Do you avoid resolving conflict in negotiations? Do you avoid any and all conflict in general? This is a common tendency and human nature for most, but not what you want to embrace to be a successful negotiator. In this episode of Negotiations Ninja, Dr. Jennifer Goldman-Wetzler shares some of her conflict resolution strategies that you can use to become aware of and change your own behaviors. Don’t miss her expertise and insight into resolving conflict.
Dr. Jennifer Goldman-Wetlzer is the founder and CEO of the Alignment Strategies group. She holds a Ph.D. in Organizational Psychology from Columbia University—and is now a professor at the same university. She specializes in helping individuals and organizations find freedom from challenging conflict. She recently penned the book: Optimal Outcomes: Free Yourself from Conflict at Work, at Home, and in Life.
Outline of This Episode
- [0:34] Introducing Dr. Jennifer Goldman-Wetzler
- [2:36] The relationship between conflict and negotiation
- [3:38] The #1 mistake people make when faced with conflict
- [5:25] Why do negotiators—and people in general—avoid conflict?
- [8:01] How your family of origin impacts your behavior
- [12:00] 8 Practices to use when you find yourself in conflict
- [22:51] Tactical advice on resolving conflict in the workplace
- [25:33] Sometimes conflict resolution is ended counter-culture behavior
- [27:13] Resolving conflict using Jennifer’s method isn’t for the faint of heart
Conflict-avoidance in the negotiation process
According to Jennifer, a negotiation is a specific interaction between groups or individuals. Conflict is a situation where two or more people aren’t having their needs met OR they see situations from different points of view. These differing viewpoints often lead to frustration, anger, and conflict.
Conflict-avoidance comes naturally to some negotiators, who overuse it as a negotiation tool. If the relationship you’re in isn’t that important, conflict-avoidance can be a useful tactic. If you use conflict-avoidance habitually in important relationships, the conflict bubbles up, boils over, and explodes—leaving you entrenched in unavoidable conflict.
Conflict-avoidance isn’t always fear-based—it may just be how they learned to deal with conflict. But Jennifer asks us to question: What are the influencing factors that lead us to have the habits we have?What conflict style did our parents embrace? What messages did we receive about conflict from teachers, coaches, spiritual leaders, television, etc.?
Four conflict habits we fall back on
Jennifer points out that the #1 mistake people make when faced with conflict is responding the same way over and over and expecting a different result. We may use our habits with the best of intentions, but we get stuck in the same patterns that don’t yield positive results. Jennifer shares the 4 habits we tend to fall back on:
- We blame other people.
- We avoid other people and shut down in the face of conflict.
- We blame and shame our own selves.
- We relentlessly seek to collaborate even when other people do not want to cooperate with us.
Jennifer emphasizes that these things don’t get us what we want. So how do you change? She points out that the first step is recognizing what your conflict habit is. She offers a free assessment on her website that will tell you exactly what your habit is. Once you have that answer, ask yourself what you can do differently next time.
Jennifer shares a personal story about her family of origin and how it influenced her conflict habits, as well as 8 practices you can use when you find yourself in conflict—so keep listening.
Resolving conflict in the workplace
Are you the leader of a team stuck in a blaming pattern? In her book, Jennifer discusses a sales team that was in conflict with a talent manager they were working with. When the talent manager took a moment to take notice of the habits of the team, he found that they were hyper-competitive. With a motto like “Triples sales or go home”, how could they not be?
So it didn’t shock him when he realized their team-wide conflict habit was attacking and blaming each other. Their need to compete—that could also be positive and help them win—became destructive. It warped into blaming and attacking other people. So what did he do to begin resolving conflict and mesh with this team?
Keep listening to hear how the rest of the story plays out and what you can do to resolve conflict.
The ‘Optimal Outcomes’ conflict resolution strategy isn’t for the weak
You must overcome conflict avoidance and learn to be present and intentional. This approach isn’t for the weak—It is going to require immense amounts of courage and personal change. You need to embrace a willingness to practice and experiment which becomes a positive feedback loop.
Jennifer is no stranger to win-win methodology—and actually teaches it. However, she notes that it is limited in its applicability. We can’t always collaborate and there will not always be a resolution. You must simply call it what it is and try something else when resolving conflict the way you always have isn’t working.
Jennifer’s approach, by nature, is about applying new ideas and methodologies to resolving conflict so you aren’t continually banging your head against the wall. To hear more about the conflict resolution strategies she outlines in her book—listen to the whole episode of Negotiations Ninja.
Resources & People Mentioned
- TEDx Talk on Optimal Outcomes
- Book: Optimal Outcomes
- Optimal Outcomes Assessment
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