Welcome to the third piece in the Conflict Management series. We’ve addressed the methods and benefits of Prevention and Resolution, and this month we’re talking about managing conflict using Redirection.
Redirection Using “Yes, and …”
Typically, when someone comes at you in a conflict situation, your brain immediately goes into fight, flight or freeze mode: You may attack back, blame somebody else to deflect the conflict, or completely avoid the person and the situation. While these are all very natural and understandable reactions, none of them are helpful unless there is a life-threatening issue.
Some conflicts simply need to be distracted from, and often finding common ground with the other party is the way to do it. This is where I teach the “Yes, and …” tactic to my clients. It’s actually very simple. When a conflict arises, look for where you can agree with the person, and start from this common place to move toward a resolution. You will get a lot further when you start with a “yes” than when you start with a “no.” And the other person is much more likely to follow you in a positive direction than in a negative one.
I was once giving a presentation at the Federal Aviation Administration on this exact topic. As I was talking about the brain psychology behind conflict, a disgruntled man in the audience spoke. He started by declaring that he was a doctor, and that I was wrong. And unfortunately, his point had nothing to do with what I was talking about. I had to do some slow, deep breathing to prevent myself from going into fight mode. He continued to rant angrily, going farther and farther off topic. I saw several audience members rolling their eyes, and I knew I had to get things back on track.
After I calmed myself, I listened for something I could agree with. Once I found it, I said, “You’re absolutely right about that, and let me talk about how it applies to this topic.” I could have debated his ideas or even cut him down, but instead I got my presentation back on track by finding one thing to agree with. Afterward, I had audience members come up to me and ask, “How did you do that? That guys ruins every workshop he goes to!”
It was the power of “Yes, and …”!
You’ve probably found yourself in a similar situation. It’s usually a gut reaction to tell people what not to do, or what is wrong with their thinking. If you don’t take it personally, you can usually redirect and find common ground using a “yes, and …” response.
Once you realize that you don’t have to resolve every little difference, you’ll find that many times simply agreeing to something and redirecting can help. Once you’ve mastered this tool, you’ll find it useful in most situations, not just at work. You can use it during a challenge with a store clerk, your children, your spouse, even your in-laws. (It should come in handy during the holiday season!) As you master this skill you can smoothly step out of a vast majority of the conflicts to which you’re invited.
To read more about the concept of “Yes, and …” check out this blog post:
Improvisational Leadership—The “Yes, and” Approach
If you have an example to share, or just want some advice on creating a “Yes, and …” response to a conflict you’re experiencing, either share it here, on Facebook, or email me directly. I’d love to help.
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