"The Man, The Mission, The Passion" Husband, Father, Attorney, CPA, Steward Leader, Entrepreneur, MBA, Author, Builder, HBS OPM 25 Class, Mentor, Teacher

Constructive Conflict: Three Styles That Fail, One That Works

constructive conflict 2 

Count on clashes; people see the world differently, people are different. Given that conflict is foreseeable, how to disagree constructively, in ways that lead us to solutions and greater collaboration? And avoid hurt feelings, lingering grudges, suppressed resentment, escalation, emotional retaliation i.e. dysfunctional disagreement. 

High directness/low intensity. 
Communication is clear, unambiguous, forthright, and comes with actions like debating and deliberating. Goal remains progress, cooperation, and creative collaboration. Respect is conveyed as well as a willingness to listen. Culture is supportive of diversity in pursuit of common mission, Win/Win, and seeking the third alternative are norms.  

High directness/high intensity.
Opposition is also expressed unambiguously but is accompanied by dysfunctional, disrespectful behavior: excessively raised voice, aggressive language, and eye rolling. “Win” at all costs is the mantra.  

Low directness/low intensity.
Low key but still highly toxic. Subtle and not so subtle passive-aggressive sabotage occurs, folk don’t volunteer information or only give partial information, they act out just below the level that would generate official rebuke, and aggressively tease. 

Low directness/high intensity.
Opposition is often indirect and expressed ambiguously and disrespectfully. Others points of view are ignored or discounted, perhaps even deliberately undermined in a mean spirited manner i.e. back-stabbing. Dysfunctional, low trust culture results.

Clearly, high directness/low intensity i.e. friendly clarity, is the preferred method of dispute resolution. Say what you mean, say it clearly, say it with a good heart, a constructive spirit, and an open mind.


This blog inspired by and draws heavily on a 5/10/15 NYT article “Defuse Discord At the Office: Be more Direct” by Phyllis Korkki which in turn referenced a recent paper in the Academy of Management Review, lead author Laurie R. Weingart, senior associate dean at Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon University.


Closing Quotes:

“Conflict is inevitable but combat is optional.” - Max Lucado, b. 1955

“Peace is not the absence of conflict but the ability to cope with it peacefully.”

“Man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.” - Martin Luther King, Jr., 1929 – 1968

As always, I share what I most want/need to learn. - Nathan S. Collier

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How We Create, How We Choose Our Lives


We often “create” situations in our lives in ways which we are not fully conscious of, particularly when we attract more of what we DON’T want. We do not go out and say “Hey, I want some more worry, negativity, conflict, stress, tension, anxiety, pressure, and drama in my life.”  Yet we choose, we create, our lives by what we direct our attention toward, where we allow our thoughts to dwell, and where we spend our energy. 

Like cars on the freeway slowing down to ogle an accident (and running the risk of getting rear-ended thus creating more of the same), problems and issues attract our attention and energy, usually FAR in excess of what is required to observe, learn, evaluate, formulate a solution, implement and move on. We worry, we fret, we stress, and like a child scratching poison ivy, we often end up making it worse. 

Solution #1: Cultivate the ability to train your mind to focus on what you do WANT and release what you don’t want, cease sending energy to the negative, and direct all emotions/thoughts to the goal, to moving forward. Few people consciously “choose” negative energy yet all too many unconsciously “create” it, attracting it unknowingly but powerfully into their lives.

Solution #2: Cultivate self-awareness: Journal, monitor your life/your emotions, your responses, track your feelings. Write down what you expect to be or feel different when you achieve a given goal; does reality correspond with your prediction? What can you learn from that? How can you improve your predictive ability about your future self?  Both as to what actions will lead to your desired outcome and whether that desired outcome is all you desire? Seek to become a better “emotional weather forecaster” of your personal life. What people, thoughts, situations, goals, tasks, places, events or mental states energize you? Drain you?

Solution #3: Find well springs of inspiration and drink deep frequently. Spiritual texts that call out to the best in you, motivation and personal/professional growth books/CD/courses that appeal to you, that correspond to your goals. Commit to being a Life Long Learner. 

Closing Quotes:

“Life is one big road with lots of signs. So when you riding through the ruts, don’t complicate your mind. Flee from hate, mischief and jealousy. Don’t bury your thoughts, put your vision to reality. Wake Up and Live!” - Bob Marley, 1945-1981

“Let a person radically alter his thoughts, and he will be astonished at the rapid transformation it will effect in the material conditions of his life.” – Napoleon Hill, 1883-1970

“Whatever we plant in our subconscious mind and nourish with repetition and emotion will one day become a reality.” – Earl Nightingale, 1921-1989

“Be thankful for what you have, you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never ever have enough.” – Oprah Winfrey, b. 1954

“Our subconscious minds cannot tell the difference between reality and an imagined thought or image. What we continually think about eventually will manifest in our lives.” – Robert Collier, 1885-1950, Secret of the Ages/Riches Within Your Reach 

As always, I share what I most want/need to learn. - Nathan S. Collier

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The Waste of an Unthinking Life

Rodin's Thinker in Silhouette 0782

The dictionary defines “unthinking” as “Not taking due thought; thoughtless or heedless; exhibiting a lack of thought.”

Too many lives are wasted, vast human potential squandered, for the lack of a bit of thought; some regular moments of introspective reflection, a bit of quiet time now and then. When we pay DEEP attention to ourselves, diving beneath often chaotic surface emotions and get in close touch with our foundational selves, listen to the calling of our souls, the songs of our spirit, then we are well along the way to living our fullest potential. 

Your life is a precious gift, your talents were meant to be developed, and your contribution to the world is uniquely yours to make. 

I strongly recommend written goals (dreams, passions, visions) for every major role you have in life and some sort of plan (ways to educate yourself, possible progress path, potential actions steps, organizational timelines, motivational deadlines). Then JOURNAL faithfully about your progress, your stumbles, your “pivots”, your emotional responses to your setbacks and successes. You will find that some things you thought you wanted you didn’t really and you will find new interests and new abilities. Best of all, you will come to know yourself better and become a much, much better predictor of what brings you lasting satisfaction and true contentment.

Closing Quotes

“I find it fascinating that most people plan their vacation with better care than they do their lives. Perhaps that is because escape is easier than change.” - Jim Rohn (1930-2009)

“In the absence of clearly-defined goals, we become strangely loyal to performing daily trivia until ultimately we become enslaved by it.”  -Robert Heinlein (1907-1988)

“People with goals succeed because they know where they are going. It’s as simple as that.” - Earl Nightingale (1921-1989)

“Failures do what is tension relieving, while winners do what is goal achieving.” - Denis Waitley, b. 1933

“People are not lazy. They simply have impotent goals—that is goals that do not inspire them.” - Tony Robbins, b. 1960

“Make no little plans. They have no power to stir men’s souls.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson

As always, I share what I most want/need to learn. - Nathan S. Collier

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