Very few people relish it.
It’s one of the most common areas that we get asked to consult on with clients.
We use lots of helpful behavioural theory, practical techniques and role-play various scenarios.
However, nothing can quite replicate the real life challenge of a conflict with a particularly stubborn individual, whether a colleague or client, when emotions are running high and adrenaline is flowing through.
How do you manage in practice?
It’s not easy. So give yourself a break for finding it hard.
Transactional Analysis: A Brief Summary.
Eric Berne’s theory on “Transactional Analysis” is extremely helpful in enhancing our self-awareness during conflict. The theory posits that all of us have the capacity to think, feel and act from 3 ego states. Parent, Adult, Child.
- The “Parent” state: behaviours, thoughts or feelings copied from parents or authoritative figures.
- The “Adult” state: behaviours thoughts and feelings that are direct responses to the here and now.
- The “Child” state: behaviours, thoughts and feelings replayed from childhood.
Whereas both the Parent and Child ego states are reactive and fueled by emotion, the “Adult” ego state is more measured – rational, present and objective.
A helpful development.
I’ve developed my own interpretation of what happens during conflict based on my experience, my own habits and being very self-analytical- as I tend to be! I hope that you find it helpful.
The emotions that conflict evokes can be strong and are not easy to detach from. But you must.
We all have defaults. It can be helpful to work out your triggers, and what emotional ego state you’re most easily consumed by. Berne’s “Parent” or “Child?” Perhaps, you’ll oscillate between the two. Remember, these behaviours are deeply stored in the emotional memory.
When you feel that anxiety, stress, anger, whatever it is, rising, breathe. Take some space and step outside of yourself to observe. I liken it to an outer body experience. This time and space are such gifts under pressure.
Though it may not feel like this, you are not your emotions- however all-encompassing they may seem at the time.
Don’t give in to the temptation to feed your greedy ego.
“But I’m right! This person’s an absolute idiot and they need to know it.” Do they? Not really. This is your ego talking.
“I’m an idiot! I’m way out of my depth! I hate this. Ugh! I’m just gonna avoid it all.” No you’re not, and don’t do that. And again. It’s your ego.
The short term satisfaction of winning or ducking out completely will give way to long term regret. Your ego doesn’t care about the other person. It doesn’t actually care too much about you. See, it’s very selfish.
The “Ego Monster”
The ego is like the monster inside of us all. If we feed it, it can take over, and the results can be catastrophic. The monster is erratic, highly emotionally charged and doesn’t consider the consequences. It can also be a bit of a saboteur.
Oh it will try to befriend you and it can be incredibly convincing. Careful.
Depending on your character (you’ll know yourself best) your monster will more frequently exhibit of two types of behaviours- very much incorporated within Berne’s “Parent” and “Child” states. Both are pretty self-destructive. Perhaps these will resonate with you:
- “Lost Little Child” – nervous, scared, anxious, inferior, evasive, obedient, submissive, not taking responsibility.
- “False Messiah” – certain that you’re right, indignation, pride, anger, a desire to belittle, mock, get the better of, point score or win at all costs.
The ego is part of you. But it’s not all of you. It’s best to acknowledge its feelings, understand them and work through them.
It’s a strange phenomenon mediating the emotions of your ego as if you are separate from them. In the context of conflict, it’s particularly helpful.
If you take this time to detach from the Ego Monster, understand and quell the surge of emotion, you take control.
Stepping outside of yourself:
A massive tip here, for this detaching process is to put yourself in the shoes of your “adversary.” Truly step outside of yourself and use all of your energy to see things from their perspective. This will further distance you from the Ego Monster.
The ability to at least understand this perspective, even if you don’t agree, is one of the most powerful tools in managing conflict. This empathy starves your Ego Monster, allowing you to operate from a measured, objective, rational state. This state acknowledges your emotions, but is not driven by them.
This is what Eric Berne calls this the “Adult Ego State.” It takes practice to strengthen this state under pressure. It’s less instinctive.
The state is informed by your emotions, as well as the emotions of the other person. But it’s not driven by them. Put simply, it’s the best you.
Being “The Best You” and operating from that “Adult” state will always feel better and yield better outcomes for everyone than allowing the “Ego Monster” to take over- whether your monster is customarily a “Lost Little Child,” a “False Messiah,” or a smattering of both.
There’s no getting away from it, “The Best You” is sometimes hard to grasp in the midst of a hefty conflict.
Training ourselves to manage these challenging situations better, developing our EQ, is a lifetime’s work. Try to be patient and enjoy the ride.
Do take a look at our top “7 tips for managing conflict” for more insight!
What our clients are saying
The Speakers’ Gym is like the iPhone. You don’t realise you need it until you have it, and then you can’t live without it.
Magda Gonzalez, Group CFO, Monex Europe
It was completely practical and the open-forum feedback was so valuable. You created a safe environment for everyone to learn. Thank you!
Nicola Koronka, Co-Founder and Managing Partner, Missive
I was recommended by a friend who works in the same sector to contact The Speakers’ Gym to help me with my presentation delivery skills and I have not been disappointed with the results. Chris and Jonny work with you to provide bespoke training for your goals and needs. They are highly professional and make you feel at ease from the first minute the first session begins. I would highly recommend them to those who have a role which involves public speaking!
Julia Peake,Technical Development Manager, Sanlam
It has challenged both my thinking and approach and I will be sure to keep The Speakers’ Gym ‘fireworks’ readily available on my desk to refer to when not only presenting but also when needed through everyday management.
Liz Paradine – Chief Operations Manager - 7iM
Transact first engaged with The Speaker Gym late in 2018 where Chris & Jonny made a concerted effort to get under the skin of our business and understand how they could best help us hone our presentational and empathetic skills. The resulting sessions were hugely helpful giving my team plenty of opportunity to practice and also benefit from a great deal of feedback, not just from Chris & Jonny but by including the rest of the Transact team in the feedback and group learning too. I would highly recommend The Speakers Gym
Glen Sweet, Head of Sales, Transact
Working with The Speakers’ Gym has been fantastic. We knew what we wanted to say and who we wanted to speak to, so all we needed was technique. Or so we thought. Chris and Jonny helped us to understand the key elements of communication, through a structured process. We now think about communication in a completely different way. There’s a line they gave us that now resonates in my head, every time I write or talk to someone about what we do. We feel we’ve met two great guys and they’ve become an important part of us, our story and how we tell it to others.
Thomas Skinner, Founder, Barnaby Cecil Financial Planning
The impact of The Speakers’ Gym™ at Mako can only be described as transformational. Over a three month period, they helped transition a group of individuals into a highly collaborative and consultative leadership team. Chris and Jonny have a unique ability to connect individuals with their true purpose, driving them towards self-reflection and ultimately growth. Overall the entire experience of working with them has been a pleasure and I am deeply grateful for their impact. They more than surpassed my expectations and I look forward to working with them again in the future!
Trystan Morgan-Schauer, CEO, Mako
We engaged The Speakers’ Gym to provide us with clarity and direction in the look, feel and messaging of the Worldmaker brand in preparation for our official launch. From start to finish, the process has been truly collaborative. They worked with the expertise and experience in our team to create branding that truly represents who we are and what we represent, whilst moving us into a more modern, expressive space – which was our desire. We know that we’re in great hands with The Speakers’ Gym. We’ll certainly be continuing to work with them
Mollie Marti, CEO, Worldmaker International
They first took the time to understand our brief and delivered the programme incorporating our culture and brand throughout. They were thought provoking and their unique techniques very well received.
Mairi Cameron, Learning Manager, Nucleus Financial
The Speakers’ Gym gave me the skills and confidence to be my normal self whilst speaking and facilitating. They took the anxiety out of public speaking and gave me practical tools to prepare for and manage public engagements. They also helped me to engage more meaningfully with my clients, for which I am thankful. Highly recommend them.
Matthew Marais, Director, Vertus Capital
I found the sessions to be a revelation, and I wish I had known some of the techniques sooner. It has completely changed my mindset and focused me in on the needs of the audience. With that, the ability to achieve those aspirations has come more naturally. There is always room for improvement, and I will definitely be revisiting The Speakers’ Gym for a refresher from time to time.
Kelly Devlin, Wealth Management Consultant - St. James’s Place Wealth Management