Today we are going to continue building on our redefinition of conflict as a gap between what we expect and what we experience. ©” If we agree that conflict is a gap, in order use conflict to positively impact results, we need to do the following:

1.      See the gap
2.      Name the gap
3.      Explore the gap
4.      Close the gap

Let’s start with “seeing the gap”. In our previous blog we talked about the type of gaps we experience (results, understanding, expectations and beliefs). Initially, it might not be clear the type of gap you are experiencing, but also be mindful, the gap you are experiencing can fall into multiple areas.

How can you get clearer on your gap? Answer this question: “What’s bugging me?” Don’t stop at one answer or the superficial answer. The gap can be much deeper. For example, John consistently shows up late for work. You might see that as a “results” gap, but when you dig deeper you might find that it is also a “belief” gap. For example, it bothers me because it is disrespectful (belief) or because it shows a lack of urgency (still a belief).

Sometimes the gap we see is merely a symptom of a larger problem. There is an old quality axiom that says ask why five times to get closer to the root cause. In our example above, John might be showing up late because he is not motivated, he might not be motivated because he was passed over for promotion, he might have been passed up for promotion because he was hired for the wrong job. Too many times we are dealing with the symptoms, if we can see the gap better, we can manage it better and get to the root cause.

I had an experience with a client where the contract from their legal team was, in my opinion, overbearing and one sided. This happens all the time in business. For some reason, it really bothered me this time but it wasn’t clear why.  When I dug down it was a much deeper issue to me. Of course it eroded trust. Also, I interpreted the way it was handled as disrespectful. But it also made me look deeper at the relationship. I assumed one kind of relationship with this client, but I knew deep down it wasn’t the type of relationship I wanted. It also gave me pause to think about the kind of business I wanted to have. In the end, exploring this gap allowed me to make better decisions and create better results. Had I not done that, I would have spent hours battling over a contract, when the problem was something very different.

Make your list, but keep it private. You may want to do this over the course of time. For example, I start a list and then set it aside; time, distance and sleep help me gain clarity. This is for you and you only. We will talk about what to do with this list in our next blog. If you grab your list now and run out the door, it’s like running with scissors. Start by focusing on “seeing the gap”.

Tip #3:   The next time you find yourself in conflict ask yourself what’s really bothering you. Dig deep; digging below what you experience on the surface may lead you to greater insight and resolution.