United We Stand. Divided We Can’t Stand Each Other

Last week, I conducted a two-day conflict management workshop with a group of 40 government civilian and military leaders. (What timing!) We discussed the different conflict modes according to the Thomas Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument (TKI): competing, collaborating, compromising, avoiding and accommodating, and when each is most effective. Right now, competing: “I win, you lose” seems to be the predominate mode in our country. However, in a connected community, this mentality only serves to divide us and make us weaker as a nation. As a result, we all lose and nobody really wins.

We also talked about how conflict within a team is good when it’s healthy conflict where people are debating ideas, concepts and solutions to problems. Conflict is destructive when it is a personal, mean-spirited attack, becomes personality-focused, or involves interpersonal politics, as defined by Patrick Lencioni. As a nation, we have lost sight of the issues and have made it personal. Once it becomes a relationship issue instead of a debate about a topic, the conflict becomes much nastier and far more difficult to resolve. Because now, we not only disagree about the topic, but we can no longer stand each other.

I also shared Patrick Lencioni’s conflict resolution model, which shows different obstacles that get in the way of resolving a conflict, the most difficult ones being those related to individual values, styles, experiences, etc. The model also illustrates how conflict happens most often when emphasis is placed on our differences. When we focus on what we have in common rather than our differences, relationships run more smoothly and conflict is minimized. As Dr. Rick Brinkman and Dr. Rick Kirschner authors of “Dealing With People You Can’t Stand” brilliantly stated, “United we stand, divided we can’t stand each other.” As a country and as human beings, we have far more in common than we have differences. We all want the same things according to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: food, water, shelter, security, safety, intimate relationships, feelings of accomplishment, and achieving our full potential. My wish this holiday season is that we come together as a nation because we are far stronger united than we are divided.

  “Peace is not absence of conflict, it is the ability to handle conflict by peaceful means.” – Ronald Reagan

 When there is trust, conflict becomes nothing but the pursuit of truth, an attempt to find the best possible answer.– Patrick Lencioni

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