conflict pivotsTammy Lenski recently wrote a very good little book called “The Conflict Pivot” in which she sought to address a few key questions regarding our personal conflicts with others:

  1. What things can make the most difference in the way a conflict unfolds?
  2. How can we shift a conflict without relying on what the other person will or won’t do?
  3. What can help us move beyond a state of chronic conflict in our most important relationships?

Her aim was to distill and simplify conflict resolution into a few basic tools anyone can apply to any conflict. They of course don’t guarantee resolution, but since their focus is on shifting our thinking, they can go a long way toward helping us find peace. The aim is to enable you either to:

  • truly let the conflict go and move on or
  • know exactly what to talk about with the other person to facilitate resolving the conflict.

Conflict Pivots

The three tools (or “conflict pivots” as she calls them – since they each involve a substantial shift in perspective in order to achieve a better result) are as follows:

  1. Stop ruminating on your story about the conflict and attend instead to what your story is trying to tell you about yourself.
  2. Stop dwelling on the other person’s actions or inaction and attend instead to why the conflict is “hooking” you.
  3. Stop focusing on the past and attend instead to what to do now.

The first two imply a genuine willingness to introspect with great humility and with the aim of changing how you are seeing things. As a result, for some people they will be virtually impossible and for most people they won’t be easy. She therefore devotes much of the book to unpacking the conflict pivots so as to make them understandable, doable and repeatable. The pivots do address head on three of the most common and problematic “internal thinking” habits and traps people tend to fall into in conflict:

  • Equating your version of what happened with “the truth;”
  • Blaming the other person for the discomfort you feel; and
  • Letting a fixation on the past prevent you from moving forward.

I agree with Tammy that the conflict pivots are a good way:

  • To orient yourself away from the stuck areas in conflict and toward ways to get unstuck and
  • To learn from the conflicts we encounter in life and deal more creatively with them.