controlled by our assumptions to being curious about them, we can begin to be curious about the stories and perspectives of others. This builds trust and allows for more open, empathetic and authentic conversations – precursors to getting the real issues on the table and the focus on what is really at stake. Ultimately, conflict managed effectively should lead to a greater level of understanding and connection.

As the sculpture illustrates, we are hard-wired for connection. With awareness, empathy and curiosity, conflict does not need to jeopardize that very human need.