• Thrive Inc.

Conflict: Turning Pain to Beauty Just Like Exercise

Many people think that conflict means fighting, but this is actually just a sign that the real conflict underneath isn’t being dealt with. When it comes to a team, it’s important to recognize the signs that conflict is occurring and learn to deal with it effectively.

In this episode, we’re sharing some examples of how conflict can show up in a team, and how to take the pain out of it. We're going behind the scenes and sharing some personal experiences of dealing with conflict together to show you how we addressed it and what we did to overcome it.

Tune in this week and hear us work through some real conflict live in the episode. We share some signs that issues are not being addressed in your team and show you how to use conflict to deal with differences and become stronger as a team.

If you’d like us to speak at your organization about conflict, stress, team-building, or leadership, work with your team virtually, or coach you or leaders on your team, reach out to us!

If you enjoyed the show, please share the podcast with your family and friends, or post a five-star review on iTunes. Rating and reviewing the show helps spread the word, which means less friction and suffering for everyone, and who doesn’t want that?

Listen on Apple Podcast | Stitcher | Spotify

Learn More:

  • Why we started our business.

  • How different people manage conflict.

  • Why certain circumstances can create varying levels of conflict.

  • How to create more clarity, cohesion, and connection as a team.

  • Why the only way you will get better at something is to keep practicing it.

  • Some signs of conflict that you may not recognize as conflict.


Full Transcript:

CrisMarie: Welcome to The Beauty of Conflict, a podcast about how to deal with conflict at work, at home and everywhere else in your life. I am CrisMarie.

Susan: And I'm Susan.

CrisMarie: We run a company called Thrive Inc, and we specialize in conflict resolution, stress management coaching and building strong, thriving teams and relationships both in person and virtually.

Susan: We are starting 2021 with a series based on our book, The Beauty of Conflict for Teams. We’ll be sharing tips, tools about how to make your team work more effectively especially in this remote and virtual environment. We hope you’ll walk away from this episode and this series with some fresh ideas that change your day, your week and even your life.

CrisMarie: Hi, I’m CrisMarie.

Susan: And I’m Susan Clarke.

CrisMarie: And today we are going to continue our series on The Beauty of Conflict for Teams based on our book, The Beauty – well, it’s actually The Pain crossed out, Beauty of Conflict: Harnessing your Team’s Competitive Advantage.

Susan: And today we’re going to actually talk about the cover.

CrisMarie: Yes, because coming up with the cover of this book and the title of the book was a whole process in and of itself. And we chose to juxtapose beauty with conflict because quite frankly nobody likes conflict, not even us. And we wrote two books on it and have a podcast by the same name.

Susan: Now, some of this has come up because we were looking back over the last year as many of us have been. And we realized that there was a point, initially with Covid we lost all of our work but we actually found a way to get back and engaged in various things around stress and helping teams.

CrisMarie: Really helping individuals deal with stress, reduce their stress response because everybody was freaked out. And also in the context of a team, debrief what people were experiencing which created a lot of neat connection that people were thirsty for back then.

Susan: But as we’ve gone into this year we were looking back and we realize there was definitely a point last year where we had 50% less work. And we started looking at that and we thought well, we don’t actually think there’s 50% less conflict.

CrisMarie: No. Susan, I think there’s actually more conflict but that people are so afraid, both in couples and on teams to rock the boat that they’re just like, “No, I’m not dealing with that, I will survive this by not dealing with what’s important to me.”

Susan: So that’s why we decided to kind of talk a little bit about why we actually market with the word ‘conflict’ even on the front cover. There’s more to that. But we’re going to start off by telling you just maybe thinking about some signs of conflict that you may not even recognize as signs of conflict.

CrisMarie: Yeah, because conflict really we all have our own experiences of what that word means. And usually it’s terror in our nervous system like no, get me away. But there’s ways, that’s usually fighting, think about your family of origin. Mine was not positive in that regard. But that’s usually like dominating somebody. And we wanted to show you signs that you may not recognize these are signs of conflict.

Susan: And these are actually things we hear pretty regularly from clients and team members that we work with.

CrisMarie: One of them is, we always get more to do but nothing comes off the plate. And so we’re just expected to do more, and more, and more. That’s a sign of conflict.

Susan: Also just the statement of, “I don’t know why we’re doing this. This is just the way we do it but I don’t know why we do it.”

CrisMarie: Or our goals are handed down to us and we get no input, we don’t get to talk about them, we just have to do them. That’s a sign of conflict.

Susan: Or it’s always got to be blanked, that could be the boss, Joe, Sally’s way. That, sometimes CrisMarie you say that to me. It’s usually a sign that there’s something you haven’t told me about what you want.

CrisMarie: It’s true. I mean I think people act, yes, like they’ve got a strong personality, they’re always giving their opinion so it’s just got to be his or her way. I do fall into that trap, Susan. Or I can’t be myself on this team. I have just accepted it. It’s just the way it is, because it doesn’t feel safe for me to show up as I truly am.

Susan: Another one, there are topics we just don’t talk about. And that’s been one we’ve bumped into a lot on teams.

CrisMarie: Or we have a few reoccurring issues that I think we get cleared up but then you know what? It rears its head; we really don’t have buy-in on this. And so it’s kind of like we thought we made a decision and then we circle back to that decision two weeks, two months, whatever later to rehash it because it really didn’t have buy-in in the first place.

Susan: Another one that just recently came up in some work I was doing. Whatever I bring up, my area of the business I know I am just irritating so and so, my teammate. And it’s frustrating to me because this is something that’s important. I know it’s not important to him but it’s important to me.

CrisMarie: Yeah. Or I feel like a cog on the wheel, I don’t really – who I am doesn’t really matter as long as I produce my numbers, or the report, or manage the business, whatever it is. So that feeling that I don’t exist. These are all signs of conflict or even I want more connection with my team, all we do are these video calls. It used to be a lot more fun, signs of conflict.

Susan: So we wanted to kind of put some of those out, one, to see if you recognize any of them.

CrisMarie: Listener out there, if you have one that we didn’t list, please reach out to us and send us an email at thrive@thriveinc.com because we’d love to hear what are your signs of conflict that aren’t being addressed on your team.

Susan: Another one I was thinking of is I always bring up these ideas but when I say them no one says anything. Then somebody else says it the next day and it’s like wow, that’s a big one, like us.

CrisMarie: A gal that I was coaching, she says, “I wonder if people even value the work that I do. I only hear from them when they need something from me. They never say thank you.” Those are all signs that there’s issues not being addressed, and maybe even defining what conflict is for our listeners.

Susan: Yeah because one, I think a lot of times people think conflict is fighting. No, fighting or flighting, silence or violence, they are signs that the conflict isn’t getting dealt with frankly. Really what conflict is, is this merging of, you know, you’ve got high stakes, something that’s important to you, a vision, something that matters.

CrisMarie: It has just be important to one person for conflict to emerge.

Susan: And on a team you do have something that you’re driving for usually. And you have these passionate people who are subject matter experts and they’re passionate about the work they are doing. And those three, that passion, those different and strong opinions and a vision come together and…

CrisMarie: So can I just say that again? Strong emotions, differing opinions on a high stakes situation, those three things converge and that creates conflict.

Susan: And I just wondered, did you hear her better? Because that would be one of the…

CrisMarie: I think you did. You understood me better didn’t you? I win, right? Conflict.

Susan: And I say that jokingly and I know that there were times and there have been times where that would just blow me up, why are you saying the exact same thing I just said? And other times it doesn’t bother me at all. So it also depends on circumstances, what level of conflict something can create. And I think also in the moment I could be so quick to make up some sort of story, CrisMarie that you’re kind of trying to outtalk me, outsmart me or you think what I said was stupid. And in that story making up that I do, I could fire up with you which then just creates a spiral that is not helpful.

CrisMarie: And I think there is a level of goodwill that is built. On a team you want that level of good will so you know when somebody does interrupt you they’re actually not trying to make you look bad. They’re actually trying to support the team moving forward. And that’s even true when you’re holding somebody accountable for something that they didn’t do to say, “Hey, Jay, you said you were going to actually have this done on Friday. It’s now Tuesday, where is it? But I want to check it out, or do you agree or disagree that you said you’d have it done?”

Then there is a conversation but a lot of times we’re too afraid, we get too afraid to even hold our teammates accountable. And then the performance of the team just erodes.

Susan: So I’m going to talk a little bit about Peloton because I think there’s a message.

CrisMarie: If you don’t know what a Peloton is, it’s an indoor bike that is really cool and you’ve just got to figure it out.

Susan: And these days it’s kind of, you know, Peloton is kind of like the Kleenex box, it’s a bike brand, there’s tons of them out there. But you know, we’re exercising at home and most of us have some energetic inspirational coach yelling at us on the Peloton, if we’re fortunate enough to be able to do that. But here’s why I’m bringing it up is because on Peloton, in my exercise areas, they’re always talking about this idea that it’s never going to get comfortable.

I love to do climbs. And part of why when you’re climbing on a bike it doesn’t get easier to climb a mountain on a bike. But what does get better is you develop the strength and the ability to handle that strength as you go. And you actually want that discomfort because that actually means you’re expanding. You’re actually pushing the edges a little bit and getting stronger.

CrisMarie: You could do a steeper climb or you could do a longer climb, yeah.

Susan: And so I think about that and it’s the same way on your team, bringing up difficult conversations, dealing with differences. That is never going to be comfortable.

CrisMarie: Holding somebody accountable never gets really fun or comfortable. You’re going to feel discomfort.

Susan: Yeah. When you have to bring up something with a teammate that you know you’re even uncomfortable bringing up, you can count on the fact it’s going to be uncomfortable for them. However, if you think of it like that Peloton ride climbing on the bike you’re developing the ability to get stronger because when you can actually have that conversation pretty amazing things can start to happen. You do get strong. Your team gets stronger, that cohesion gets better. The clarity gets better.

CrisMarie: I have found this to be true. We do more and more adventurous things, more powerful things. I feel like my ability to deal with conflict and work with that, we create a bigger business. We have a bigger impact. I would be too chicken. Well, I just won’t give my opinion. It’s okay, we’ll do it your way. That doesn’t last for too long nowadays. But it limits our team IQ. We talk about this in couples, we talk about relationship math. One whole person times one whole person equals a whole relationship.

Now, you think on a team, let’s say there are six people, one times one, times one, times one, times one, six of those, as a whole team. But as soon as somebody starts saying, “I’m going to hold back.” And so they show up halfway, you do that multiplication, the team, even though one person is only showing up half it reduces the team IQ by half. And the multiplication, if more than one person is doing it, really diminishes the team IQ, the team’s ability and knowledge EQ to make decisions and talk about things that could really be innovative and creative.

Susan: And you really want your people showing up even if it’s difficult, even if it’s hard. And the only way you get better at it is to keep doing it.

CrisMarie: And this is true even for diversity issues, race, gender, different ideas. That is uncomfortable. It’s uncomfortable for the whole nation to be facing this. So it’s not to run away and try to make it all smooth. It’s to actually know, hey, when we do address this on our team it’s going to be awkward. I’m going to feel uncomfortable.

Susan: And it’s not going to get better after one conversation, or one training, or one thing. Dealing with our systemic racial issues right now is definitely a mountain. And it’s a mountain that we’re all facing that we have to climb.

CrisMarie: So we’re talking a lot about the pain.

Susan: What we want to do is tell you why this even came up today. So we’re actually going to take you a little behind the scenes to a bit of a situation that came up for us, because we happen, as a result of looking at that 50% less business and various things we started to engage in wanting to create and engage more in our marketing. And one area that we have done limited work on is LinkedIn.

CrisMarie: We had our website really too.

Susan: Yes. This could begin to lead into the differences. But we decided that we wanted to work with a business to business marketing firm and we are excited about what we’re starting to do. But this has also got us looking at things.

CrisMarie: So one of the things in LinkedIn and the reason I brought up the website is because we’re looking at – we haven’t really updated it since we launched our couples book a year and a half ago. And so looking at how to frame it for the corporate work that we do, the team work, the speaking and the leadership development, and coaching. And one of the things is I wanted a real simple phrase to let people know right when they got on the website what it is that we do, like a fifth grader would understand what it is that we do.

And so I was like, real conversations, cohesive teams, engaged leaders. That was one. Or we help teams develop trust, learn how to use conflict and develop creative results or innovative results, profitable results. Those are a couple of versions of what I wanted to put on the front. So I was telling Susan this and she thought okay, some of that she liked, some of it she didn’t.

Susan: She wanted to take the word ‘conflict’ off the page basically.

CrisMarie: Well, I really did.

Susan: And I was kind of like, I had a conflict.

CrisMarie: Well, my point of view, can I share my point of view?

Susan: Yeah.