Before I start teaching a course or workshop about conflict management, I always tell my students that I have a modest goal for the class: to change their hearts, minds, and behaviors.
We all laugh, because of course that isn’t really a modest goal; in fact, it’s a very ambitious one. But, rather than teaching people formulas or “magic” phrases that will automatically resolve a conflict or make it disappear, I truly aim to change how my clients and students think and feel about conflict in general, how they view the other people in the conflict, and what they do about the disagreement. It is simple, but not at all easy. And yet, I’m happy to report that these changes generally happen by the end of the coaching series or program.
So how do I invite people to change their hearts and minds?
I give them information about what conflict really is and how it is frequently rooted in misunderstandings and assumptions. I help them understand why a situation or someone’s words or actions trigger them and how it’s related not to just the present but our past experiences. By teaching them skills for curiosity and empathy, I help them understand that others have a different story and a different path, that impact how they show up for conflict.
Practical Skills and Love
Then I give them practical skills and help them practice how to actually have a difficult conversation, or to analyze a conflict. And, perhaps most important of all I love them and encourage them to love themselves. To see our own mistakes and those of others as part of the human condition, so we can learn and grow rather than judge or resent. I am grateful and filled with joy that by the end of a class, particularly the 12 week program I teach at Sonoma State University, many of my students have increased self awareness, more compassion, and a better tool kit to successfully navigate conflicts at work.