There is nothing more distressing than having to work in an environment of personal conflict, where even the smallest thing can spark off a very heated argument.  This is especially because you can find yourself being pulled in opposite directions as those involved seek to find moral support.

It’s strange how life goes but recently I have found myself embroiled in a number of completely disconnected situations where deeply entrenched animosity is seriously impacting, not only the individuals concerned but also on their organisations and ultimately families.

Obviously, I am not going to go into specifics here in public but needless to say, I have spent a great deal of energy and time trying to understand the fundamental causes of each dispute. If you like, to find the real ‘why?’  Apart from the obvious; one person (or group) wanting something different from the other, it appears that often one side tends to argue based on rational logic while the other argues from an emotional standpoint. From a diversity point of view, I am happy to report that this is not definable as a male / female phenomenon.

This is how I see things develop:

1.       The logical people believe in the rationality of their argument and expect others to see it the same way they do.

2.       Because something very deep is at stake, the emotional defendants will chop and change their arguments against the logical, to try and win at any cost. When I look deeper I find that often their real problem is not the issue being argued about but something much more fundamental, such as a deep seated personal feeling of rejection or powerlessness or inferiority, or even a sense of moral injustice – “it’s not fair!”  etc.

3.       The logical, because they are logical, remain by their original standpoint, adapting only as and when subtle improvements to their argument emerge.

4.       The logical’s inflexibility tends to make the emotional even more angry and upset. And because the emotional are unlikely to feel ready to voice their real feelings, especially with those that appear to be ‘attacking them’, the situation is very unlikely to ever come to a sustainable resolution.

Consequently, while one group might be arguing what is best for the business from a logical standpoint the other is resisting from an emotional one.

So what to do?  In my role as change manager, my approach is firstly to try and defuse the situation and then to win everyone’s confidence.  Once a basic level of trust has been established I then attempt to go down to the deepest emotional level s of both sides to discover the real drivers of the argument.  If (and it is a very big if) I manage to achieve this I can then set out a strategy for helping each person (or side) to manage their emotions to find a way of separating them from the topic of the argument itself.  This is extremely difficult and I am not a professional counselor, to say the least, so it does not always work.  But sometimes you have to try.

In my experience, bringing in specialists sometimes helps, sometimes it makes things worse.  So it is no wonder for me that partnerships in businesses, personal relationships and families sometimes break to the detriment of everyone involved.

Hoping you are not suffering from a reoccurring personal conflict and that if you are, someone is helping you through it,

Have a good week,