We have been working on redefining 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.

In our previous two blogs we have been working on the first item “seeing the gap”. If you are following along, you may have created your list of those things that you have seen, heard or experienced that have brought this topic to light for you. You also may have identified where you might be contributing to this gap. Both of these will help you prepare to name the gap you are trying to address.

Whether we review our list in our head or on paper, our first reaction might be to armor up and go to war with someone. We now feel empowered like a TV prosecutor trying to trap a criminal in a felony. Before we lawyer ourselves up to launch into the topic, we may need to shift our thinking. The following three things will help us turn our posture from prosecutor to curious inquisitor.

  • Be Direct with Respect. I have hear people say “I was just telling the truth”. The problem is that we may leave someone a quivering puddle of jello after we have told them “our truth”. We need to remember that it is “our” truth and may not represent the entire truth. Conversely, sometimes we are so indirect that in the process of beating around the bush someone walks away thinking they just got a promotion. Of course we need to be direct, but we also need do so with respect for others. We also need to recognize that being direct, when done well, is actually more respectful that beating around the bush.
  • MRI or API: Most Respectful Interpretation or Assume Positive Intent. There are many times when we interpret the motivations and intent of others in a negative way. Don’t we want people to give us the benefit of the doubt? Why don’t we do that for others? We need to remember that each of us can suffer from doing the wrong thing for what we think is the right reason.
  • Seek the Rest of the Story. Paul Harvey was a commentator for over 70 years and his program “the rest of the story” always explained the stories behind the stories we thought we knew about famous people. Put on your Paul Harvey hat at work and be curious enough to seek “the rest of the story”. We often only see a fraction of the story. Think of your favorite sport when a penalty is called. We have learned through the magic of instant replay that it isn’t the guy who throws the punch that gets the flag, it’s the guy who throws the second punch. Remember you are only seeing a part of the story.

Tip #5:    Before you try to “name the gap” ask yourself “what else might be going on” or “what is the most respectful interpretation of what might have caused this gap?” Before you start to accuse, give the benefit of the doubt. Then dig deeper and seek the rest of the story.