Home > Talent Insights Blog > The Not So Nice, Emotions and Conflict that spell T-R-O-U-B-L-E.

Author: Lisa-Marie Hanson– Chief Learning Officer

I feel fortunate to have attended my colleague, Roger Pearman’s new webinar series digging into the Knowledge Skills and Attributes that involve emotional intelligence.  His recent Pearman Talent Insight broadcast focused on using EQ to help with conflict management.  It seems to me, that’s what the world needs now.  And if you have a moment, I’d suggest you give the webinar a listen.

When we signed on to the broadcast, the song TROUBLE (by Ray LaMontagne) was playing which seemed to musically sum up the year we’ve had.  I don’t know about you, but I’ve never had more relationship malaise than in this last year.  Election disputes, political divide, fighting about “facts”, acidic commentary on social media, COVID-related communication issues and relationships being “cancelled”.  All have hit too close to home for me.  This is made even worse for me personally, because I am a Minnesotan.  If you know anything about me or the great state I hail from, you’ll know there is a thing about being ‘Minnesota-Nice’.  (Insert your own geographical stereotypical affliction here).  Suffice it to say being nice is pretty rare these days, even in Minnesota.  Previous, courteous, mild-mannered, or even more (barely) acceptable professional passive aggressive responses to manage conflict have fallen by the way side – to something louder and caustic.  More hurtful. Being nice will never be enough, and conflict candidly, is winning.  The need to actively manage conflict is certainly a theme for 2021.  And, isolated ‘work from home’ scenarios certainly don’t garner ZOOMy conflict resolution and connection.  The timing was perfect — I needed this webinar and Pearman’s counsel.

One of the gems in the time with Pearman was finding the language around conflict using an emotions wheel as a tool (Robert Plutchik, 1958). Pearman proposed; What would it mean for our ability to manage conflict if we had better words to describe our fear, anger, pain or even joy?  For example,  just the other day: I said to someone I care about:  “I am so disgusted with  (fill in this blank)”.  When asked “Why?”  All I could muster was, “It’s just disgusting to me.  Disgust.  That’s all I got. Why do you need more?”   Nice, huh?

Rewind that tape — What if we were able to explore, describe, and help others know what’s really happening with more descriptive feeling words? The center of the tool shows the primary emotions that change from: surprised to shocked; angry to bitter and violated; sadness to grief.   Ah – There it is, I wish I could have said:  “I am disgusted because I disapprove and was horrified at XYZ  – which is something I fear.”  Note:  I never think of good words to describe my feelings in the moment which Pearman also can decipher as the neuroleadership mechanics and “programs running in my brain” that keep me tongue tied and safely away from conflict. But that’s another commentary by our expert –  and a way bigger topic than this blog can cover.

I especially liked Pearman’s mindful exploration to help communicate and get to the root of a situation for myself (and those I coach). So –  of course there was more.  Dare I say, Pearman offered more information to delight, solve and sooth (how’s that for an emotionally rich description?) as well as emotionally intelligent ways to perceive the feeling related to conflict in self and others, and the ability to manage those emotions.

No one escapes conflict. Every level in an organization experiences it. Individual Contributors, Managers and even Leaders at the top of the house, too.  It might look a little different at each level, but conflict can show up as a serious disagreement or argument, a mental struggle resulting from incompatible or opposing needs, drives, wishes, or demands. Competitive or opposing action of incompatibles or an active disagreement could fire off some emotions or conflict too.  The flares may feel uniquely painful, but most sources of conflict are quite typical, and often come from a dissonance between, perspectives and facts; strategies and tactics; and values and ideals.  These cause emotion, tension and well, not-so-nice reactions.  In the webinar, Pearman explored the Conflict Response Categories (Eckerd College, Tampa Florida) that could include a response that could show up for example, as passive and constructive, so that there might be a delay in responding to conflict.  Additionally, an active and destructive reaction could result in a ‘win-at-all-costs’ or demeaning situation. Ahem – 2020-2021, my above personal examples and more.

Thank you Roger Pearman — the unpacking of conflict management into behavioral, observable things we all can do – just might be what the world needs now.  So we can move beyond the conflict – and instead of being nice (even Minnesotan-nice), we can use our emotional intelligence to address what’s really going on, and bust through the real TROUBLE it causes.

Hang in there,
Lisa-Marie

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