Conflict Resolution Training:

See Yourself As Others See You


Here’s a riddle:

•There’s something common to every conflict in which we’re involved.

•This commonality is with us at all times, but it’s a blind spot that, by definition, we don’t see.

•Sometimes, the people we’re in conflict with will point out our blind spot to us but, when they do, we don’t always pay attention even though discovering this blind spot will assist us in resolving conflicts and improving our relationships.

To solve the riddle, find a mirror and look into it. The blind spot will be as big as the nose on your face as well as your entire face and body (if it’s a full length mirror).

For all of us, the one commonality to every conflict is…us. Have you noticed that regardless of who we’re in conflict with or the issue about which we are in conflict, we’re always there?  

To resolve a conflict, therefore, I suggest you first examine whether there’s anything you’re doing (or not doing) that may be causing the conflict to persist.

In general, however, people do not examine their own behavior first. More commonly, people ask questions like, “How can I get the other person to change? What do I need to say or do that will get the other person to do what I want him/her to do? Why are they being so obstinate and difficult to get along with? Don’t they see that I’m right?

Consider that there is often something you’re doing or not doing that is causing the conflict to persist, but, as noted above, it’s generally a blind spot and, by definition, we’re blind to our blind spots.

So what’s the way out? How can we see a blind spot we’re blind to?

I noted earlier that the people we’re in conflict with will sometimes point out our blind spot to us but, when they do, we don’t always pay attention. If you do decide to pay attention, listen carefully to what the people you’re in conflict with are saying to you. You may hear:

You’re being defensive.

You don’t listen.

Why do you always have to be right?

You don’t take me seriously.

You’re obstinate

Or…(fill in the blank with some other feedback you may have heard)

As the poet Robert Burns wrote, “O would some power the gift to give us to see ourselves as others see us.” The feedback we receive is the “gift” that allows us to see ourselves as others see us if we will only listen without rebuttal.

I maintain that conflict resolution is easy because, when you hear feedback about yourself, all you have to do is ask, “Why do you say that?” and, once you hear the reason(s) ask, “What would you like me to do about that?” Then, simply choose: Will you do what you are being asked to do or will you not?

I am not at all suggesting that you should always do what people ask of you. “Take it or leave it” can be an appropriate approach. For example, the action being asked of you may violate a moral, legal or ethical position. There may be policies, procedures and/or rules that are not open to change. Some people truly are bullies and they just want to get their way without consideration for your needs.

But before you make this determination, go back to that mirror and have a conversation with yourself. Do you know your blind spot? Have you listened to what the other person is saying without arguing? Is saying “no” a reasoned approach or simply an habitual one that is often your default position?

Maybe, just maybe, you’re the bully.