A lot of people lose sleep over a great divide where two or more people have chosen sides. It happens wherever there are people. It could be among friends, enemies, a family or families, clients, or business partners. Usually it is a disagreement over relatively scarce resources: people; time; and/or money.
So, what does that have to do with family feuds and business turf wars? If you and a family member have different primary traits, the “family feud” potential increases. If you and a business partner have different primary traits, the “turf war” potential increases and, as fate would have it, the way out of the conflict is seldom as easy as the way in.
These conflicts exist because we forget that different people see the world through a different lens. Most of us have been to an eye doctor more than once; so we know that sooner or later we will be asked the “choice” question: Is it better with this lens, or is better with this lens? That’s the human race all right. Always looking for a better lens; and always believing deep down that our lens is the best lens.
Many people believe that conflict is inevitable in any human organization. Sooner or later, family members and business colleagues are going to have different opinions about the who, what, when, why and how something is going to be done.
Our personal traits and characteristics usually serve us pretty well, but not always. When we believe that we are the source of all wisdom and knowledge in the universe, we can become difficult to work with. And, as has been pointed out to me on more than one occasion, everybody is somebody’s most difficult person to work with. The same things that can make us difficult at home also make us difficult at the office, and vice versa.
Given that no model is perfect and that there are dangers in labelling people as this or that type, allow me to suggest this model for your consideration. There are four cornerstone traits related to behavior: control, social interaction, patience and systems. Traits can be high or low, and they are neither good nor bad, they just are.
One of these is our “go to” trait and accounts for about 65% of our behavior responses and habit patterns. Take a look at these brief descriptions and try to imagine which family members and business colleagues fit into each description. Remember that these are broad categories, and everybody has some of each characteristic – either on the high or low side. The main point is to indicate that there are at least eight different lenses we use to see the world. One of these will always be primary, and the other seven, whether in the high or in the low category, are there to add flavor.
Take a look:
High Control: take charge, direct, decisive, innovative and results driven.
Low Control: mild mannered, accommodating, and works best in a non-confrontational culture.
High Extroversion: interactive, motivational, persuasive and influential.
Low Extroversion: reserved, creative and individualistic.
High Patience: attentive listeners, patient instructors, dependable and productive.
Low Patience: sense of urgency, change oriented and fast-paced.
High Conformity: procedural, accurate, effective task managers and thorough.
Low Conformity: enjoy risks, independent and uninhibited.
So, there we are. Four cornerstone traits, each with high and low variations. Each having different expectations related to new ideas and tasks; productivity, time management, energy levels and styles; and recognition. In many ways, it is miraculous that we do not have more family feuds and turf wars.
Each of these traits sees conflict differently. High Dominance – conflict is natural; High Extroversion – lets us focus on what we have in common; High Patience – lets us all get along; and High Conformity – if the others would just follow the rules, then everything would be fine.
While we are often in conflict, we do not necessarily have to be in combat with each other. Developing a sense of conflict intelligence allows us to keep a variety of conflict resolution strategies and techniques available and ready for use when someone starts pushing the hot buttons. A number of people have developed models – all different if you can imagine that – that can work well.
Generally, using the proper technique involves choosing whether to be assertive, cooperative, or some combination of those two behaviors. The five style model developed by Ken Thomas and Ralph Killmann in 1971 suggests the five conflict resolution styles are:
Avoidance (nobody plays);
Accommodation (I lose, you win);
Compromise (I lose, you lose; but at least you didn’t win);
Competing (I win, you lose);
Collaboration (I win, you win).
Each of these conflict styles can be effective, depending upon the circumstances. Avoidance, for example, can work well if the conflict is simply not worth the effort. Sometimes, the only winning move is not to play the game. Accommodation can work well when winning is really not important. Compromise works well when both parties are equally matched and refusal to reach an agreement of some kind leads to a protracted war. Competing works well when thriving and surviving become issues outside the organization. Collaboration works well when we fully respect and honor each other. Otherwise, it can be a waste of time.
All of which takes us back to those three resources that lead to most conflict: people, time and money. There are any number of companies that are achieving outstanding bottom lines because they have developed a culture based on moral good, human impact and social value, which works just as well in families as it does in businesses.
One of the challenges, of course, is that we have to practice the virtues a culture is based upon as well as talk about it. When we do this, we reduce both the amount and intensity of conflict. People trust us. They trust us because we have demonstrated that we have mastered these much needed behaviors: forgiveness, integrity, respect and empathy. When we can do this within our families and our businesses, then we will have discovered the use of fire for the second time.