What is the purpose of Conflict?

What is the purpose of Conflict?

HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE? Five or more team meetings

WHY DO THIS? To gain a new perspective on conflict

WHAT SUPPORT IS NEEDED? Any hero or experienced team leader

WHO CAN HELP? John Butler

WHAT IS THE TEAM’S ROLE? Willingness to try a different approach to conflict

WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW? This process looks at your individual and team dynamics around conflict. It is a 5 week process.

Week One: Discussion on Conflict (this will probably only take up about half the meeting)

Initial Questions:

  1. What do you believe is the purpose of conflict?

  2. Why do people in close and loving relationships engage in conflict?

  3. Why do teams inevitable have conflict among team members?

  4. Is conflict a constructive process or a destructive process in a relationship or on a team?

  5. Why does some conflict seem to lead to the destruction in a relationship and at other times people feel safer and closer after conflict is resolved?

The purpose of any conflict is to clarify your specific core values concerning the subject you are fighting about and to aid you in ranking the importance of your values.

When you are not clear about what you really believe nor what is most important to you you create an environment where conflict is inevitable.

Once your values are crystal clear and in the priority which resonates with you, conflict will promptly resolve. There may be some details to unravel, but the fighting will cease.

All relationships have conflict on occasion, and all teams have conflict from time to time. The healthy way to resolve conflict is to use the dispute to clarify your values, the typical person however simply tries to get their way 9impose their values on others). This is especially true for people that are conflict adverse, they will make their partners or teammates wrong for having conflicts.

Homework - week one 

Personal and private assessment of your own style when in conflict. Answer the following questions on a sheet of paper about yourself, Do not share it with others until told to do so.

  • How well do you listen to others when you are upset?

  • Can you reflect back to others what has been said when the conversation gets heated?

  • What happens to the tone of your voice when you are upset?

  • Are you open and honest (direct) about when you upset or do you try and hide your feelings?

  • How easily do you become irritated? Are you upset a lot or just every now and then?

  • Are you honest and truthful when engaged in conflict or do you tend to distort facts and deflect away from accountability?

  • Do you talk directly to the man you are upset with about the issue or do you tend to talk first with other’s on the team about what you are upset with?

  • What is your historic pattern in conflict? For example, is it your style to try and find allies against the man you are angry with or do you isolate and withdraw?

What are your values concerning conflict? (please be honest)

  • Do you want to win or do you want to sincerely understand the others point of view?

  • Do you want to be right at all costs, or can you easily admit you were wrong and make amends?

  • Do you speak up directly in the moment or tend to fume or pout in silence?

  • Do you tend to use things like sarcasm or humor to deal with upset feelings and if so, how?

  • Do you typically tend to undercut the most aggressive and angry man on the team in favor of short term peace and calmness or do you push for a complete and sincere resolution of all disputes?

  • Do you sit on the sidelines when men are upset? Or do you engage fully and what does that engagement look like?

  • Do you try and mediate between them to help them resolve the matter or do you tend to gather facts to then arbitrate who is right and who is at fault?

  • What else do the men need to know about your ability to handle conflict?

Week Two: Begin discussion of your personal conflict style

This activity will most likely take up the whole meeting so allow time for the 2nd half of the process.

Initial Questions: 30 min. total time

Where you taught in your family that if you could not say something nice, to not say anything at all?\ Did you learn growing up that if you were nice to people, you were more likely to get your way?\ Did you observe that people who spoke up and complained got their way more often than you did?\ In grade school, what were your power dynamics- did you get bullied, were you a bully?\ in your childhood home, what were the power dynamics- who got their way and what tactics did they use?

Evaluation Process

Each of us falls on a spectrum concerning our natural conflict style. Some are very conflict adverse while others are openly hostile. We are going to evaluate one other, to see how well we know one another and how well we know ourselves.

Get a set of sheets of paper and something to write with for each man (they should all be the same). Each sheet will have a set of questions on it as noted below. Each man should have a sheet for each other man on the team. Keep careful track of the time to make sure that each man gets the same time allotment. The deeper you want to go with this, the more time you need to allocate for each man to journal about each other man on the team. Do this process up to the end of the team meeting, not before, so that the meeting ends when this process is completed.

Then create a quiet and centered setting and have one man start by saying his name and give each other man on the team a chance to write in secret on his sheet what they observe about their teammate in reference to conflict. Read each question out loud, and keep track of the time. 15-20 min. per man is about right. (If a man has more to write, he can then work on these at home by himself)

  • How well does he listen to others when he is upset?

  • Can he reflect back to others what has been said?

  • What happens to the man’s voice when he is upset?

  • Is the man open and honest (direct) about when he is upset or does he try and hide his feelings?

  • How easily does the man become irritated? Is he upset a lot or just every now and then?

  • Is the man honest and truthful when engaged in conflict or does he tend to distort facts and deflect away from accountability?

  • Does he talk directly to the man he is upset with about the issue or does he tend to talk first with other’s on the team about what he is upset with?

  • What is his historic pattern in conflict on the team? For example, is it his style to try and find allies against the man he is angry with or does he isolate and withdraw? Does he look for reality checks and/or validation of his point of view?

  • What are his apparent values concerning conflict? -

  • Does he want to win or does he want to sincerely understand the others point of view?

  • Does he want to be right at all costs, or can he easily admit he was wrong and make amends?

  • Does he speak up directly in the moment or tend to fume or pout in silence?

  • Does he tend to use things like sarcasm or humor to deal with upset feelings and if so, how?

  • Does he typically tend to undercut the most aggressive and angry man on the team in favor of short term peace and calmness or does he push for a complete and sincere resolution of all disputes?

  • Does he sit on the sidelines when men are upset? Or does he engage fully and what does that engagement look like?

  • Does he try and mediate between them to help them resolve the matter or does he tend to gather facts to then arbitrate who is right and who is at fault?

After each man has been through his process of sitting in the face of the other men on the team, this segment is ended. Collect all the evaluation sheets of the team members about their team mates, but allow the man to keep a copy of his own self evaluation. Do not try and share the evaluations with the men the same night as they are made.

Homework - week two

Write about what came up for you in having your conflict style be evaluated by your teammates? Do you feel pride, shame, guilt, fear, sadness? Are you defensive about how you operate when upset? Do you think your own answers will line up pretty closely with the evaluations of the other men on the team?

Week Three: Processing our judgments about one another (this will take the whole team meeting)\ In a systematic way, with careful attention that each man gets the same allocation of time, (20 min per man is about right), have the man share his own take on himself and then have the teammates share their evaluation of the man on the same point, one question or topic at a time, around the circle.

When done, make sure that each man is feeling centered and engaged. This is the hard part of the process where men’s pain and wounds are likely to be opened up and somewhat raw. The team may need to do some clearings here to resolve some stuff that was buried but is now up for some of the men on the team.

Week Four: Discovery of your own values around dealing with disagreements

There are a lot of cultural and social assumptions and conclusions about men and conflict, esp. men and anger. This thus, is a very loaded topic that can include a lot of making other men wrong for their feelings or values. We must be careful to allow for a range of personal choices and values here, and not force every man to conform to our personal standards.

Each man has his own values and so long as he is willing to deal with the consequences of his values as they interact with the norms of the team and his job, society and so forth, all is well. When our values collide with the values of others we (as noted above) experiance conflict. The purpose of this weeks process is to help us formulate our own personal core values around conflict.

Discuss with one another:

  • What do we see as the purpose of anger?

  • What is the difference between anger and rage?

  • How do we feel about obedience, submission, domination and coercion when others exert these influences over us?

  • What about how we see ourselves in relationship to others who we see as weaker or dependent on us?

  • Is corporal punishment ok when dealing with spouses or children? Even when administered when angry?

  • What do we feel is the appropriate way to express our anger? How do we feel about aggressive words, physical gestures, raising our voice, facial gestures, humor/sarcasm?

  • When we perceive we are being attacked how do we feel about our need to be honest, to explain and otherwise be defensive, to accept blame or try and deflect blame onto others, to listen and agree with what our critic is saying?

  • Where do we feel placating is a constructive remedy?

  • How do we respond to criticism and why?

  • Is there a difference between feedback and criticism or is this just political correctness in semantics?

  • What are your attitudes towards triangulation? (talking with one person about problems you are having with another person)

  • How do you see aggression, passive aggression, placating, avoidance, assertion working in your life and on the team.

  • Get as clear as you can about your own personal standards around anger, aggression, assertion and so forth.

Homework - week four

Write a short statement or credo about your current personal core values re conflict, anger, dispute resolution and so forth. Remember that you can change this at any time so you are not locked into anything.

Week Five: Evolving Team Best Practices concerning conflict

Each man begins the meeting (or this portion of the meeting) by sharing his own written core values concerning conflict, the others listen in non judgmental silence.

Once each man has shared, the team leader will try and facilitate some common values that virtually every man on the team shares and see if some best practices concerning conflict can be promulgated. To be a best practice, every single man on the team must freely and willingly embrace the practice. Best practices are not standards that are required to be used in every instance, but when a team has best practices, then the team knows when it is going off track into chaos or when it is using tools in order to resolve disputes in a healthy manner

Some common best practices-

  1. Call a man directly when you are upset with him or have another man present and meet with him face to face

  2. Calling a team mater to get a reality check on something is a healthy practice, but trying to get allies against another man undermines team cohesion and trust.

  3. Own your personal anger and try and be honest about what is upsetting you- anger is a positive energy that is needed to correct injustices (or perceived injustices) and should not be repressed

  4. Clear unresolved conflict at the beginning of a meeting so that they do not spill over into the rest of the team time

  5. Learn to listen to the truth of what another man is saying, rather than get bogged down into the details. The facts or content may not be exactly correct, but even so, often the general direction or point is valid

  6. When a man is triggered, it is never about the other man/situation- it is always about something within him

  7. Things work better when you can reflect back to the other man what he has said rather than continuing to argue with him- once you reflect that you have heard and understood him, then it will be your turn to talk.

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John Butler

Momentum is a local, not-for-profit men’s community.

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