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4. Conflict averse vs Conflict

Debrief activity and questions

1. Please begin by sharing with each other or writing down (if you are on your own), a few of the messages from the video that stayed with you. What ideas stuck? Which ideas made more sense for you, or somehow struck a chord?

2. Please draw a horizontal line across the page and write conflict averse on one end and conflict competent at the other.

Recall that conflict averse means you tend to shy away from situations that represent tension or conflict for you, and most likely avoid making decisions that could be controversial or prompt tension or conflict. Likewise, conflict competent means you frequently lean into situations with tension or conflict and get called on to mediate differences.

Mark on that line where you consider yourself to be.

Now, if you marked yourself in the conflict averse half of the line, please jot down one behavioural tendency of yours that could be considered conflict averse. E.g., avoiding difficult conversations between team members or peers, dithering on decisions that could cause disharmony, avoiding raising topics with your boss or direct reports that could feel threatening.
If you marked yourself in the conflict competent half of the line, please jot down one behavioural tendency of yours that could be considered conflict competent. E.g., lean into relational tensions, facilitates tricky conversations where competing needs are apparent, staying present and listening to others when they are upset. If you were around the middle, jot down one of each of those two categories of behaviour.

3. Now, let’s consider the behaviour of others, and which of those behaviours you find problematic. Consider your experience working with others over the last few weeks, or month or so. Write down 2 or 3 specific behaviours that you find problematic in some way. Those behaviours might prompt you to feel irritated, exasperated, anxious, annoyed, disappointed, or hurt. Remember, please be specific in your description of their behaviour by writing what the other person actually says or does that is problematic for you.

Next, choose ONE of those behaviours, and next to it write the following two pieces of information.

  • What actual emotion does that behaviour prompt in you?
  • What is the tangible impact of their behaviour on you? That is, what does their behaviour compel you to do that you don’t want to do, or prevent you from doing that you want to do? For example, when they arrive late for a meeting, does that oblige to go back over early agenda items for them when they arrive, or perhaps prevent you from getting their input on important matters because they were absent?

Now, piece it all together in one sentence. Include the behaviour of the other person, what that prompts you to feel, and the tangible impact their behaviour has on you.

Finally, consider how you might best send that message. Remember, you don’t HAVE TO send that message if you consider it unwise, but at least creating it will give you far more clarity on where your tension resides.

4. Let’s now turn to the collective. Consider a team of which you are a member. Now, list 2 or 3 topics that you consider could be a little “hot” for the team to discuss. These are issues which might be contentious or tricky for the team to talk about.

Next, choose one of those contentious topics. In connection to that topic, draw two circles on the page. In one circle write the view or opinion that you may have heard already expressed, or you sense is an easier view to say. This one is the more expected or acceptable narrative/point of view about the issue.
In the other circle, write the point of view that could be more edgy to be expressed, or could prompt unease or tension in the group if it were said. Just a few words in each circle are required.

Finally, consider sharing the topic and the two associated views (written in the circles) with the team. Are there any in the team who you suspect could be helped by opening this discussion point? Are they any who might need to be supported or somehow protected by you if the topic was raised?

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