Disharmony and

Every relationship – be it in business or personal will experience both at times and pay an emotional and/or financial price for mismanaging it.

Over the years I’ve been called in to “mediate” lots of business conflict. Ranging from fights between fellow employees to major disagreements between suppliers and their clients.

Now, not all conflict is bad.

A certain amount of healthy tension in a relationship leads to increased productivity. Defined as “Opposition”, it’s where two or more people disagree about an idea and engage in a healthy debate which often generates new ideas and/or improved ways of doing things.

It’s only when a disagreement becomes personal and one party feels an attack that undermines their self-worth, that “opposition” transitions to “conflict” and slanging matches.

Once this happens, things may keep heating up until stuff is said and done which is often very hard to retract.

So while conflict is sometimes inevitable, here’s a process I use to defuse the situation and help the parties gain a mutual understanding and respect.

The process is based on a simple premise. To understand someone else, you have to “walk a mile in their shoes”.

The Perceptual Position exercise helps you achieve this.

There are 3 points of view you can take when experiencing any situation. 1st position, 2nd position and 3rd position.

First Position:

You see the world from your point of view. You experience your thoughts and feelings about the situation.

Second Position:

You walk in the other person’s shoes. Imagine being them. What would they be experiencing when dealing with you?

Third Position:

Imagine sitting in a play watching an interaction. You can see both sides, imagine what’s happening for each party and what’s “likely” to happen without being involved yourself.

Here’s the exercise:

I have done this with both parties talking “at” each other. Or using a surrogate who plays the role of the other protagonist. Or one party just imagining the other is in front of them.

For the sake of simplicity assume there are two parties “shouting” at each other.

I encourage the “debate” to start. They vent their spleen at each other.

After a couple of minutes I say “Switch”.

Person A now takes the role of Person B and vice versa.

They now have to continue the argument as if they were the other person! i.e. Arguing from the other’s point of view. Seeing, hearing and feeling as if they’re “inside” the other person.

This is when the “magic” starts.

Now “Switch back” and try and continue the argument.

I challenge you to continue in the old way. Having now “inhabited” the other party’s body and experienced the argument from their point of view, you will gain clarity and greater understanding of where they’re coming from.

Often you’ll find you’re both trying to achieve the same outcome, but haven’t been communicating effectively.

I put a business owner through this process recently. In her case just imagining speaking from the other person’s view gave her a great insight into the other party and why things had gone wrong, the fact they both wanted the same outcome and how to go about achieving it.

A mother suddenly understood why her 20 year old daughter was so oppositional to her.

A team in a large organisation suddenly understood why their client was so upset and what to do about it.

I could go on.

Perceptual Positions is a simple exercise to do, but it can have profound results. I encourage you to give it a go when you next find yourself experiencing a situation where you keep banging heads and can’t seem to get past it.

Try it and let me know how you go.

And should you feel you need help “mediating”, give us a call on (02) 9499-7958.

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