Gender Intelligence and Conflict
Barbara Annis begins the program by sharing some of the fundamental differences between men and women when it comes to conflict. She says the sexes really do react to conflict differently. Women tend to internalize conflicts and ruminate about it. Men tend to externalize it. They will often make a decision to either resolve it or move on, which as Barbara explains, links to the fight or flight response.
What is S.A.R.A.? Shock, Anger, Rejection, Acceptance Barbara describes SARA as the path that men and women take as they go through situations of conflict. Her advice is not to get stuck in Shock, Anger or Rejections, but to commit to a period of ‘short-term’ suffering where you truly ‘feel’ those moments, but have a genuine intention to get to Acceptance. While men tend to get stuck in being angry and women often get stuck in rejection, Barbara believes we are ineffective in communicators when we are in either state.
Blame-Frame and Outcome-Frame These are the two frames of reference that Barbara refers to in her books and workshops. She says blame is really about creating a win-lose. I’m right and you’re wrong. On the other hand, Outcome Frame is really about asking ‘what’s ’the win-win here?’ How can we get to understanding?
Using Triangulation Barbara’s described the theory of ‘triangulation’ where people in the workplace choose to complain to others rather than taking on conflict in a direct way with an individual. Barbara explains why ‘triangulated behavior’ only complicates things, but it’s a pattern people fall into. She believes that rather than involving other people, it’s better to go directly to the individual you are having a conflict with to resolve it. The key is having ‘zero commitment’ to triangulation.
What Can We Do About It? A Gender Intelligence Worksheet: The next time you’re in a conflict situation, take a few moments to review and apply each of these 6 ways to reach a positive resolution.
Ten Techniques for Resolving Conflict: Regardless of gender, these techniques will help you when you find yourself in a conflict with a colleague:
1. Stay calm. One big thing that can intensify conflict is anger. To keep the conflict from escalating, take a mental step back and remain calm. Chances are if you can remain calm, those around you will calm down as well.
2. Listen to understand. Once the anger sets in, we tend to stop listening to understand and we start listening to argue back. It will be difficult, but you need to practice your active listening skills and listen to understand.
3. Own what is yours. Are you part of the problem? Take ownership of your mistakes and apologize for them. This will usually surprise people—in a good way—and make them more open to resolving the conflict.
4. Leave a little room for doubt. Rather than insisting that you are right and the other party is wrong, leave a little room for doubt. Take the opportunity to check your sources and confirm what you know. While you still may be right, you are gathering more information.
5. Use an “I” message. “I” messages describe the experience from your point of view without blaming the other party. Using an “I” message is a way to express your needs, expectations, and problems to your listener in a non-‐confrontational way. Some examples: •I expect...•I understood you to say...•It was my understanding that...•I guess I misheard. Please...•I would appreciate it if...•I need...
6. Attack the problem, not the person. If you want your point to be heard, depersonalize your comments and talk only to the issue. Rather than accusing the other party, frame your statements towards finding a solution. For example, instead of “You’re always getting that wrong,” frame the statement as “Let’s look at why this keeps happening.”
7. Avoid finger pointing. In conflict resolution, assigning blame is only helpful in one situation—if you assign it to yourself. When trying to resolve a conflict, figuring out whose fault something is does nothing to solve the problem. Instead, focus on problem solving, not finger pointing.
8. Pick your battles. Do you need to be right, or do you need to resolve the conflict? It’s human nature to want to be right. Unfortunately, this gets in the way of conflict resolution. Right or wrong, if the issue means a lot less to you than it does the other party, it’s best to concede.
9. Focus on now. Stay out of the past — it doesn’t belong in conflict resolution. Bringing up old arguments or problems will do nothing to help solve the existing conflict. Instead of focusing on what went wrong, or who didn’t do what (both in the past), shift the focus to finding a solution.
10. Be willing to let it go. Don’t hold on to past conflict. This only gets in the way of your ability to resolve conflict in the future.