Put on your diving suits it’s time to go deeper. We have redefined conflict as “a gap between what we expect and what we experience. ©” and we said that if we want to manage the gap we need to 1) see the gap, 2) name the gap, 3) explore the gap and 4) close the gap. If we get greater clarity when we “see” the gap, we have a better chance of creating more impactful results.
My last blog suggested that we ask ourselves “what’s bugging me?” and generate our list. If you are like most of us, your list probably has a healthy dose of things that others have done, situations out of your control and let’s be honest generally laying the blame on the doorstep of others. Don’t kick yourself, it’s natural. I call it the “sin of externalization”. Our tendency is to want to find fault and blame outside of ourselves. “Of course it isn’t me, so it has to be others.”
I know I am being a bit dramatic and extreme here. However, if we want to truly manage these gaps to accomplish greater results, we need to explore those inner gaps before we explore the external gaps, for two reasons. First, they are there and we tend to overlook them. We have to recognize that change starts with ourselves. Second, others may need to kneel in the confessional if they are going to confess their own sin of externalization. Why would they do that with us, if we aren’t willing to do it ourselves?
I remember a time earlier in my career where I had a conflict with a peer on our executive team. Just so you know, I was clearly in the right. He was incompetent, disruptive, and even had sexually harassed someone on my staff. I was righteous and rightfully so. (If you don’t see my self-effacement, go back and re-read the last two sentence with a different lens). Ultimately it boiled over for me and I walked out of my boss’s staff meeting. And let me be honest here, I was less than professional. I knew my boss would be paying me a little visit and I prepared my swords and armor of self-righteousness for that moment.
When he came to see me, he didn’t talk about my storming out of the meeting, nor the other person. He looked at me and said “what is this about for you?” That deflated me, because that single question took me from the sin of externalization to reflecting inwardly because at the end of the day it was about me and not in a good way. The situation pushed buttons and exposed a soft underbelly of my own beliefs. As a side note, this boss is still a friend of mine today and the issues I had he was already dealing with and my response wasn’t helping. At the same time, he didn’t owe me an explanation of how he was managing it.
If we look close enough, we can find our own hand on the crime scene. As my father used to say “it takes two to tangle”, his version of idiom “it takes two to tango”. As you attempt to “see” the gap, look internally.
Tip #4: We need to reflect on our own contribution when we have a gap because we probably have contributed in some way. We need to start with ourselves and model this type of self-reflection for others.