I just read a great blog on Harvard Business Review that got me thinking about the role of vulnerability in conflict management. The author shared a powerful vignette about a personal conflict that emerged into a larger issue. The conflict ignition point was driven by both parties focusing on convincing each other of the intention they held for their actions rather than on the consequences of their actions. It’s a scenario we have all played out in our own lives.
Power in Vulnerability
It strikes me once again how much power we hold in our capacity to be vulnerable–to say “I apologize” or “I messed up” or “I see I’ve hurt you.” I know I’m guilty from time to time of the need to be right at all costs! Ouch! It never brings me happiness–never. And any productivity gain I may get is short lived. The resistance I create lasts a loooooong time!
My real power lies in remembering I’m always safe and there is always a path forward even when I have erred … but only when I’m willing to be honest and open about it.
It seems paradoxical, but it takes great confidence to say “I don’t know” or “I made a mistake” openly and with an invitation to collaborate on a go-forward plan. We hand over our greatest personal and professional power when we let fear keep us from showing our vulnerability.
And pragmatically for a business or team, it’s a waste of time–the time lost in conflict and the lack of trust it creates down the road is expensive.
Here’s an affirmation to try. When you are feeling stuck in an uncomfortable situation that you know is your own doing, and you are letting fear take up rent-free space in your head say to yourself: “I am comfortable being uncomfortable!” and “I am strong enough to let others see my weakness.”
What do you think? What are your strategies for managing conflict and turning it to productive conversation?
And check out the blog that started all this!