It’s hard to know when you’re inside the hurricane if the storm is passing over, or stalled out.
But only if you act and work before the hurricane comes along.
The closer we get to the truth of an issue, which typically lies at the center of a universe of distortions, fabrications, and sometimes outright lies, the more difficult our conversations with all the other parties involved, become.
The way to resolve this tension is not through avoiding difficult conversations and difficult parties.
The solution is to recognize the tension and dance with the fear that we have of outcomes that hew close to the truth of an issue.
Avoidance is fine as a temporary tactic, but as a long-term strategy to get to the truth of a conflict; well, no one ever avoided their way to an uncomfortable—but necessary—truth.
No matter how rationally argued, if what the presenter, lecturer, teacher, trainer, or interpreter is saying doesn’t resonate with you at an emotional level, you will reject it out of hand.
And you’ll do it in microseconds of microseconds.
Resonance in storytelling is something we know happens with impact at scale, but engagement and decision making at the individual level still matter.
On your part.
Believe or don’t believe.
Buy-in to the idea or buy-out.
But either way, decide.
And by doing so, give the presenter, lecturer, teacher, trainer, or interpreter a break so that they can move on (sometimes rhetorically, sometimes metaphorically, and sometimes physically) to delivering their message to an audience with who it will resonate.
It stops the deliverer from dominating your time and attention as well.
I’m typing this and you’re probably reading it on a mobile device.
One of the things rarely commented on is how reading comprehension—that is understanding and integrating a concept that you have read about into your overall life experience—has changed since the rise of the Internet as well as the rise of mobile phone use.
We often comment on the nature of reading and the nature of where content gets consumed and why, but the comprehension issue is so often assumed in readers that it’s rarely ever brought up.
Outside of teaching circles (and the circles of parents lamenting) the loss of cursive writing—or handwriting—as a practice taught in schools almost never gets the media ink (or digital bytes) that it seems to warrant.
But, I see this in my students that I teach: Increasingly, there is a lack of patience for the skill of writing by hand, carefully making letters that are intelligible to other readers. Usually, when an assignment must be handwritten, I get back sheepish looks with apologies attached about “chicken scratch” and “carpal tunnel.” I also get the same feedback from training groups featuring older adults who push back because I don’t put bullet points on my PowerPoint slides and I leave plenty of room in their training manuals that I design for them to take notes by hand.
Reading and understanding and hand writing are intricately linked in the human mind to learning, retention, memorization, and comprehension.
They are also intimately linked to patience, critical awareness, and deep thought.
We lose a lot by losing the ability or interest in writing by hand because the other option seem faster and “easier.” When we begin to value speed and volume over comprehension and patience we run the risk of valuing end results in spite of the process to get there, and we open the door to more conflicts flaring more brightly and for longer.
Here’s the thing:
The only person who can manage adults as if they are adults, are other adults acting like adults.
The only person who can ensure that products, ideas, and innovations ship on time, is you.
Here’s the other thing:
If you believe that your boss has more responsibility, power, and accountability than you do (or if you believe that you should get more credit, and not take any blame if things go wrong) then you will doggedly pursue advancing in a toxic work environment.
If you believe that managing adults as if they are adults (instead of tolerating, condoning or ignoring childish behavior) is the purview of someone in human resources, and not you, then you will be constantly frustrated by conflicts in the workplace.
If you believe that your responsibility is not to “ship” but instead is to show up and turn a widget in a machine that you don’t really want to contribute to understanding, then you are preparing yourself inevitably for much larger problems in the future.
Here’s the conclusion:
The only person who can prepare for a future they can’t see, and prepare to do work that matters, and engage with hard, taxing emotional labor that pays off many tomorrows from now, but not today, is you.
It’s always been you.
This should be a thought that frees you, but for so many, the thought imprisons them further.
What’s that thought doing to you?
The thing about anxiety in conflict is that it’s part biological and part psychological.
And one part washes the other part.
Which is where people have choices: We can either narcotize the anxiety (through the use of distractions) or we can medicate our biology (through the use of drugs).
This is where anxiety in conflict should probably focus on managing behaviors, rather than seeking to escape the outcomes of those behaviors. Or seeking to short-circuit the behavioral responses.
But there’s a lot of narcotizing and medicating going on out there.
Being “on the bubble” is about how much value you add to the situation, the resolution, or the conflict before the bubble bursts, all over you and all over the other party.
Being “on the bubble” is about being in a place where you are neither advancing nor retreating, merely existing in the space that you’re in right now, regardless of status.
Being “on the bubble” is about not understanding the nature of the situation that you’re in, the nature of the other parties and their perspectives, and the nature of you—and what your deeper needs really are.
Being “on the bubble” does not always feel great, because it’s a spot full of trepidation and fear.
Being “on the bubble” sometimes is the only resolution we get with other people.
Being “on the bubble” might be the only place to be.
Lack of perspective.
Missing the mark, either emotionally or logically.
Half-knowledge, partial knowledge, or no knowledge at all.
Our thinking (yours, mine, and everyone else’s who you know) are impacted by all of the above areas.
But the truth is, it’s easier to point out the faultiness in other people than it is for us to take responsibility and repair what is wrong with us.
Feedback, listening, thinking, engaging, and taking responsibility can begin to chip away at all of the above areas.
There’s no better time to start than now.
When thinking about conflict, the lock-in effect controls our reactions and responses.
We become accustomed to the reactions and responses that we have integrated into our lives on a regular basis. And the people to whom we are responding become locked-in to their responses and reactions to us as well.
Lock-in comes about when the benefits from a decision accrue at scale and the downsides are irrelevant.
Lock-in can be intentional (trying to use the other party’s known conflict responses and reactions to leverage them into or out of a decision), or it can be unintentional (“I don’t understand why he/she keeps reacting this way.”)
Some people are immune to the effects of lock-in, but many more people are controlled by the power of lock-in so much so, that they don’t even realize that it’s happening at the time.
Once a person’s conflict behavior and conflict choices are revealed to them, lock-in can become a powerful deterrent to future poor choices.
But only if we are aware of its presence.
Sometimes a presentation doesn’t “work.”
Sometimes there’s no connection with the audience.
Sometimes the presenter talks more to themselves than they listen to the crowd.
Sometimes questions aren’t asked (or answered) by the audience or the presenter.
Sometimes there is no active listening on the part of the audience.
Sometimes there is no active listening on the part of the presenter.
Sometimes the content is not what the audience expected.
Sometimes the content is not what the presenter expected.
Sometimes personalities clash.
Sometimes the content is exactly what the audience needs to hear, but not in the way that they need to hear it.
Sometimes the presentation is just a failure, and there’s nothing that the audience (or the presenter) can do at all to “fix” it.
Sometimes trying again, with a different audience, is enough.