Hi, I’m Tracey Lorenson and welcome to this “Quick Tips” episode,
How to identify the causes of conflict?

Local government decision-making is a “contact sport”

Clashes between priorities, philosophies, and interests are inherent, so working in the sector is not for the faint of heart. In our work with local governments, we’ve seen how the ability to identify and navigate through conflict is critical to individual and organization performance.

We want robust disagreement, but when it becomes personal, it becomes a damaging distraction.

The key question is, “How do we keep it productive?”

“Conflict is inevitable, but combat is optional.”

Difficult conversations are a normal part of life. No matter what personal or professional gains you make, there will always be difficult conversations that have to take place.

According to the Family Institute of Cambridge and Harvard Law School’s negotiation workshop, within each difficult conversation, there are actually three conversations happening. That is, there are three undercurrents driving the energy behind each conversation.


First, we have the “What Happened?” conversation

This is the disparity between each party’s interpretation.

Who is right?

Who is to blame?

No matter how we phrase it, in this conversation we are usually telling the other side that they are to blame.

Our goal should be to shift the focus away from establishing blame and toward an acknowledgement that we can never truly know other people’s intentions.


Second, we have the “feelings” conversation

Whose feelings are valid? Should they be acknowledged or peeled off of the conversation? How can that happen? How should you address feelings without walking into a landmine?

Regardless of how much you try to check your emotions at the door, there are emotional undercurrents to most difficult conversations. Even more, difficult situations don’t just involve feelings; they are based on feelings.

Sometimes a situation is so sensitive that feelings can’t even be broached. You will benefit from learning how to acknowledge and talk about the feelings associated with the situation.


Third, there’s the “identity” conversation

What does this situation mean to each of us? What judgments are we likely making about each other? How is this affecting self­ esteem?

This conversation asks, “What does this say about me?” Even when you are the one who is delivering the bad news, identity still comes into play. How will people see you after this conversation?

The bottom line is that conflict resolution starts by being able to effectively listen to the perspectives of the other person in the conflict situation and depersonalize the conflict.

Now that we’ve considered the three types of difficult conversations, click the attached link for a free resource to assess your approach to conflict.