When two or more people get together to do anything, they’re all bringing with them to the interaction a lifetime of stories, emotions, fears, needs, hopes, and expectations that drive their action and behavior. Often times things go great, the special mix they create together leads to fun, creativity, and connection. Often times things don’t go great, the clash of misunderstandings, unexpressed and unmet needs, and opposing perspectives lead to conflict.
Getting on the same page is something we need to do over and over again, from many different angles on many different levels, if we’re going to work through conflict in a meaningful way. Increasing our ability to recognize where and why we’re misaligned, misinterpreting, or failing to understand and appreciate one another is a key element to facilitating conflict resolution for others and for ourselves.
Within the last few weeks I’ve become fascinated by the ideas on the nature of conflict and conflict resolution put forth by Daniel Shapiro in his book “Negotiating the Nonnegotiable: How to Resolve Your Most Emotionally Charged Conflicts.” He focuses on the fundamental forces that are at play in any conflict or argument – whether it’s between partners, co-workers, ideologies, or world-leaders – and does so in a way that created, for me at least, new strategies to immediately explore in understanding and resolving my own conflicts. These key takeaways scratch the surface of his content, still, to get a sense of what it’s all about, here are some major points:
- He discusses what happens when we feel our identity (what we believe are our core values and beliefs), status, or tribe (a group we consider ourselves a part of that is fundamental to our identity) is being threatened, and how we can manage our emotions around that so we can stay open to listening and understanding one another
- He talks about the magic of appreciating the other person and their perspective and being likewise appreciated by them – it’s not enough to be “heard,” people need to know you appreciate where they’re coming from even if you disagree with them, that you value the logic and rationale behind their perspective
- He explains how to get ourselves out of the adversarial, “me vs. you” nature of most conflicts, and into a conversation that’s about “us vs. our shared problem.” It’s a switch that moves us from focusing on the specific content of the conflict that keeps us in a stalemate to the process of how we’ll resolve it together
I was introduced to Daniel Shapiro and his theories by listening to a podcast interview with him, and I followed that up by watching a talk he did at Google. Both are interesting and powerful in their own way, and both are littered with examples of how getting on the same page is a key step in a complicated process toward resolving conflict. They each come in around 45 – 55 minutes, I found them well worth my time (and more impactful than the smaller snippets of talks with him that you can find on the interwebs).
“What Every Conflict is Actually About” – fun and fairly informative podcast of an interview with Daniel Shapiro produced by Goop. This one features the Shapiro guiding the interviewer through an exercise to help her understand the nature of a typical conflict with her partner and how to resolve it (it’s an argument a lot of people can directly relate to).
“Negotiating the Nonnegotiable” – This talk produced by Talks at Google outlines his overall theory and explores each element in greater detail. The examples and exercises he details really make his ideas come alive and help you see the practical application of them for resolving all kinds of conflict (big, small, group, work-related, personal).
I’m learning as you learn on this one, I’m sure I’ll be back to write about the book once I’ve read it. In the meantime, I’d love to hear your thoughts, challenges, and feedback on the theories he discusses in these talks. Do they resonate with you? What ideas in there are useful to you and why, which are not and why? Do you feel like you can apply what he’s talking about to conflict you are in or are facilitating? How does this affect your current understanding of conflict resolution and/or tools you use for conflict resolution?