Conflict Resolution

Much of life is resolving differences between yourself and “the others” For this purpose “others” include family, friends, employees, co-workers, partners, bankers, customers and more. How do we do it?

I recently watched a bright young professor from MIT, Rebecca Saxe, deal with this matter from a neuroscience viewpoint. Essentially, finding out how our brain does what it does. It is quite interesting. The two I watched were at Edge.org and Ted.com

Knowing how it works actually only gives a glimmer of hope as to how we can resolve the differences. Clearly if we start with the idea that the”other” is malevolent, treacherous, knows more, has more power and wishes to take advantage of us, we will have conflict. There are some ways to deal with these inherent conflicts but as Dr. Saxe points out, they don’t always work and there is no reliable way to know when they will work.

There are some things that dispute mediation courses will teach. I have not taken such a course but I am of the opinion that it might be a good sales learning tool. Maybe someone can come up with a shortened version aimed specifically at resolving the inherent conflicts between salesperson and client.

One of my children has taken such a course and I have learned a little from him. I have noticed that he is good at applying the skills. The one thing I remember clearly is that it is not enough to know what the other person’s position in the negotiation may be. You need to know that, but you also need to know how they came to own that position.

  • Sometimes it is by default. Everyone in my family is that way.
  • Sometimes it is social. All my friends think this is true.
  • Sometimes it is emotional. I feel good about this choice.
  • Sometimes it is logical. I have studied all the competing ideas and I have decided this one is right.
  • Sometimes there is no reason at all. Since you have asked for something they believe they should have, they make up their position on the spot and defend it vigorously thereafter.

When you know how they came to believe what they believe, you can connect your product , service or idea to their position in a way that matches their method of understanding. Sometimes compare and contrast works. The idea is that you must validate their position and the way it was reached and offer an alternative in the same learning style as the one they reached the one that they hold.

For example, a third party piece may help with someone who is part of the in-crowd method. Concepts, facts and figures that are newer may help the logic client. The hard case is the one who makes up their position on the spot. There is no handle to attach to.

The idea is to find a way for them to compromise or find acceptance of a new way. Alternatively they may convince you of their position in which case it is a good day. You have learned something.

The one thing that I know, and there is ample proof of the fact, is that no one has become a Toronto Maple Leaf fan (substitute the team of your choice instead) by using logic.

Go Habs!

Don Shaughnessy is a retired partner in an international accounting firm and is presently with The Protectors Group, a large personal insurance, employee benefits and investment agency in Peterborough Ontario. don.s@protectorsgroup.com

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