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From a dispute to a scandal: how to build communication in a conflict

Friday, January 8, 2021

We continue introducing you to the episodes of the «Maslow-ish» audio-podcast from the creators of the NODE PR agency. In this episode, we discuss communication from different perspectives. Our today's guest is Irina Barzhak, the founder of the Institute of Public Speaking and Conflict Science. Today we talk about how to deal with conflicts, not be afraid of public speaking and always remain calm.

Startup Jedi

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How conflicts are universal for business and interpersonal communication?

The essence of the conflict is the same: both in business and in communications at any level. When conducting training on communications in the business sphere for companies — relations in the family are improved, when the training is conducted to improve relations in the family — relations in business are improved. Therefore, conflicts in any area are very interconnected.

Many people think that conflict is not a very pleasant topic, but I would like this topic to be pleasant, comfortable, manageable. When a conflict is controlled by your influence, then it does not become unpleasant, it becomes a part of life.


From a dispute to a scandal: how to build communication in a conflict

If we consider a conflict as a controlled process, what parts does it consist of?

There are conflictogenic phrases, as well as words, actions (or inactivity) that lead to a conflict. All these always lead to a conflict, even if there is no conflict of interests or roles. Quite often, people can’t find a common ground, because both sides are using conflict.

All other conflicts I would divide into internal and external. Curiously enough that all external conflicts are a projection of internal conflicts or these are moments when there is a misunderstanding. For example, when you had a fight with a manager, and the conversation seems to be over, but inside, you still continue thinking, what else could be said to the person — this is an internal conflict.

It is interesting that all the people around us are having similar internal dialogues and conflicts. But when some external projection is triggered, something activates this conflict outward — and emotions spill out.

At trainings, I always suggest working on a link: external conflict-internal conflict. The understanding that what other people say to you has nothing to do with you, leads to the fact that you stop reacting sharply to the manifestations of their negativity. When you work with your inner conflict, you ask yourself questions: why did this hook me, why am I conducting a dialogue with this person. When the inner and outer sides are worked out, the conflicts become much less, but if they happen, then they are quite powerful.


From a dispute to a scandal: how to build communication in a conflict

When a person is in conflict, the first emotion that they experience is anger, because it seems that people don’t understand them or don’t want to hear. How should one behave at this moment in order to reorganize into the focus of internal reflection?

You don’t have to adjust, you have to understand that if the person shouts “You’re an idiot!” — it means that he has some kind of an inner conflict on the topic of idiots. Accordingly, when instead of “You idiot, can’t you see where you are going!”, you will hear “I’m an idiot, I can’t see where I’m going”, — it will be easier to stop projecting this situation on yourself and it will be easier to deal with such a situation.

Despite the fact that I was studying conflict management, sometimes, I have conflicts. So what do I do in such situations? After the conflict appears, I come home and start looking for a point where I had a reaction, then I think about why I have a reaction and why those specific words trigger the reaction. It’s not necessarily anger, it may also be emptiness, disappointment, very often envy — and it happens that another person in a conflict I can see myself.

I had a colleague and we were sitting together in the same office with him, and he was loudly shouting all the time. At the same time, he always spoke on the phone only on the speaker, and I, hating him for this, was taking revenge on him for that: as soon as he started screaming, I nervously sprinkled the perfumes he couldn’t stand. This all lasted for some time until I started to study conflict management. After studying, I realized that this person is my mirror. It turns out that I am similar to this man. His features, loudness, a swagger in dealing with clients are also present in me. After working through this whole story, my reactions changed, I began to react more calmly and my relationship with this colleague improved.


Does it mean that the more self-conscious person in the conflict has to shift the focus on themselves?

Nobody owes anything. If you have learned the basics of conflict management, it doesn’t mean that you suddenly became enlightened, and the balance is everywhere, on the contrary, you manage the conflict: when you need to shout — shout, and when you need — you will start managing it in a different way.

When people say: “You’re a conflict expert, so why are you in conflict?” — this is terribly infuriating. If you are in conflict, then there is some deep reason for this that hasn’t been worked out yet. Conflict experts also have conflicts, it happens once every six months. Of course, they are more explosive, but they are not so “daily” and they reveal deeper problems.


From a dispute to a scandal: how to build communication in a conflict

How can you achieve your goals with the help of conflict?

It is important to understand that the conflict is not always something bad; let me give you an example from my experience.

I was a hired CEO at a company where the business owner took a certain resource from me and transferred it to another branch. For me, this resource was critical, and every day I talked with the owner about its return, as the clients needed it. At that time, my phone was connected to the quality service, where everyday calls were received from conflicting customers demanding the return of this resource. Realizing that the owner didn’t hear me and didn’t understand the acuteness of the problem, instead of talking to him I threw a hysteric and started shouting. And only when I realized that he heard me, I said in a calm voice: “Now you understand me?”. He was taken aback, asking: “Was it all a theater?” I explained that it was not a theater, but the way clients talk to me every day, and this is my neurosis, which I am in right now. Thus, I deliberately chose the instrument of screaming and hysteria, because I had already tried everything before.

The key difference between a controlled conflict and an uncontrolled one: if you can stop inside of the conflict and tell yourself that this dialogue needs to be postponed until tomorrow, then it is a controlled one, and if not, then the conflict controls you and it will be extremely difficult to achieve a result.


Conflict management: how to keep your temper in a check

The ability to restrain yourself can be compared to a compressed spring. I don’t recommend restraining in any case, since this develops into passive aggression, from which either your loved ones or your body will suffer.

When you restrain yourself in a conflict — everything is like a volcano inside you, the vessels are enlarged, the heartbeat is pounding, so in simple words, the body feels the same as during the stress. But sooner or later, everything that you have been restraining will find a way out and you will take everything out on an innocent person.

I am for controlled conflict. Anything the other person says in anger is a projection of their inner conflict and has nothing to do with you. You can manage this conflict, especially if you write down keywords.

Any accusation that the other person shouts at you is not about you, it’s about him: about his fears, his pain. When you recognize their fears and pains, you can do whatever you want with that person. If you understand how this law works, then you won’t need to restrain yourself in the conflict. This approach is wiser and more appropriate for your own health. A person simply details everything that is shouted at him.


How to improve your skills in a conflict?

You have to start with stress management: learn how to deal with your own stress. There is a range of exercises, which you can do to be calmer and to understand what and why affects you; those exercises also include meditations.

It is also important to learn how to manage time. For example, there is a good exercise that leaders of different structures and levels like to do. My students call it the SEAL exercise, and it is also used by the special forces. The bottom line is to detect and count the minute inside yourself without a clock. This exercise is both a stress test and a very quick recovery exercise for all the body’s resources, as well as a way to level the pressure of time. With regular practice, after 21 days, you will have this skill, and you will be able to record exactly 1 minute.

This exercise helps you develop stress management ahead of time and make good decisions ahead of time. In a moment of conflict, it is difficult to use it, because there is a question-answer, a stimulus-reaction situation.


From a dispute to a scandal: how to build communication in a conflict

What action plan can be used in a moment of conflict?

In specific quarrels, remember that the person doesn’t talk about you, and write down what they tell, some keywords. In other words, you have to change your psychic energy into action, in order to understand whether it is possible to build further work and communication with such a person and how to do it correctly, or resolve the situation right away, as you clearly understand that there will be no constructive dialogue.


In the course of the conflict, the person who writes down what you say, arouses even more suspicion, isn’t that so?

Here, I want to set an example of Richard Branson, who writes in his book that on every negotiation process, he writes down all keywords. Also, after the course on conflict management, my colleagues shared their feedback that writing down key constructive mistakes right after the person speaks, deescalates the tension in the conflict: the person either switches to a constructive dialogue or just leaves it.

When I conduct a dialogue with people, I always say that my understanding is not enough for me, I need to see how people see things in their picture of the world. And if a person doesn’t continue the dialogue with a story with the details of dissatisfaction, it means that the person likes this conflict. Often, in this case, many begin to feel guilty, but that’s not the right thing to do as you become controllable. Guilt is the lowest level of manipulation.

The lower is the person in the level of income or mental development, the more they try to manipulate resentments and feelings of guilt. The higher the level of a person, the better the manipulation tools, so it is even difficult to understand that he is manipulating.


What can you recommend to stop treating the conflict as something negative?

Take care of yourself. In today’s world, burnout is a no joke. Make it comfortable for you to exist, so that you can control the process, and not the process controls you, and then it will be good and easy for you to live in any, even the most toxic environment. Moreover, you won’t get into this toxic environment, because you will learn to see benefits that everyone else doesn’t see.

8 Jan 2021


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