Conversational Riffs explores how we start out with just a few responses to conflict situations, namely the attack, the defence and the counter-attack, and how those reactions damage relationships in the office or at home.
It occurs to me that conflict is not always guaranteed in the attack, but rather in the defence. That might be surprising but it bears scrutiny.
At the time when we perceive we are being attacked by something that someone has said we still have a choice as to how we will respond. If we join our colleagues in playing into conflict led patterns of communication, namely attack followed by defence then we become complicit in that argument.
We need to remember that the choice is ours.
When we feel under attack we can choose to defend ourselves, or go on the counter-attack. Alternatively we can take stock and quickly appraise the situation we find ourselves in
“Am I at risk here?”
“Is this really about me?”
“Just how much of a threat is this?”
“Might there be something else going on?”
“I wonder why they think that?”
If we can take a moment to become curious about what is behind the other person’s attacking stance then we open ourselves up to other responses, responses which are likely to help us to strengthen those relationships instead of damaging them. It is up to us to change the conflict dynamics instead of just surrendering ourselves to an inevitable fight.
Perhaps we can encourage our workplace colleagues to give us more information. What would happen if we chose to acknowledge their position?
The point is that non-typical responses will switch that confrontation onto a very different, more collaborative track. The alternative end destination can be unrecognisable.
So let us stop blaming each other for going on the attack at the outset. We are still responsible for how we choose to respond, or allow ourselves to react.