I don’t know where to start with this blog post but I know the outcome I want. I know what I need to say but I’m not sure how it is going to look when I finally do say it. I am relying on my values and my life experiences to be pulled forth from me by the exploratory writing process to come up with a blog post that reflects what I want to say.
This is how collaboration works.
Collaboration is a multi-step process but a large part of it is exploration.
We as individuals are like icebergs. A tiny part of us is shown to the world, but the underlying support and essence of us is as big as the part of the iceberg that sits under the water. A huge life of experiences and values shapes the way each person responds in each situation in life.
The parts of us of that are underwater are hidden – no one else sees them and yet they are the parts of our being that drive the way we do things. Other people only see what is on the surface and make assumptions about how we work and how we respond in situations. We get into conflict with each other because we don’t see the values and life experiences that are hiding beneath the surface.
So to deal with conflict, we each need to explore what is under the surface for both ourselves and the other person we are conflict with.
As you each gain understanding of yourself and of the other person involved in the conflict, ways of moving forward start to become apparent. Solutions become clear and easily implemented because both parties to the conflict now buy into the solution.
What is amazing about collaboration is that it is a process that can be learned and it is a process that works.
The not so amazing part of collaboration is that most of us are not trained to be collaborative (despite me telling everyone that they need to take this course) when dealing with others in life and usually when you get to the point where you are required to use it, you are too emotional to do so. It is challenging to do something that is so completely different from what you have learned in life. It is doubly hard when you are already in the midst of emotional conflict.
So what do most of us do? We revert to the way we have been trained in life do deal with conflict. Now let me be clear when I say trained. I am not saying that someone specifically trained you, but I am saying your personality combined with your life experiences turned you into the person you are (your style of conflict is part of the iceberg that is hiding beneath the surface).
In situations of conflict, some people are trained to be bullies and always win. Some people are trained to be avoiders. Some are trained to capitulate and be accommodating at all costs. What is your style of conflict?
I was trained to always capitulate (after I had first avoided the conflict). Many of us have two styles of conflict. I use avoidance to stay away from conflict and then when it didn’t go away and the situation becomes more stressful, I capitulate. Despite knowing this about myself and despite knowing that this does not work, I still naturally revert to this way of dealing with conflict in life.
So knowing this, I have set up some systems in my life so I am forced to be collaborative.
Systems are good (says the accountant).
Because life seems to be a series of conflicts and I seem to revert to my old style of dealing with conflict. I got reminded of this AGAIN this past weekend.
On Friday, conflict turned up in my life (yes again).
Someone asked me a favour.
Now – I never respond right away to certain requests and this was a pretty big one so I said I needed time to think about it. This is the first step in the system I have put in place for myself:
- Never give an answer right away.
Give yourself time to think. Despite thinking you are cool calm and rational and have let go of all your issues, you have not (unless you are Deepak Chopra).
Because did I ever want to give an answer. It seemed so clear. The request flew in the face of a resolution I had recently made for myself. So while I said I needed time, I thought I knew my answer would be no. Yeah – I knew it. I felt calm and clear. But I still said I needed time because I have surprised myself before.
Then, I did something that goes against my rules of the collaborative process. I started to poll other people for their opinions in the matter. Because I thought they would agree with me (hah). This leads to step 2:
- Do not poll people that are not involved in the conflict.
(I have not learned this one yet – seriously – it’s one of my rules, but I broke it! See what happens when you are emotional? Revert revert revert).
What did I get when I did this? I got the underlying beliefs and values of my friends and family. They did not jibe with what I believed for many reasons – and that would involve an entirely new collaborative process for me to understand why they were telling me what they were. So all I got from this was guilt and confusion. One thing of interest was that opinions divided clearly along gender lines. The women lent towards capitulation. The men told me to do what would make me happy. Interesting…
So now that I was confused from my polling, I spent Sunday morning testing how each answer felt. Yes, I’m trying to be less analytical and go with my intuition. So I tested how saying yes felt (crappy) and how saying no felt (equally crappy).
This leads to step 3:
- When you start to cry, scream, get grumpy and become a nasty person it’s time to stop thinking about the conflict and take a break.
So I took a break. I rode my bike. That should be a rule too. Go ride your bike. OK, I’m kidding, but find something to do that you enjoy that will take your mind off the conflict. I know there are a lot of you out there that want to get the conflict resolved and this step seems indulgent, but it is essential. I will say it again, it is essential. Because most of us have been trained to think enjoying ourselves is bad. Especially when there is work to be done.
When my break was done, I felt good again. The light bulb went off (again). This leads to the next step:
- Get back to the collaborative process when you’ve fallen off and reverted to your old style of dealing with conflict.
So this morning I woke up and sent an email to the person that had asked me the favour. I requested another meeting because there is no clear answer to resolve this new conflict I find myself in. We need to do more exploration around the underlying issues that are leading to the request. I need to understand what is going on with the other person involved and he also needs to understand what is going on with me. I know when we get to that point we will find a solution that will be clear and work for both of us.
Now I await an answer for when we can meet. Now – this part is tricky. What if the other person does not want to collaborate? Well, it appears you have a new conflict on your hands and the only thing to do in this case is explore why they do not want to use collaboration. Now you have two conflicts to resolve using collaboration. All I can say is… more practice. Woo hoo!
Because I don’t know how the final outcome of my most recent conflict is going to turn out, I’m going to have to make some assumptions. I am going to assume that I am going to meet with the person I am in conflict with and we are going to work collaboratively until new and ingenious ways of solving the issue at hand become apparent.
This leads to the final step:
- Implement your solution to the conflict…
and test it by living your life. Next thing you know, another conflict situation will happen along and you will get to try it all over again.
I think I have spent enough time on this post. It feels right now. The collaborative process (me and my blog often get into conflict) has worked again!