The Space Between: Conflict Resolution with Dr. Tammy Lenski
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.

Regain self-control with this science-supported method

Regain self-control with this science-supported method

May 16, 2017

One reason conflict can undermine self-control is that stress compromises our brains’ emotion-regulation circuitry. But all is not lost when we’ve been emotionally hijacked. Recent research offers a new tool for regaining self-control soon after the stress of an argument: Briefly reminiscing about a happy memory.

 

A better way to help someone who is upset

A better way to help someone who is upset

May 2, 2017

When a person is upset, some people get uncomfortable and try to ignore it. Others try to make them feel better. Both of these approaches are a version of “make it go away.” There’s a third, more fruitful approach: Help them delve into it.

 

When the win-win solution isn’t obvious

When the win-win solution isn’t obvious

April 18, 2017

A win-win solution is optimal in so many negotiation and conflict situations at work and home. But what do you do if that win-win solution isn t obvious?

 

Want different behavior from someone?

Want different behavior from someone?

April 4, 2017

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.

When we sweep conflict under the rug

When we sweep conflict under the rug

March 21, 2017

Sweeping important conflict under the rug doesn’t make it go away. We know this, even as we continue to do it. Hidden so we don’t have to look it in the eye, the conflict still draws our attention and increases our frustration.

A remarkable tool for turning marital conflict into a stronger relationship

A remarkable tool for turning marital conflict into a stronger relationship

March 7, 2017

If 21 minutes of your time could make the difference between a marriage that’s crumbling and a marriage that grows stronger, would you do it? Hell, yeah. The following research-based writing activity can have a remarkably powerful impact on marital conflict. It’s free. It’s simple. And you don’t need anyone’s help to do it.

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We all need a Russell in our lives

We all need a Russell in our lives

February 28, 2017

We seek out allies when we re in conflict because allies make us feel strong and right and reasonable. But in trying to be helpful, our allies may actually help perpetuate the conflict by boosting our certainty. When we re being tested by a conflict, what we want isn t an ally, it s a loving provocateur.

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One way to de-escalate anger

One way to de-escalate anger

February 21, 2017

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.

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A side effect of good listening

A side effect of good listening

February 14, 2017

It s hard to listen deeply from inside an argument. And it s even harder when the other person seems to be hogging air time. Good listening can have an inadvertent side effect and here s one way I like to do deal with it.

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One reason blame feels hard to take

One reason blame feels hard to take

February 7, 2017

The next time someone declines to take responsibility for words or actions that had a bad impact, don’t immediately assume it’s a flaw in their character. Maybe it’s just their protective brain doing its job.

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How to say no persuasively

How to say no persuasively

January 31, 2017

Being able to say no is essential for good day-to-day negotiating. Yet it can evoke anxiety about appearing obstructive, unkind, or unhelpful. If you want a way to keep yourself from saying yes when you really do need to say no, pack this research-supported technique in your toolkit.

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2 smart principles for resolving everyday disagreements

2 smart principles for resolving everyday disagreements

January 24, 2017

Not all disagreements require long talks to resolve them sufficiently. Sometimes you can use a pre-agreed principle to get them done and get on with your day. Here are two worth considering for your workplace team or family.

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Think with your hands for better problem solving

Think with your hands for better problem solving

January 17, 2017

New research is challenging the notion that thinking, problem solving, and decision making take place strictly in the head. And finally giving me some credibility when placing interactive toys in the middle of my mediation table.

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Before you send that email…

Before you send that email…

January 10, 2017

There’s a difference between being justified in your response and the response being a good choice. Here’s a question I’ve found useful for gaining a little psychological distance in the heat of the moment and interrupting a response I might regret later.

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The conflict stories we tell

The conflict stories we tell

January 3, 2017

We tell stories about our conflicts. We tell them to our colleagues, our partners, our friends. Mostly, we tell them to ourselves. And we forget that these stories aren’t the story of the conflict, they’re our story of the conflict.

 

A surprisingly effective substitute for unsolicited advice

A surprisingly effective substitute for unsolicited advice

December 13, 2016

Want to break the advice-giving habit but aren’t sure what to do instead? Want someone else to stop giving you unsolicited advice all the time? Here’s a good question to ask in those moments and a simple alternative to giving advice when what they really want is someone to listen.

 

The most influential reads of my year

The most influential reads of my year

December 6, 2016

I read voraciously, a pile of books and articles monthly. Many are interesting and informative, but a few stand out because they influenced my thinking or behavior in a significant way. As I join others in looking back at 2016, here are the standouts that stuck with me and that I ve most frequently mentioned to others.

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Weaving the narrative of a conflict

Weaving the narrative of a conflict

November 29, 2016

Conflict takes root in the space between our narrative about what happened and theirs. One way to understand conflict resolution is as the act of weaving a new joint narrative, one that includes the most valuable threads in each story.

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Calming someone down: What not to do

Calming someone down: What not to do

November 22, 2016

I ve written that anger is a messenger that won t shut up until its message is heard and understood. But if the anger is so big or so loud you can t hear straight, there are things you can do to help someone calm down. And a few things you shouldn t do like these five missteps.

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How to ask questions: A mediator’s guide

How to ask questions: A mediator’s guide

November 15, 2016

Watch a good mediator at work and you ll likely notice that good questions are her stock-in-trade. Watch a masterful negotiator and you ll see the same. If you want better conflict resolution results, learn how to ask questions that shift thinking and prompt fresh ideas.

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Want more self-control during conflict?

Want more self-control during conflict?

November 8, 2016

Conflict can rob you of two precious mental faculties useful for sorting things out: The ability to view the situation from the other person’s perspective and the ability to check your impulses. New research suggests that your future self can help you recapture those abilities.

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How totalizing makes conflict more grueling

How totalizing makes conflict more grueling

November 1, 2016

When we deliver or receive information in a totalizing way, we make a difficult conversation needlessly more difficult. Here’s how to resist this type of all-or-nothing thinking and take some of the pain out of disagreements and negative feedback.

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Kintsugi and the art of mending relationship conflict

Kintsugi and the art of mending relationship conflict

October 25, 2016

Conflict in personal, professional and business relationships leaves permanent cracks and breaks behind. What if, instead of trying to ignore or hide the damage, we revered it, understanding that better than new is more valuable than “good as new”?

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5 impactful phrases to interrupt yelling

5 impactful phrases to interrupt yelling

October 18, 2016

Some people do conflict loudly, whether due to familial or cultural roots, habit, or a low boiling point. When you want to interrupt someone’s habitual yelling during conflict, try to make the request without contributing to the fight.

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Real but not true conflict

Real but not true conflict

October 11, 2016

Chronic or unresolved conflict can trigger us to react based on what has happened in the past even when the present circumstances don’t warrant that reaction. In those instances, the conflict may be very real but not entirely true.

Friction at work? Remember the Ben Franklin Effect

Friction at work? Remember the Ben Franklin Effect

October 4, 2016

When friction enters a working relationship, sometimes the best path through isn t to talk it out. Sometimes the best path through is an indirect one ask for a favor. Here s how the Ben Franklin Effect works.

The key to handling arguments about respect

The key to handling arguments about respect

September 27, 2016

Feeling dissed? Here’s how to raise concerns about disrespect in a way that increases dialogue and decreases pushback.

A relationship conflict resolution tool you want for your toolbox

A relationship conflict resolution tool you want for your toolbox

September 20, 2016

Thinking about the future helps couples overcome relationship conflict and view the situation in a more reasoned and positive light, according to new research. Here’s how to use the researchers’ simple mental exercise to create psychological distance from a conflict and dial down the heat of an argument.

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Don’t bury anger’s lede

Don’t bury anger’s lede

September 13, 2016

During conflict, focusing mostly on anger's behavior instead of on anger's real message is like burying the lede in a news story.

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3 everyday practices for becoming a better listener

3 everyday practices for becoming a better listener

September 6, 2016

You don’t get better at listening during conflict by practicing during conflict. You get better at listening during conflict by practicing outside of conflict, where the stakes are lower and it’s easier to be on top of your game. Here are three easy ways to practice giving your full attention and being a good listener

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Resolve conflict better in 30-second increments

Resolve conflict better in 30-second increments

August 30, 2016

Strengthening your conflict resolution chops isn’t about learning a new skill and then trying to use it in your most difficult conversations. Just as you wouldn’t start running and try a marathon the following week, acquiring more successful conflict resolution habits is about a slow, steady build. Start with 30-second chunks.

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The art of dealing with insults

The art of dealing with insults

August 23, 2016

This traditional Zen koan, or story, is called The Gift of Insults.

How to navigate the “not my problem” problem

How to navigate the “not my problem” problem

August 16, 2016

“That’s not my problem” are four of the most frustrating words to hear when you’re trying to talk through a conflict. They’re dismissive and may leave you feeling powerless to resolve the problem. Here are three tried-and-true ways to get problem-solving moving forward again.

A quick little phrase to stop bickering in its tracks

A quick little phrase to stop bickering in its tracks

August 9, 2016

Bickering, an argument about trivial matters, is one of those everyday bad habits that feeds the growth of destructive conflict in a relationship. When you teach yourself how to stop getting sucked into bickering, you give yourself and your relationship some fresh air. Here s a short phrase that can help.

5 uncomplicated ways to gain psychological distance during conflict

5 uncomplicated ways to gain psychological distance during conflict

August 2, 2016

When you’re stuck on a problem or feeling angry, briefly distancing yourself psychologically from the current circumstances can give you emotional relief and actually help you solve the problem. Here are five simple and potent ways to gain psychological distance (and help others do the same) when you’re spinning your wheels in a conflict conversation.

Starting a difficult conversation

Starting a difficult conversation

July 26, 2016

Starting a difficult conversation (or negotiation or mediation) can feel like opening Fibber McGee’s closet — chaotic, overwhelming, and hope-sucking. But don’t run.

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How to confront without being confrontational

How to confront without being confrontational

July 19, 2016

Confronting is an essential negotiation, conflict resolution, and problem-solving skill. Being confrontational, though, will usually do you more harm then help. Here’s a mediator’s tip for how to confront someone and raise an issue for discussion without being aggressive or argumentative.

Surviving the conflict groan zone

Surviving the conflict groan zone

July 12, 2016

Resolving conflict and other complex problems demands that we push beyond the familiar options and explore new territory. But leaving the familiar behind is uncomfortable and sometimes unpleasant. Even so, staying in the “groan zone” and doing the important work there leads to better results.

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Managing difficult behavior

Managing difficult behavior

July 5, 2016

When responding to someone else s difficult behavior during conflict, a good rule of thumb is, Use the lowest level of intervention first. Here s why this convention is useful for managing difficult behavior and a concrete example to illustrate.

Is non-verbal communication all it’s cracked up to be?

Is non-verbal communication all it’s cracked up to be?

June 28, 2016

For decades, non-verbal communication has been lauded as an important part of establishing connection and understanding with others. Now a new study suggests non-verbals aren’t as key as we think.

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How to practice a new behavior using rubber bands

How to practice a new behavior using rubber bands

June 21, 2016

When I wanted to curb my habit of interrupting my husband, I turned to an old rubber band trick for practicing the replacement behavior (wait until he finishes his sentence, count to two, then speak) enough to make it stick. Here are the simple instructions and some uses.

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Examples of behaviors you can practice with this method

Dealing with difficult people

Dealing with difficult people

June 14, 2016

One of the most frequent questions I’m asked in my workshops is how to deal with difficult people. Here’s my strategy for dealing with difficult people and why it so consistently works.

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De-escalating loud, angry conflict

De-escalating loud, angry conflict

June 7, 2016

When someone is angry and loud, trying to control them is not only an exercise in futility, but can also have an unintended consequence it can escalate them. Here s one powerful alternative.

Common conflict resolution terms

Common conflict resolution terms

May 31, 2016

A dispute is not the same as a conflict. Mediation is different from facilitation. Here's the language I use when asked to define these terms.

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9 ways to defeat cognitive overload during conflict resolution

9 ways to defeat cognitive overload during conflict resolution

May 24, 2016

How to reduce cognitive load during conflict resolution and free up working memory needed for concentration, reasoning and decision making.

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On holding the space during conflict

On holding the space during conflict

May 17, 2016

What does it mean to hold the space for someone who s trying to get somewhere different in a conflict? And how do we hold that space, whether we re a friend trying to help, a manager trying to intervene, or a mediator trying to find a path to resolution? To illustrate, I'm sharing a beautiful story from writer, teacher, and social activist Parker Palmer.

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Establishing relationships, Maori style

Establishing relationships, Maori style

May 10, 2016

Whakawhanaungatanga is a Māori process for establishing relationships. In the following interview I explore the tradition, identity, trust-building, and conflict resolution with Hilary Unwin, a mediator with the New Zealand Human Rights Commission, and Pereri Hathaway, senior administrator with the Human Rights Commission. Pereri's work centers on helping the Commission work with indigenous peoples in New Zealand and finding ways to provide support for indigenous peoples there and around the world.

The conversation begins with Hilary and Pereri introducing themselves and giving you a first glimpse of the whakawhanaungatanga process. I hope you'll enjoy our exploration of identity, connection, trust, family, and our place in the world.

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Making peace with the groan zone

Making peace with the groan zone

May 3, 2016

The groan zone is that uneasy, messy stage of conflict where it's hard to see that anything good is going to come. Don't hurry out of it.

The 6 ingredients of an effective apology

The 6 ingredients of an effective apology

April 26, 2016

New research has identified six elements to an apology, and the more of those elements you include, the more effective your apology. But not all six elements are equally valuable. Two are particularly crucial to having your apology accepted.

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