Although few will ever reach the heights of madness and volatility that we see in ‘Breaking Bad’, many of us were poorly educated in how to deal with conflict. I’m currently on catch up, watching ‘Breaking Bad’ with box sets. It’s distressing and fascinating almost simultaneously. I can’t decide whether to watch it or not, but for now, watching is winning out. It captures the extreme of almost every behaviour and conflict imaginable.
When you look at the consequences of Walt’s repressed rage and anger and the lengths that his alter ego Heisenberg is prepared to go to win, you’re left thinking which of these extremes is worse and (still on catch up) wondering where is it all going to end.
Which of these personas do you most identify with when you experience conflict? What is it that you find most difficult when dealing with people in conflict? Some find it impossible to talk to people who are aggressive, raise their voice or become sarcastic. Others find it so difficult to deal with tears. Even when people say very little it can be very off putting for others. Most leaders say they don’t like dealing with conflict because it involves too much emotion. Did you ever find yourself in conflict or work with someone experiencing conflict, who was so emotional that you didn’t know how to talk to them?
Often when I work with people in conflict they describe the other person as being ‘crazy’, ‘out of control’, or ‘completely irrational’. When someone behaves like this, what do you do? And when you are in conflict, how do you come across to others? How do you think they describe your reaction and does it make it difficult for them to talk to you?
If you are in conflict it is much easier to find a solution when you are prepared to look at your own behaviour and your role in it. If you are a manager, a HR professional, or as I am, a mediator and conflict management coach, working to resolve conflict, these are questions which arise often and which we also need to spend time with in order to be effective at what we do.
A self reporting assessment tool called Conflict Dynamics Profile (CDP) explains to us what happens when we experience conflict. It helps us to understand the events that bring us into conflict with somebody else and what it is we are doing that may be causing conflict in others. More importantly it gives us practical options and insights into how to de-escalate a conflict.
Effective conflict management starts with self awareness. Self reporting assessments are useful tools which we can use to obtain greater self awareness. CDP gives the user very specific information about what behaviours in others cause a sense of conflict in them, and how they typically react in these situations. It also looks at the reactions which make the conflict worse and what can be done to improve it. More importantly it gives specific and individual information to each user on development opportunities that they can work on to increase their effectiveness in managing conflict.
So, rather than resorting to the kind of behaviours that are so brilliantly portrayed in ‘Breaking Bad’, understanding conflict dynamics gives you options. There are many ways of responding to conflict that can help you to side step a great deal of heart ache, lost hours of work, low morale and/or costs.