Conflict is Inevitable, Learn to Leverage It
Speaker 1: (singing)
Rebecca Fleetwood Hessian: This is Write Your Own Story: Three Keys To Rise And Thrive In Life And Business. I'm your host, Rebecca Fleetwood Hessian. " Why can't we all just get along?" Have you ever said that to yourself or maybe to somebody in the spirit of just frustration of conflict or misunderstanding? Well, sure you have because we're humans. And the answer to that question, " why can't we all just get along," is because we're all different down to our fingerprints. And that in and of itself is going to create conflict and frustration and differences. And the fact is it's inevitable that we're going to have conflict and we need it. We need it to grow. We need it to learn. And so if it's inevitable and we need it, really the question is why can't we all get better at conflict and differences and seeing things differently? And because I've had a theme the last couple of weeks with my clients of frustrations and conflict and just not getting along, I thought, well, let's just address it here on the show.
Rebecca Fleetwood Hessian: So today I'm going to share with you the common theme in all of the conflict that I helped clients address these last couple of weeks are really what's our response to conflict when it happens? And so I'll share some of the situations that I help my clients deal with, obviously not sharing their names or their company names, but these were all real scenarios and in each one of them, including my own shit show of a day yesterday. Oh my goodness, y'all, just to give you a little context because it just seems too funny and crazy. So at 4: 30 AM yesterday my Facebook account was, my personal Facebook account, was hacked. And by the time I even woke up, it was they had changed my name, my password, and gotten my account permanently disabled. So that was yesterday. So if you're trying to reach me on the book of faces, probably need to jump over to Instagram or LinkedIn or TikTok or something because yeah, I'm not on Facebook right now. Maybe never to be again, I don't know. We'll see.
Rebecca Fleetwood Hessian: But in each one of these scenarios of conflict and frustration, including my shit show day yesterday, the very first response that is necessary for us is to get our own nervous system regulated. Get us to a place where we can have a calm thought and go into some of the next steps that I'm going to share with you in a way that will be helpful. And we talk about this a lot on the show, you know our friend Eliza Kingsford, who has taught us a lot about our nervous system. And the key there is there are just a handful of things that you can do in that moment of frustration. The first one that I go to almost every single time is to get outside, to get into nature, to allow my system to regulate with nature's system, to start that regulation process, to bring my emotions down, to bring just calmness in my body. So that's the first one that I go to. It's free, it's available all the time. Get outside. Combining that with the other one, which is movement. If I can take a walk outside, that's just doubly helpful. Moving your body. Maybe it's the kind of weather where it's you just can't handle it, and treadmill might be a better option. Or just walking around your house or the office or just moving your body starts to calm your nervous system. Other things you could go to gratitude, the emotion of gratitude, not just writing it down on a list. There are just a handful of things that we can do. If you want to take it to a whole different level, learn the act of tapping, just Google tapping. And there'll be all kinds of tutorials, which is tapping certain meridian points on your face, your body that regulate your nervous system.
Rebecca Fleetwood Hessian: So the first thing in addressing frustrations and conflict is to get yourself together. Check yourself before you wreck yourself. Because if we try to address conflict in a dysregulated state, we're not going to do ourselves or the other people involved any favors. And we're probably going to exacerbate the problem. So get yourself together is step number one. And then once you've got a chance to do that, then you start to look at the situation that you're dealing with. So as you are evaluating the situation, ask yourself, I wonder what's going on with them? Because just like ourselves, when we are dysregulated and we're feeling some kind of way and we're all worked up, we sometimes respond to situations in a way that has nothing to do with the situation itself. It's more about what happened that morning with a spouse or a kid or your Facebook page being deleted. Sometimes we respond to situations based on our dysregulation from something completely unrelated to the conversation we're having in the moment. So step one is just ask yourself, " I wonder if there's something else going on that is causing this person to respond in a way that is uncharacteristic of them?" Especially if it's somebody that you work with all the time or a family member, somebody that you know their normal state, and it's just this doesn't feel like it. Because when we get curious about how others are feeling or what's going on with them, we start to build empathy for the fact that this may have nothing to do with the conversation that we're having.
Rebecca Fleetwood Hessian: We don't want to assume. We all know the joke that when we assume we make an out of you and me. We've probably all heard that. If you haven't, if you write the word assume and circle the first three letters and in the middle, and then last three, there you go. I've taught you something today, you're welcome. So we don't want to assume, we want to be curious, we want to ask questions, and we want to come from a place of empathy for the fact that we are all different down to our fingerprints. And so it's unreasonable, unrealistic for us to think that we all value the same things. We're going to see things the same way. And so we just want to just acknowledge that truth, that we're all very different and we value things differently. And so that is going to create conflict.
Rebecca Fleetwood Hessian: So once you've asked yourself, " okay, I wonder what's going on with them?" And you can separate yourself and just say, " well, maybe they just had a rough day." So in one of my scenarios, this was a frustration with a business partner, who work together frequently, understand who they are, their patterns. And when I asked, " I wonder what's going on with them," gave it some space. And then the next day reached out to that person and said, " Hey, I know you're frustrated. And I get why." And because in this particular situation, this one was about me. I did understand why they were frustrated. I was frustrated too, but I had to make this decision that was going to just be frustrating. And so I first acknowledged, " Hey, I know this is frustrating and I get it, and I just wanted to check in. Is everything okay?" And lo and behold, it wasn't. There was a significant issue with family and health that they were just in emotionally and it had triggered all of their dysregulation of their nervous system. It was a big deal. And so I was able to say, " I'm so sorry. How can I help you? Let's get together and talk about it." And we did. A couple of days later, we had coffee and this person said, " thank you for knowing that I was... My elevated levels of frustration, that you saw me, that you reached out, and that we're here having coffee together today. Thank you for the grace and the space, and I'm sorry for the way I responded." No apologies necessary. Because when you are in business relationships with people that you care about and you are trying to see them and know them, these are the kind of responses that you can give, is grace and space. And then to come back together and say, " Hey, are you okay? How can I help you?"
Rebecca Fleetwood Hessian: Sometimes it's not that close kind of business relationship where the patterns of this person, and you can have that kind of conversation. In one of the situations that I dealt with a client, in fact, there's lots of frustration that have been building between these two people over time. And this person that I'm coaching said, " I did not handle this well." They had already acknowledged I put gas on the fire. I came at it trying to control the situation, trying to just overcome this person because I was feeling threatened and I was really frustrated. So then you step back and you say, " okay, what do I know about this other person? How are we different?" And in this situation, very different. Their roles are very different. What they value is very different and it should be that way based on who they are and their roles. And so I was able to help this person understand that it didn't have to be a battle, it didn't have to be a confrontation.
Rebecca Fleetwood Hessian: First we want to honor that that person is coming to this situation with the appropriate values that they have. Their particular values are they value everything has rules, everything has a system. Everything is orderly. Because the role that they have in the organization is to help the organization with what I call the control measure optimized, to make sure that there are systems and processes and a sense of order. That's what this other person values strongly. Well, my client is in a situation where she deals largely with the external customers, clients', opportunities, and is often needing to go outside of the day- to- day order in order to meet these clients' needs. And in her situation, oftentimes that's required. And so already these two people are completely different and valuing very different things. And so by nature, there's already going to be this sense of conflict. And so I asked her to see the situation through the lens of this other person, and immediately she started to evoke empathy. And she said, " yep, I can absolutely see why she responded the way she did, especially because I didn't handle it well." And lo and behold, they were both vying for a resource in the organization and they saw it differently and they wanted it to be different. And so I encouraged her to go back to this person and apologize. Say, " I did not handle this well." And after some time of reflection, you know we always talking about reflection and connection around here, after some reflection, " I really want to have another conversation." Now we go back to connection and talk about how we can move forward with this particular resource, with this business scenario in a way that we can both honor each other's needs and come up with a solution that we can both honor and value and looks like they're going to be able to do that. And this other person said, " I realized from this conflict, from this challenge that we do have resource constraints and there are different ways that we can handle those."
Rebecca Fleetwood Hessian: So again, it's conflict that allows us to see situations differently and oftentimes give us a better business outcome because of the conflict if we can handle it well. My favorite phrase for this, when we are in this situation where we're seeing things very differently and when we back up and reflect, we realize that we have different values, we are motivated by different things, just look at differences in each other. My favorite phrase is to remind ourselves that we are all not wrong, just different. Not wrong, just different as a paradigm in a perspective allows us to see that other person not as competition, not as someone that we have to overcome and overpower. It's not a competition. We don't have to win. We just need to see them and see how their differences are actually valuable in some ways, not just frustrating in the situation that we're in now.
Rebecca Fleetwood Hessian: So sometimes I'll ask a client to look at that other person that they're in conflict with and based on how they are different, first acknowledging the differences. How are their differences valuable to you in the organization? So we can start to see it through this lens of, " oh yeah, we're different and we're in a conflict, but I need this person's differences oftentimes." And so we can start to again, evoke empathy and curiosity and then come back in connection to say, " okay, how are we going to move forward? What are we going to learn from this situation?"
Rebecca Fleetwood Hessian: And especially as leaders in conflict, sometimes as leaders, we make decisions that not everybody is going to agree with. My goodness, that is a key part of leadership. And so being able to look at the decision that we've made and reflect and say, " okay, now that the conflict has happened because of my decision, not everybody's happy with this decision. It's not sitting well with everyone," coming back and saying, " okay, would I still make this decision again even though it's not popular?" And if we've done our clarity and context and we've really reflected on the decision beforehand, the chances are usually, yeah, I would still need to make this decision. So then we come back and we go to those people who don't like our decision and we don't just jam it down their throats. We give them again, the clarity and the context. Here's the situation, the context is everything that's circling around that decision and why you made it. People need to know the why, not just the what. And if they still are unhappy with the decision, which they probably are going to be, we're not asking people to change their minds usually, we're just saying to them, " I see you. Thank you for coming to me with your concerns."
Rebecca Fleetwood Hessian: In one of my client situations, that is very much the case. The people that are frustrated with the decision have a completely different set of values and they want the organization to take a stronger stance on some things that they value. And so this leader was able to say, " I acknowledge that you have stronger opinions about this than we are going to take as an organization, but we respect you. And if there are other organizations outside of ours, where you want to be involved in the community to take a stronger stance and honor how strongly you feel about this particular topic, we encourage you to do so. We see you, we honor that that's important to you. It's just not a stance that we're going to take as an organization." And then that employee can feel seen and seen, heard and known is one of our deepest core needs. And so the organization can say, " even though we're not going to take that decision that you would've preferred, we see you and we understand why this is important to you."
Rebecca Fleetwood Hessian: So I hope this is helpful just at a high level to say, first, regulate your nervous system. Just get yourself calm. Then be curious. Ask yourself, " I wonder what's going on with them?" That evokes empathy. Not making an assumption, but asking questions and giving people the opportunity to have another conversation once you're calm and look at the situation from both sides, what do we value about this person? How can we move forward and what can we learn from it? Because we're always going to have conflict, y'all. So we might as well just honor it and remind ourselves that conflict is one of the ways that we can learn and grow for ourselves and for our organization. I hope that's helpful.
Rebecca Fleetwood Hessian: And conflict is one of the things we're going to talk about in the experience that I'm launching next month for A Thousand Thriving Women because I want to put these tools to help you learn, grow, and thrive in the hands of so many more people. So if you want more information about that, click the link in the show notes and let's chat about it. All right, love you, man.
Speaker 1: (singing)
Rebecca Fleetwood Hessian: Thanks for listening to this episode. I would love it if you would leave a rating and a review on Apple Podcast and then go to WeThrive. live. First thing you'll see is a place to drop your email and join the movement. I'll send you tools that you can use to thrive in life and business.
Speaker 1: (singing)
Rebecca Fleetwood Hessian: Hey y'all, fun fact. Did you like the music for the podcast? That is actually my son, Cameron Hessian. And I would love it if you would go to Spotify and iTunes and follow him and download some of his other music. My personal favorite is TV Land.
“The question isn’t, ‘Why can’t we all get along,’ it’s, ‘Why can't we all get better at conflict and seeing things differently?’”
Acknowledging Conflict. It's inevitable, we're all different, and at some point, there will be friction. Today, Rebecca talks about strategies for regulating our nervous systems and leaning into curiosity so we can address conflict in a healthy and productive manner.
In this episode, you’ll learn:
- Tips for regulating your nervous system before addressing conflict
- To acknowledge the reality of our differences and leverage them, rather than fight them
- How conflict can create the opportunity for better business outcomes
Things to Listen for:
[00:12] Why can't we all just get along?
[03:00] Regulating your nervous system
[05:16] Get yourself together, evaluate the situation, and practice empathy
[14:21] Finding better business outcomes through conflict
[16:08] Holding space for conflict
[17:38] Pathways to honoring differences
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