The Space Between: Conflict Resolution with Dr. Tammy Lenski
Replay: How to express a concern without making things worse

Replay: How to express a concern without making things worse

May 21, 2019

This is a replay of a 2018 episode. When I ask clients why they let a problem go on for so long before addressing it, a common reply is, "I was afraid I'd create more conflict by raising it." It's an understandable fear. Here are some tried-and-true ways to raise an issue for discussion without making matters worse, along with additional tips for mediators and managers.

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Start with a small yes

Start with a small yes

May 10, 2019

The outset of a difficult conversation often feels like a back-and-forth trading of position and perspective with little common ground. Here’s how to use the psychology of agreement to begin shifting that kind of positional debate to collaborative problem solving.

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Slow down and be the Bedouin

Slow down and be the Bedouin

April 23, 2019

It feels productive to toss out ideas for a solution and demonstrate how much we want to help. But it’s usually unproductive if we haven’t done something essential first: Make sure we understand the problem from their frame of reference.

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Do the next right thing

Do the next right thing

April 9, 2019

When we’re overwhelmed by a difficult conversation, one reason can be that we’re too focused on the horizon and not focused enough on the very next step. A very helpful mindset in moments like this is to "do the next right thing."

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Replay: How to politely interrupt long-winded talkers

Replay: How to politely interrupt long-winded talkers

March 27, 2019

When we listen well, sometimes others hog air time and just keep talking. It’s an inadvertent, and often unwelcome, side effect of good listening. Here’s a way I like to handle long-winded talkers that’s both effective and kind.

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When confronting difficult behavior, avoid this common blunder

When confronting difficult behavior, avoid this common blunder

March 13, 2019

When confronting difficult behavior, we typically focus on what we want the other person to stop doing. Sometimes this works. But too often, we create a “behavior vacuum” with this approach, making it harder for them to stop the difficult behavior. Here’s how to avoid this common misstep.

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Control emotions better by labeling them

Control emotions better by labeling them

February 26, 2019

When we want to control emotions better in the midst of a difficult conversation, we may try to ignore the unwelcome emotion or try the opposite, indulge it. These approaches don’t work very well in the face of incapacitating emotions. But something else does: Give the emotion a name.

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Blame vs contribution

Blame vs contribution

February 13, 2019

Blame vs contribution -- the differences are straightforward to grasp intellectually, yet sometimes tricky to employ effectively in conflict situations. Here are a few ways to shift a conversation from blame to contribution without appearing to blame the victim.

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A lesson in compassion and understanding from a most annoying woman

A lesson in compassion and understanding from a most annoying woman

January 29, 2019

When we say we want to understand someone, but then view them through our own judgmentalism, we’re not being honest with ourselves. Compassion and understanding go hand in hand — when we let them.

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Flip the problem to illuminate hidden solutions

Flip the problem to illuminate hidden solutions

January 16, 2019

The way we approach problem solving influences the solutions we can see -- and are willing to see. When problem solving gets stuck, sometimes the best way to get unstuck isn't to keep searching for better options or downgrade our expectations, but to flip the problem we're trying to solve.

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Replay: Want different behavior from someone?

Replay: Want different behavior from someone?

December 17, 2018

If you believe someone is aggressive, could they behave more aggressively with you than with others? If someone believes you are a hostile person, are you likely to act more hostile when you interact with them? Yes. It’s called behavioral confirmation and it has an impact on conflict resolution. This episode originally aired in April 2017.

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Replay: The question that ends hamster wheel debates

Replay: The question that ends hamster wheel debates

December 4, 2018

Some debates, arguments, and bickering go on and on, without leading anywhere (except to more frustration). If you find yourself in this kind of debate, or are trying to stop others caught in one, here's a single question that's almost magical in its power to help. This episode originally aired in November 2017.

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4 handy principles for deciding when you can’t agree

4 handy principles for deciding when you can’t agree

November 27, 2018

When you can't agree even with your best effort, having fallback criteria can break the agreement logjam and allow you get on with other things.

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Is the Einstellung effect interfering with your problem solving?

Is the Einstellung effect interfering with your problem solving?

November 14, 2018

The Einstellung effect is a cognitive trap that prevents us from seeing better or simpler solutions to problems we're trying to solve. Here's how to recognize it and reduce its effect.

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5 bad listening habits and how to break them

5 bad listening habits and how to break them

October 30, 2018

Conflict has a way of magnifying our bad listening habits. I frequently see the following listening habits get in the way of constructive and collaborative problem-solving during conflict and thought I'd flag them for attention.

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The body in the suitcase and the conflict stories we tell

The body in the suitcase and the conflict stories we tell

October 16, 2018

When we get into a conflict with someone, it’s natural to replay our experience of the conflict, both in our minds and as we tell others about it. Over time, this replay can begin to feel like The Truth About What Happened. But it isn’t.

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The type of problem that makes conflict resolution harder

The type of problem that makes conflict resolution harder

October 2, 2018

Gravity problems make conflict resolution more difficult because they sidetrack us from actionable problems. Here's how to recognize gravity problems when you see them, why they're troublesome, and how to prevent them from hijacking resolution.

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A visualization for letting go of things you can’t change

A visualization for letting go of things you can’t change

September 18, 2018

There are some problems and squabbles that aren't worth our effort to pursue. Maybe we're never going to see that person again, or it's a small enough problem that we know we won't care about it in a few days, weeks or months. If your mind keeps chewing on little problems like these, try this brief meditation for letting them go.

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Turn adversaries into problem-solving partners

Turn adversaries into problem-solving partners

September 5, 2018

Most people don't want to be wrangled into doing something you want but they don't. Here are three ways to turn them into your problem-solving partners and dissolve resistance.

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How to express a concern without making things worse

How to express a concern without making things worse

August 3, 2018

When I ask clients why they let a problem go on for so long before addressing it, a common reply is, "I was afraid I'd create more conflict by raising it." It's an understandable fear. Here are some tried-and-true ways to raise an issue for discussion without making matters worse, along with additional tips for mediators and managers.

Show notes

Ask yourself this kind of question when an argument rattles you

Ask yourself this kind of question when an argument rattles you

July 2, 2018

When a difficult conversation rattles you, using a centering question can help you get your balance back. Here are favorite centering questions I share with my clients, along with guidelines for developing your own..

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Replay: Simple phrase to de-escalate anger

Replay: Simple phrase to de-escalate anger

June 19, 2018

When someone is emotionally swamped by anger, it can be helpful to redirect them temporarily away from their feelings and engage their cognitive capacities. The following invitation helps de-escalate anger particularly well and deserves a permanent home in your conflict resolution toolbox.

This episode is a replay of a 2017 episode. I'll be back with new episodes in a few weeks.

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Replay: A ridiculously simple way to be more persuasive

Replay: A ridiculously simple way to be more persuasive

June 5, 2018

Failing to ask effectively for what we want is the stuff of low-grade irritation that, over time, can become a source of chronic conflict and tension. Here s a ridiculously simple way to ask more effectively, be more persuasive without manipulating, and increase the odds a small favor will be granted.

This episode is a replay of a 2016 episode. I'll be back with new episodes in a few weeks.

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3 everyday practices that will make you a good listener

3 everyday practices that will make you a good listener

May 22, 2018

It’s hard to get better at listening during conflict by practicing during conflict. If you want to be a better listener, practice outside of a difficult conversation. The stakes will be lower and it’ll be easier to be on top of your game. Here are three simple ways to practice being a good listener in everyday life.

The gift of anger

The gift of anger

May 8, 2018

What we believe about anger has an impact on what happens during emotionally charged conflict. Relief from the suffering of conflict can come from them changing how they act on their anger, of course. But it can also come from us changing how we think about anger.

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This common (but faulty) reasoning leads to bad decisions

This common (but faulty) reasoning leads to bad decisions

April 24, 2018

We like to think of ourselves as rational beings, and yet we act irrationally in all sorts of ways. One way we act irrationally is with a type of faulty reasoning we use for decisions both large and small, influencing not just the agreements we reach, but also the process we use to reach those agreements.

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5 impactful questions for handling difficult moments

5 impactful questions for handling difficult moments

April 10, 2018

Most difficult conversations ebb and flow between good progress and difficult moments, those times it’s a challenge to access our best selves and skills. Here are five common difficult moments and five powerful questions to help you through them.

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Is the overconfidence effect sabotaging your communication?

Is the overconfidence effect sabotaging your communication?

March 27, 2018

The overconfidence effect is a natural bias toward believing that we’re better at something than we actually are. The overconfidence effect can distort belief in the accuracy of a strong memory, estimations of how long it will take to get things done, judgment about our intelligence compared to others, and even the reliability of eyewitness accounts. It can sabotage communication during conflict, too.

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An effortless way to more accurately discern others’ emotions

An effortless way to more accurately discern others’ emotions

March 13, 2018

Being able to accurately discern someone’s emotional state is an essential conflict resolution skill. But even with both good will and skill, we have a fair chance of guessing wrong. Recent research suggests that when it comes to accurately figuring out what someone else is feeling, there’s one thing we can do that boosts our ability to get it right.

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How to backpedal after saying the wrong thing

How to backpedal after saying the wrong thing

February 27, 2018

When words come out of your mouth that you instantly regret, here are some ways to recover from your faux pas and minimize the impact of ill-chosen words.

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Can this key ingredient protect your marriage from relationship conflict?

Can this key ingredient protect your marriage from relationship conflict?

February 13, 2018

Couples can have big fights, frequent conflict, and even bicker all the time and still have healthy, fulfilling, and lasting relationships. How so? Recent research suggests that one factor in particular plays an important role in protecting a couple from the negative effects of relationship conflict: How well you think your partner “gets” you.

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The communication method that makes disagreements worse

The communication method that makes disagreements worse

January 30, 2018

For almost two decades I’ve advised clients to avoid email and texting when tension grows in their important personal or business relationships. Is my advice still credible in an era permeated by technology? A new study offers updated insight.

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Spark a shift in perspective with this question

Spark a shift in perspective with this question

January 16, 2018

It’s hard to get fresh perspective about our situation or the other person when we’re trapped inside a conflict. This simple question is excellent for tempering our certainty, engaging our curiosity, and sparking a shift in perspective when we need it most.

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The Picasso trick for better problem solving

The Picasso trick for better problem solving

January 2, 2018

When we become too wedded to our own solutions, conflict resolution conversations can get pretty stuck. Here’s a trick of the mind to help us stay flexible (even when we’re sure our solution is brilliant), courtesy of Pablo Picasso.

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When it seems trivial, pay more attention

When it seems trivial, pay more attention

December 19, 2017

When you’re tempted to dismiss someone’s concerns as trivial, or roll your eyes at the things people find to fight over, it’s time to sit up straight and pay attention. Because you’re missing something…and it’s worth your while to figure out what.

This episode is brought to you by The Conflict Resolution Toolbox. Reach inside a professional mediator’s toolbox to spark breakthroughs, build consensus, and preserve important relationships at work and home.

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Conflict and the misattribution of arousal

Conflict and the misattribution of arousal

December 7, 2017

Picture yourself stepping out to cross the Capilano Canyon Bridge in Vancouver. It’s 230 feet high, 450 feet long, and it sways in the breeze. Just as you pass the midpoint in the bridge, when your anxiety is about peak, an attractive person of the gender toward which you’re romantically inclined asks if you’d be willing to stop, answer a questionnaire, and do an imagination exercise. After you’re done, they tell you they’d be happy to discuss the study further if you want to call that evening, then they tear off a corner of the paper, write down their phone number, and hand it to you. Do you call?

This episode is brought to you by The Conflict Resolution Toolbox. Reach inside a professional mediator’s toolbox to spark breakthroughs, build consensus, and preserve important relationships at work and home.

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Think straight in an argument with these 4 quick techniques

Think straight in an argument with these 4 quick techniques

November 21, 2017

When we feel overwhelmed by a difficult conversation, we can get emotionally swamped and lose access to our good conflict resolution, communication, and problem-solving skills. Here are four quick techniques you can use when conflict muddles your thinking and you want your good skills back.

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The question that ends hamster wheel debates

The question that ends hamster wheel debates

November 7, 2017

Some debates, arguments, and bickering go on and on, without leading anywhere (except to more frustration). If you find yourself in this kind of debate, or are trying to stop others caught in one, here's a single question that's almost magical in its power to help.

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Future-proof an agreement with a premortem

Future-proof an agreement with a premortem

October 24, 2017

When we’ve put in effort to solve a problem, we want our solution, decision, or agreement to have every chance at long-run success. Here’s a powerful way to improve our plan’s ability to stand the test of time: Go back to the future and test it with a premortem.

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Anxiety about a difficult conversation? Try this.

Anxiety about a difficult conversation? Try this.

October 10, 2017

Pressure-filled situations like difficult conversations tax our working memory. That’s bad news, since working memory is crucial for reasoning, concentration, and understanding. But here’s the good news: There’s a specific type of brief writing activity that can both reduce anxiety about and boost performance under pressure.

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The space between

The space between

October 2, 2017

There s a space that changes form and scale as we navigate our personal and business relationships. It s the space between us, narrowing and softening when things are going well, widening and hardening in times of tension. The quality of our relationships, the degree of our happiness, and the success of our solutions are all influenced by The Space Between.

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Why you should make a habit of repeating this question

Why you should make a habit of repeating this question

September 18, 2017

Our solutions are only as good as our understanding of the problem. There’s a good question we can use to help discover a problem’s roots. And we can turn it into an even better question by employing it liberally — more liberally than most of us naturally do.

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Join the resistance

Join the resistance

September 6, 2017

When we notice resistance, a typical response is to try persuading them out of their resistance. But that approach often causes more resistance, as they defend against our pushing. When we want to overcome resistance, there s a better way.

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Fear is the enemy of apology

Fear is the enemy of apology

August 22, 2017

One reason apologies feel hard to offer is that they’re colored by fear — fear of feeling shame, fear of feeling judged, fear of offering an olive branch that is not returned. To apologize, we must find ways to anticipate not only what will go wrong, but what also what could go right.

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When people problems can be solved by tweaking the situation

When people problems can be solved by tweaking the situation

August 8, 2017

Sometimes the best fix for behavior problems isn’t to address the behavior itself. Sometimes the most effective solution is to change the situation. Situation and system problems regularly masquerade as behavior problems, and unless you know how to tell the difference, you can waste a whole lot of energy trying to get someone to change.

When contract negotiations get stuck, be sure you do this

When contract negotiations get stuck, be sure you do this

July 25, 2017

It’s not news that understanding the other person’s key interests is a crucial skill for your negotiation skills toolbox. I knew that when I went into the contract negotiation in the following story…and I almost blew it anyway. It took a question born out of desperation to teach me that some interests can be elusive, surprising, and even downright unbelievable.

 

Walking a mile in their shoes may actually be harmful to you

Walking a mile in their shoes may actually be harmful to you

July 11, 2017

Are you in a career where the ability to show empathy is important? New research suggests that how you arrive at empathy is as important as being empathetic. And that old adage about developing empathy by walking a mile in their shoes may actually increase your burnout potential.

How to turn criticism into feedback

How to turn criticism into feedback

June 27, 2017

The way you deliver feedback can make the difference between instant defensiveness or thoughtful consideration. One way to reduce immediate push-back is to “make it behavioral.” Here’s how to give feedback that’s behavioral and examples to translate the idea into words.

5 counter-intuitive conflict resolution habits worth developing

5 counter-intuitive conflict resolution habits worth developing

June 13, 2017

Conflict resolution skills alone will only get you so far. How well you use those skills depends on your mindset and the habits you cultivate in yourself. Here are five game-changing conflict resolution habits that will help you use your skills optimally.

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How category errors make conflict harder to resolve

How category errors make conflict harder to resolve

May 30, 2017

We put people, places, things, and ideas into categories. Categories help us navigate the world and it’s natural to categorize. We categorize in conflict, too. But the tension of conflict increases the chances we’ll make category errors — and category errors can really get in the way of conflict resolution.