My blog on Seth Godin’s blog on conflict

Wooden bridgeFirst, this is what Seth said:

"One of us is wrong...
and it's not me."

That's the way every single conflict begins. Of course it does, because if it didn't, it wouldn't be a conflict, would it?

...[But] The thing that's worth addressing has nothing much to do with the matter at hand...We cure disagreements by building a bridge of mutual respect first, a bridge that permits education or dialogue or learning. When you burn that bridge, you've ensured nothing but conflict.

Posted by Seth Godin on April 11, 2013

My thoughts on Seth's thoughts are these. First, I love these insights because they are so true. We get stuck in conflict because at least one person thinks that there can only be one person who is right.

And what if that person is you? When you are in the 'I'm right, you're wrong' (fight or flight) part of the brain, it narrows your focus to only yourself, to only what will help you win this moment. You lose perspective. You lose sight of the bigger picture and the fact that this moment is connected to a timeline and a relationship. It is not separate from it.

To do a better job in the moment means you must stay connected to that wiser part of the brain. The one that does the best, long-term thinking. The one that remembers that other people matter and - believe it or not - have relevant points too - even if their experiences are different from yours.

To get to that wiser self, you have to remember a few things. First you have to remember that two people can be right. Or at least each have valid points.

Start with curiosity. Be curious about why it matters to you. Be curious about your triggers. Be curious about what the other person's point is. Be the kind of person who is more interested in learning something than proving something. And you can always learn something. About the situation. About the other person. About yourself. About what works better, what - not so much.

Then invite your partner (not your opponent!) to address these differences with a win-win attitude. Of course - they may not have buy-in or trust in or desire for win-win but you can still build the bridge.

Inviting someone to cross starts with the confidence to know that there are solutions that can be had if people are willing to look beyond their own smaller versions of success (the ones that only include themselves). If you believe that there are answers then you tend to waste less time getting worked up and spend more time being creative in finding those answers.

Besides creativity you need caring. And while again - you can't make others care, you might want to consider that often people care more when they know that you care about them as well.

Of course, getting your fight partner to think bigger too is a great goal, and one that you should seriously commit to, but it helps to never forget that you can't make other people meet you on that bridge. You can and should build it but for it to be mutual is out of your hands.

My advice? Build it anyway and extend a genuine invitation. Invite them to join you in curiosity. Invite them by listening to why they have a good point. And then ask them to hear your excellent point as well.

I hope you try it because when it works, it can feel extremely powerful. And both sides, get to take credit and hopefully remember the way for the next go round.

Thanks for a great prompt Mr. Godin. Wise indeed.