Blind Spots and Conflict

Conflict Remedy Blog by Lorraine Segal

Shining a light on your blind spots can help you with conflict.

Blind spot—an area where you cannot see clearly; a tendency to ignore something especially because it is difficult or unpleasant.

Almost all humans have blind spots in  thinking and feeling, just as rear and side view mirrors in cars leave dangerous gaps in your ability to see what’s around us. No one sees everything clearly and accurately, but you can learn about your blind spots and compensate for them more skillfully.

Like me, maybe you have been burningly conscious of the mistakes other people make, but deny the negative impact of your words and actions. Untended blind spots fuel conflict, blame, and judgment. Recognizing your blind spots can bring opportunities for healing conflict and changing ourselves for the better. Blind spots let you know where you need to grow.

If you blame others or judge others, and focus only on what they said or did that was wrong or hurt you, conflict persists, and your blind spots remain, glaringly obvious to everyone except yourself.

Willing to look at blind spots if it helps conflicts

I have coached a number of amazing clients, who were able, with support and perspective, to move past or resolve conflicts at work. One key component was their willingness to examine their blind spots.

I can think of three clients in very different fields, who truly believed there was only one right way to do the work, (their way) and one speed to do it at (faster). They were initially blind to their negative impact on colleagues or direct reports who had a different work style or a different understanding of what their responsibilities were.

Another client, Leticia, had a hard time saying “no” to requests for additional work from colleagues. She was very conscious of their unrealistic expectations, but her own lack of boundaries and inability to set limits were invisible to her as equal causes of her difficulties.

All of these clients, with willingness, support, and curiosity, began to see their part and work on changes they needed to make, which created a better atmosphere in their organizations, made them better leaders, and helped them have successful interactions and peaceful relationships with these people they found difficult.

Blame and victimhood block positive change

Generally, I can’t help clients if they persist on focusing on blaming others or on being the victim. We can all feel like that initially, but as a long term stance, it blocks positive change. You can’t make others change. It isn’t easy to change yourself but it is more possible. Emily, who did not resolve her conflict through a coaching process with me, is an example of this. She had been treated unfairly by a manager and some co-workers. She wanted revenge and vindication, which is a completely understandable first response. But she had two huge blind spots—she wasn’t willing to acknowledge how deeply angry she was and work to process and release it in safe ways. Instead, it kept leaking out through her tone and through barbed remarks. And, she was in complete denial about how her own actions and biases had made the situation worse. She saw herself as a victim who hadn’t done anything, so she was stuck.

Another client, Richard, well aware of his coworker’s rudeness, was initially blind to his part in their problematic interactions. Even after he accepted he had a share, he wasn’t willing to keep working on it. He was frozen, waiting for the other employee to change.

You deserve light and progress

It isn’t easy to look at your own thinking and behavior and where you’ve contributed to the problem. I know I always find it challenging, But, examining your blind spots can offer an opportunity to heal, grow, and show up differently, with more compassion for yourself and others. That is where your power to change the outcome of a conflict truly lies.

                        author

Lorraine Segal

After surviving the 50's and 60's, as well as twenty years in toxic academia as a tenured professor, Lorraine Segal was inspired to started her own business, Conflict Remedy (ConflictRemedy.com), happily teaching, coaching, blogging and consulting around workplace conflict transformation. She is addicted to reading novels and enjoys walking and… MORE >

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