Imagine this: your phone rings. It’s a client you’ve been working with on a really big project. The person on the other end is furious. They cannot believe the work that you’ve done has not hit the mark of what was agreed, and the impact that is now having on their clients and their work is astronomical. They are pissed. What do you do? And what do you feel?

Mad, misunderstood, unappreciated? Confused? Do you go into defensive mode? The last thing people tell me is that they feel in control. So today’s episode is all about conflict negotiation and how to feel more in control.

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Episode Transcript

023 – Conflict Negotiation – how to feel more in control

[00:00:00] Imagine this: your phone rings. It’s a client you’ve been working with on a really big project. The person on the other end is furious. They cannot believe the work that you’ve done has not hit the mark of what was agreed, and the impact that is now having on their clients and their work is astronomical. They are pissed. What do you do? And what do you feel?

[00:00:28] Most people in this situation start to feel the hairs on the back of their neck stand up, sweating in their hands, they might start to feel this anger, or confusion. The last thing people tell me is that they feel in control. So today’s episode is all about conflict negotiation and how to feel more in control.

[00:00:48] In 2018 as part of my Master’s in Positive Leadership and Strategy, I had the opportunity to attend a two day intensive on Positive Conflict Resolution and Negotiation.

[00:01:00] The program that I was studying was in Spain, and I recall doing the flight from Australia to Spain, thinking about these two days, and how to approach this conflict resolution and negotiation program. The movie I had playing in my head was, we’d be given situations that be standoffs you’d need to negotiate the best outcome, I was ready to go in and fight.

[00:01:24] The intensive course was run by a gentleman called Scott Rogers who worked at the University of Miami. He was a recognized leader in the area of law, but also in the area of mindfulness, hence the program was called a positive conflict resolution and negotiation.

[00:01:39] Scott had a fascinating approach to conflict resolution. From the moment we all arrived in his room, he had us hooked. Today. I want to share a little bit about the idea of resolving conflict and the difference between Reacting and Responding to conflict. How you can become a calmer in a situation to clear your mind and feel better equipped to handle anything that comes your way.

[00:02:06] It sounds pretty good. Doesn’t it? Let’s get into it.

[00:02:09] The first thing I want to mention is the amount of time we spent on each topic. We spent 90% of the time on our mindset, and 10% of the time on the tools. This really surprised me because I was expecting to walk away with a handful of tangible tools that I would then roll out as part of my conflict resolution and negotiation. But it really challenged me to change the way I thought about conflict.

[00:02:35] The reason we spent 90% of the time on our mindset, was the idea that you are the tool. The better your mindset, the better you Respond (choice of action) instead of React (unconscious action). So today we’re going to be talking about Reacting versus Responding.

[00:02:52] The reason that we React is because we are hardwired that way. We built for survival when we feel under stress or pressure, our body reacts to keep us alive. But our brain hasn’t really evolved that much from this caveman, cavewoman days, when we had to react to survive. Now, there’s a lot of things that we have emotional reactions to, that we don’t need to. So this is all about how can you build your mindset to be able to choose your response.

[00:03:24] I’m sure we can all think of a situation where you Reacted, and perhaps took it a little bit out of proportion.

[00:03:30] So the standard conflict reactions, not responses are Avoidance, Attack, or Accommodating. And I’m sure we’ve all heard of these. If you are in a conflict situation, you can avoid it, as in step away, pretend it’s not there, hope it goes away by itself. You can counter attack while you getting attacked, you attack back. Or you can accommodate, find some sort of middle ground.

[00:03:58] There was an amazing book called “Man’s Search For Meaning”. It was written in 1946 by Victor Frankl. He was recording his experiences as a prisoner in Nazi concentration camps during World War II.

[00:04:10] There’s some really interesting research that people’s survival in these concentration camps was linked to their mindset. Viktor Frankl has a quote that says “between stimulus and response, there is a space, in that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and freedom”. He’s essentially saying stimulus, being any situation, when we respond, react, how can we create that space? Because that space between the situational, the stimulus, and how we respond to it, not react. So conscious choice respond. That space, that is our power to choose. And in our response lies our growth and freedom. It is a really powerful book if it is something that you’re interested in reading.

[00:05:02] The reason for mentioning it in this podcast episode is creating a space between the stimulus and how you respond, is how you gain control. So when there is a situation or some stimulus that normally you would react to immediately without thinking about, here are a couple of tips on creating that space between your stimulus and your response.

[00:05:24] The first is to take a breath. When you notice that your heart starts to race or your hands start to sweat or whatever it is that happens when your buttons are pushed to take a breath.

[00:05:38] The second thing is to find a way of labeling it that’s neutral. By saying something like “hmm. That’s interesting” before choosing how to respond.

[00:05:48] It might be that you’ve heard of someone in the office that has said something negative about you. And instead of going directly off the handle, take a moment, take a breath. Think “Hmm that’s interesting”. This allows you to respond. You can find out some more information, you can decide if you want to get involved, you can choose your action.

[00:06:08] The space is our growth. And you can also grow this with meditation practice.

[00:06:15] You can see by explaining it that way, why have we spent 90% of our time in this course on our mindset, how to be able to control our reactions? How to be aware of our emotions and our feelings in situations, particularly in conflict situations, so we have better control of how we respond.

[00:06:33] By acting in a positive, constructive way we open up opportunities and options not yet thought of. By attacking and threatening in a negotiation, others are likely to react by unconsciously shutting down the evolved part of their brain, this neocortex, and reacting with this caveman cavewoman brain, your amygdala, which narrows our options.

[00:06:55] Sure it can be an effective technique to intimidate the other person. But do you want to be on the other side? And does this give you a good outcome? It doesn’t.

[00:07:05] There’s a quote in the book, Seven Habits of Highly Effective People that I’ve spoken about before that I think is also really effective in this area, which is “first try to understand, then try to be understood”. And the same goes with our conflict resolution and negotiation. If we have two people trying to convince the other person of our position, you have two people talking and nobody listening.

[00:07:28] If you understand the other person’s perspective before arguing your own, you are more likely to have a better outcome for yourself and the other person.

[00:07:36] Sometimes it can be really challenging to want to understand another person’s point of view. Something to be aware of is if you a challenged with finding empathy for others, you might find it a challenge to find empathy for yourself. Mindfulness helps empathy, and self-compassion. There are a lot of great apps out there that can help build your mindfulness, moment by moment. And just a couple of minutes per day.

[00:08:04] The better we understand our mind and our reactions to things the better we are in control of it.

[00:08:11] The reason I want to do the episode today on Responding versus Reacting as it came up in a coaching session that I’d had recently. For this particular person, this reaction, jumping to a conclusion or playing out a movie of a worst case scenario, was starting to take over a lot of their mind space and also a lot of their energy. So we talked about how to be able to create a little bit of space between the stimulus or the situation, and her response, not her reaction. The first step, just noticing it. And the closer you notice it to it happening means you’re on the right track. At first, you might only notice that it’s happening the day later. And then you might start to noticing 10 minutes after it’s happened and then you might start to notice just before you react to something and that’s great. These are the micro improvements that we’re looking for. So when you then start to notice that you are reacting into a situation. It’s to do the technique I spoke about before, take a breath, think “that’s interesting” also think “is it true? Or am I making it mean something.

[00:09:19] From here, you start to get better control of your thoughts and your emotions, and also how you respond to the world around you not react.

[00:09:28] If you’ve ever thought of negotiation and conflict resolution, as something you needed to armor up for, I hope today, I might have challenged that thinking a little bit and got you to think more about the mindset you have going into a negotiation, versus the particular tools that you can defend yourself with or attack the other party first with.

[00:09:45] The other point, try to understand before wanting to be understood, and start building that gap between the stimulus or the situation, and how you respond.

[00:09:57] Thanks for listening today if you found it useful, I would love it if you could jump on the podcast platform and leave a review, so other people know what the podcast is about and if it would be useful for them too.

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