Here’s a deep dive into the strategy behind managing the conflict and emotions of heated moments and contentious relationships.

by Deborah Monroe
Date Published March 22, 2023 - Last Updated February 20, 2024

codeMost of us have no idea what motivates us, and if we do, we don’t do it well! We work on autopilot and when something comes up that is uncomfortable in a relationship, we either wither away and avoid it or get ready to fight. Neither is effective or allows for the optimum outcome, as you know.

Some time ago I was in a terrible situation that stole my sleep and some of my sanity (I know you can relate). I had rented out my home to a couple that seemed very nice and lots of fun, at first. They ended up being bullies full of intimidation and anger.

I was at my wit’s end, even though I do know how to deal with conflict and I do know how to negotiate. I do know how to have an adult conversation in order to correct behavior without being mean. I am self-aware and practice what I preach. In this situation, however, I was lost.

Enter Joshua Freeman, CEO of 6 Seconds, that global community supporting Emotional Intelligence. Josh and I have some history and he asked me to do a Neural Net Assessment, which identifies four (4) areas of one’s life and which emotional intelligence competencies to use in order to improve them. Here are the four (4) areas:

  • Effectiveness
  • Relationships
  • Quality of Life
  • Well being

Of course, Freeman and I concentrated on “relationships” considering what was happening at the time, it was most important. The recommendation of the assessment was to increase these three (3) things in my relationships:

  • Increase Empathy
  • Navigate Emotions
  • Exercise Optimism

Now hang in there with me! Why is this important?

Okay, we now know that “Emotions” are not good or bad. Emotions are information. Emotions can get us into trouble; they can also get us out of trouble.

The word E-MOTION represents that there is some kind of movement that happens when we feel. What that motion is, depends upon you.

Freeman has said, “Emotions can motivate people to step back or to step forward. Some emotions focus our attention on problems and some on opportunities.” In other words, “feelings are most effective when they are used.”

With that, he walked me through in a specific way as to how to “use” emotions to manage the uncomfortable situation that was in front of me.

The Fix

Increase Empathy

Deborah, what do you think these people are feeling and why are they feeling so hostile? What do they really “need” and what do they need from me? What would happen if I listened more and talked less?

In this situation, I simply let the person talk, complain, degrade me, moan, and question my value system. While this person was doing all that, I “listened deeply” to figure out what it was that they truly needed. What I saw is that this person needed to feel in control and justified. They wanted to be right and better than me.

Navigate Emotions

Deborah, am I generating feelings that will help me be open and supportive? What do I want them to feel?

In this situation, I had to prepare myself. If I had gone into the situation feeling judgmental and angry, I would have created a worse setting and left this person feeling more defensive and tense. The emotions I used were: Empathy and Optimism; everything will work out and let me understand why you are so upset.

Exercise Optimism

What sparks of opportunity and possibility can I share with others to make them feel more supported and optimistic?

In most situations, I am the Pollyanna of optimism. I truly believe that every situation can be worked out if there is willingness to compromise. And this situation was no different. I always asked in a positive manner, what is it that will make this situation livable for both of us?

That Outcome

The conversation I ended up having with this person resulted in a hug and a handshake. She was making judgments about my character because she had not spent time getting to know me and what I am about. In essence, it was all about a lack of trust. And mostly all relationship conflicts are about that, a lack of trust and/or a little betrayal that eats away at that trust.

The Application

So what tools can you begin to apply to these relationships that cause you interference, a lack of trust, and misery?

Enter Grandpa!

Grandpa was a farmer and a welder in Kansas. One of My first memories of him was connected to a full-sized green, velveted pool table in the basement of the farmhouse. We were not supposed to play on that table alone. Early in my pool playing days Grandpa would talk to me about the game. He taught me how to hold the cue, how to study the tip of the cue, how to chalk it, and why.

Then the most important life lesson that went beyond the pool game was seared into my young mind. He said, “Deborah, there’s only one move you make when playing pool, no matter whether you are good at it or not, and that is you hit the cue ball.

If you are reasonably poor at pool, you just whack the cue ball with the cue and hope something goes into a pocket.

But, if you are somewhat practiced you know there is a strategy. It’s how you impact the cue ball that makes the game interesting. It’s all about how you approach the cue ball and thinking about the outcome you want. Even more advanced players think not only about the current move, but where they want the cue ball to land to set them up for the next shot and the shot after that.

Regarding these issues with the people around us: There is a strategy, just like pool! It takes time and effort to get good at the “game”. If we consciously take time to review the strategy we will get better at navigating relationships and conflict.

We are mostly all beginners when it comes to really managing relationships. We whack the cue ball and hope that we get an outcome we want. I want us to get better at this and it takes time, attention and energy.

Before you head into one of “those” conversations, think about these things:

  • What’s the current layout on the table? Take a look around at your options.
  • How do we want the game to end? Think of your final objective first, then build forward from there.
  • What’s going to mess us up? My skills at this may not be great. Perhaps there are other obstacles or impediments.
  • What are reasonable next steps based upon the projected response of that person?

The bain of our existence in the support world is attempting to reduce the fires and to be more proactive. It’s difficult because we don’t have the resources, finances, or time to think strategically and then implement.

With this concept, though, you are the resource. Your desire to mature, build a culture of trust and cooperation is all you have. When these moments arise, step back, look at the table, and then think about your shot and where you want the cue ball to land.

What I’ve shared here is only the tip of the iceberg! At Supportworld Live, I will be sharing a more in-depth discussion of this situation, an explanation as to why people act the way they do, information on mirroring neurons, and how to use your emotions while you focus on the 3 goals of conflict and what you want as the outcome. I hope to see you there!

Tag(s): supportworld, communications skills, customer experience


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