What is the best way to fight?

by Sam on July 1, 2009

Analysis: A Chinese proverb says, “When you go to dig a grave for your enemy, dig two.” What an incredibly powerful statement about the need to fight right. If interpersonal conflict is played as a zero sum game where one side has to win while the other loses, the relationship always loses. Let’s instead do our best to let the relationship win.

Answer: When in disagreement with others, how well do the statements below describe your behavior? Use the following scale to rate your likelihood to act in each of these positive ways to resolve a disagreement.

5: Always    4: Typically    3: Often    2: Sometimes    1: Rarely    0: Never

NB: To get the most value from this self-assessment, complete it with regard to two particular people in your life. Person A might be at work and Person B might be at home. Score your behavior with each person on a sheet of paper. You stand to learn a great deal about the way you fight as you compare and contrast your approaches with these two different role players.

1.   I enter into discussion with this person about our disagreement with the assumption that I bear significant responsibility–as much as 50%–for our conflict. (Guess what–you probably do!)

2.   When I disagree, I am honest about the fact that I disagree, and why. I don’t pretend that everything is okay when it isn’t.

3.   When proven wrong, I admit it rather than try to cover my tracks. I can easily say, “I was wrong.” I am even capable of adding, “I am sorry.”

4.   I let the other person speak first to calm him/her down, reduce his/her need to talk, and learn what it will take to convince him/her. I have no problem listening to the other person’s assertions, and even accusations, getting my “two cents” in last. (It is foolish to go first and smart to go second in an argument.)

5.   I stay calm and rational, focusing on issues, not personalities, and being careful not to say anything I’ll regret later. (Talk is cheap, but you can’t buy it back.)

6.   When I allow myself to get angry, I talk about that anger rather than what the person did to elicit it. I recognize that this person has not made me angry–I have done it to myself.

7.   Even as I disagree, I affirm the other person’s right to his/her feelings. I neither think nor say anything like, “You have no business feeling that way.”

8.   My goal is to heal the relationship or solve a problem rather than prove the other person wrong. I strive for harmony in this relationship.

9.   I direct our attention to fixing the future rather than rehashing the past. I don’t harp on what this person did to hurt or disappoint me. I can state my pain once and collaborate on a resolution.

10.  I keep the focus on what each of us really needs in the situation, rather than what we merely want. This enables us to search for creative ways to meet both sets of needs even though our wants may appear at first to be totally incompatible and irreconcilable. Needs are often far more compatible than are wants. (“Tell me what you’re hoping to gain from this situation and I’ll tell you what I would like to leave with.”)

Consider Your Scores

Query 1: In what ways do you fight differently with each person? What do the greatest differences in scores tell you about the behavioral choices you are making that yield the comparative fruit you’re harvesting with these two people?

Query 2: Do your overall scores suggest any ways to change how you fight? Which lowest scores scream the loudest for your attention?

Query 3: How else might you use this survey? Will you meet with the two people you chose in order to explain your self-ratings with a request for confirming or denying feedback from them? What if you asked others beyond these two to score you on the ten items?

Aphorism: When arguing with a stupid person, make sure he isn’t doing the same thing. ~Author unknown (wish I could take credit for this one)

Approaching: Is there a “coming attraction” on this list that you can’t wait for? Shoot me an email for a sneak preview.

7/8: When (and how) should I step in to break up a fight?
7/15: What are the most inspiring thoughts about leadership?
7/22: How can I do a better job of delivering criticism?
7/29: Who, me–a praise miser?
8/5: How can I use praise more effectively to motivate others?
8/12: Why do many performance appraisal systems fail to improve performance?
8/19: What role do manners and civility play in the workplace?
8/26: How can I wow the audience when I make a formal presentation?

Action (yours)

Do you have an Ask for Sam about leadership, team building or communications? Email that question to him at sam@asksamdeep.com. He will respond to you either by email or telephone. Please include your telephone number with your Ask.

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