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Beauty of Conflict Within: Leadership Coaching

Have you ever felt anxious or stressed and found yourself trying to control your external world as a result? You might find yourself blaming other people for not behaving how you want them to, but this desire to control the external world brings a sense of unmanageability. It is the conflict within that you should turn to and address.

We aren’t trained to manage the different dynamics we experience in our minds, but when we experience internal conflict, there’s usually a thought or feeling that we don’t want to have. Learning to acknowledge what’s happening inside of us enables us to stop trying to control the world around us and build the capacity to feel and talk from the inside out.

In this episode, we’re discussing why trying to control other peoples’ actions creates the opposite effect and only results in more internal conflict. We’re showing you how to become more aware of your thoughts and feelings, and how to find the beauty from the conflict within.

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, click here or 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?

Learn More:

  • How your ego tries to help you survive.

  • The problem with black and white thinking.

  • How to take responsibility for your emotions.

  • Why shame leads to internal blame.

  • How to acknowledge internal conflict.

  • The importance of being connected with your body.


Full Transcript:

Susan: 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 Susan.

CrisMarie: And I'm CrisMarie.

Susan: 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.

CrisMarie: On this podcast we’ll be sharing tips, tools about how to make your team, your relationship and even you work more effectively. You can find us at, that’s or follow us on LinkedIn at Thrive Inc. We hope you enjoy this episode.

Today we’re going to talk about the beauty of conflict within. Hi, I’m CrisMarie Campbell.

Susan: And I’m Susan Clarke.

CrisMarie: And you might be thinking, what do you mean the beauty of conflict within? And so I just want you to be thinking about a time when you were wrestling over a decision. And it could be a decision on anything and some part of you was saying yes, I really want to do it. And another part of you was saying no, shouldn’t do it. That’s conflict right there and it’s inside of you.

Susan: Boy, CrisMarie I think I can sure relate to that. It happens to me pretty much on a regular daily basis. And just some quick examples of what I mean by that. It’s like, well, should I go for a run or should I actually maybe take a day off and relax? Now, this came up for me just today because I’d had a really hard day yesterday. I did have some pretty strong side-effects from my second dose.

CrisMarie: Of a Covid vaccine.

Susan: Yes. And I had spent pretty much yesterday in bed. But in my mind I was like, my mind was telling me you need to go for your run, that’s a good thing. And I also had another part of me that’s like, well, wait a minute, maybe you shouldn’t push yourself so soon.

CrisMarie: That is such a good example, Susan, and I can imagine other people can relate. I just even want to talk a little bit about that because some of my clients are surprised when I tell them they can’t always believe their thoughts, that part of you that said you should go for a run. Because that part of you, are those thoughts are controlled by our mind. And the mind is the home of our ego. And our ego, its mantra is me, me, me. It’s trying to help you survive and it’s often frantically trying to control you, other people around you, the future, people, places and things.

And it’s usually in a hurry, you need to do this now, or it’s looking out in the future and catastrophizing and saying, “Hey, you should be very, very afraid.” As it spins out worst case scenarios, can you relate?

Susan: For sure. I know a lot of times – I was actually working with someone the other day who was saying, “I’m always the target. I’m the one people go after.” And I was like, “Wow, do you really believe that?” “Well, I have a lot of facts to back it up.” And so as I was listening I could hear all of the historic information that her mind was telling her about this is what happens to me all the time, I’m the target. And you could – I just couldn’t help but say, “Do you realize how much that’s playing into the potential reason why it might happen again?”

CrisMarie: Well, it’s like she’s projecting it into all these different…

Susan: Yeah, situations.

CrisMarie: Yeah, replaying that. And let’s be clear, your mind has good intentions. It’s wanting to protect you. But just like this example which I think is really good Susan is the mind learned its survival strategies when you were really young. And so maybe she was a target when she was a little kid and that keeps happening to her as an adult, she keeps playing that.

And one of the things I want to really emphasize is you do – the mind’s going to convince you, I should be the CEO of you. I’m going to protect you. I’m going to keep you safe. But it’s really, it’s not good. It makes a good manager, implementation manager but not the CEO who’s got vision and seeing the long term picture.

Susan: I think about how much time I think and we talked about this from different lenses of how it plays out. That most of us are spending so much of our lives trying to control everything around us or, as you so pointed out, trying to avoid conflict.

CrisMarie: Those are the two things, I want to control everybody and I want to keep everybody calm.

Susan: Which oddly is sort of like the exact opposite happens. One, you end up with a lot more internal conflict because while you’re trying to control everything, you know it’s not quite right. So then you’re just kind of trying to hold it all. And the other thing is, you know, I was just in a situation where I was in a community situation with my Equus program and herd. And something had happened…

CrisMarie: Is this down when you were in Arizona?

Susan: This is when I was in Arizona. And we as a community had made a decision to save this little owl and send it to the Wildlife Reserve. And in our decision-making I thought we made the decision together. And we took the owl to the Wildlife Reserve and the person who owned the ranch was very upset. And when we came back together the next day it was very clear that everyone had gone home feeling horrible about what happened, without actually talking about their own, what they thought they had done wrong.

And we had a conversation about it and it was kind of like well, one of the facilitators was like, “I was just trying to avoid the conflict. I am conflict avoidant and I knew I should have – I kind of should have stepped up and said more.” And I was upset because one person said, “I had no idea. I didn’t think that the ranch owner would be that upset.” And I knew I was sitting there like we’re making this call and the reason why it’s so hard is because I think the ranch owner will be upset.

CrisMarie: This is you?

Susan: This is me; I wish I had said those words out loud. I just thought everyone knew. But we had all had a part of the conversation, we hadn’t put into the mix because of the different reasons why people held back. And even the next day it took a while to get some of that out on the table because at one point I mean I think I was the one who said, “I need to talk a little bit about this because I don’t know if I can keep – I feel all this tension that’s unresolved.” And as we talked about it, it cleared it up. And I owned it more from my own standpoint because sometimes I’d go in.

I could feel myself wanting to go in and make the facilitators wrong. We made this decision, why the heck aren’t you backing it up? And we were kind of blaming one person and in the end I really knew that wasn’t why, that wouldn’t have been honest. The truth was I was in my own sense of shame or discomfort. I participated in it and I am uncomfortable so I want to talk about it. And then I found out they had their own stuff about how they participated and wanted to talk about it. And once we did that it cleared it up.

But we were going to just try to do the day with none of that which would have led to a kind of crazy day.

CrisMarie: Susan you bring up such a good point, when we are participating in something and we’re not voicing all that we really feel. And then we start to feel either we blame externally or we blame internally and start to go, “I’m wrong.” Or we start going into black and white thinking, that’s the mind because black and white thinking is young thinking developmentally. So it’s a younger part of us that’s trying to make itself safe by saying, “Okay, they’re wrong.” Or I’ll take control, I’ll be wrong.

Susan: Right. And it goes back and forth without much actual dialog. And the problem in bringing it up is it, you know, your belief is this is going to make it worse. Now, truth is it may make it messier. But it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to make it worse.

CrisMarie: Yeah. And most of us, myself included did not have positive role models or when we were little beings we tried to bring something up and it was like, “Shut up”, or bam. So that’s wired in our nervous system. So I just want to say, no wonder these situations are hard to kind of open up. And I love that you were saying if I don’t talk about it, it will be like my family. Everything will be shoved under the table and it will all be walking on eggshells trying not to upset everyone and it’s uncomfortable.

Susan: And it generally doesn’t work. Maybe you get through the family dinner or maybe you get through a day of work but you end up going home carrying a lot of that stress that maybe you don’t need to be carrying. There is a way and a different path through it.

CrisMarie: And I think Susan, when you were relaying this story to me, I think what was really transformational is you weren’t trying to protect the person who was blamed, nor were you thinking you had to solve it. You just showed up and said, “Hey, I’m uncomfortable.” So you talked about yourself and where you felt like, hey, this is what I didn’t say last night or this is what I assumed.

Susan: Yeah. I mean I think what struck me when we talked more about it was each of us had gone away and during the course of the night had had our own – because this thing blew up with the ranch owner. The ranch owner managed to kind of – not directly on me but on my friend and various others. And I think we all felt really badly. And that would be the place because the thing about shame, when you feel that is you tend to want to pull back and hide, and I’m not going to say this.

CrisMarie: So we introduce shame, that’s that blame, that internal blame because I’m wrong. And shame likes to hide and not be seen, not have the light to hit it.

Susan: Yes, and so one way that I could have dealt with it would have been to blame either the facilitators or someone else versus let me step back and see why am I so mad at them. And when I stepped back, I might have been upset with them but I was really upset with myself. And I thought this would be a better way to bring this up, be more vulnerable. We talk about that vulnerability instead of coming in like a freight train, we did the wrong thing, or we didn’t, you know.

CrisMarie: I think that is true when I am blaming somebody it’s kind of that old adage, I’m pointing a finger but you’re pointing back at me. It’s usually because I’m uncomfortable with something I did or I’m uncomfortable with how I feel and I don’t want to sink into that. So it’s easier for me to blame.

Susan: Yeah, because I mean there could have been two ways to come forward. I could have come forward blaming them. I could have come forward saying, “I realize I’m really angry because I think that one person is holding a responsibility for this and that’s not okay with me.” That would have been okay too, I think because it would have – I was still owning it as my feeling which is more vulnerability than just blame. And then if I could step back and go, “I don’t know whether you felt like you had a part in this but here’s the part I felt I played in it.”

That even takes on more ownership and responsibility and it’s hard to do that. But if you start one step at a time, talk about yourself, if you’re angry as opposed to just dishing out the anger.

CrisMarie: So this is kind of that whole beauty of conflict within, how do you handle? We were not trained how to manage all these different dynamics that are happening inside. But as I learned more and more the layers of what’s going on inside of me rather than trying just to control the people around me or the situations, which is where I go to first. Let me problem solve out here. Let me control you and then I’ll feel better versus wow, I feel really uncomfortable with what’s happening, even that move is very different.

Susan: And I do think what you’re describing is that process of beginning to bring that conflict, acknowledging the conflict within which often has to do with your emotional state. It’s because there’s usually a feeling you don’t want to have or a thought you don’t want to have or conflicting ideas. All of that could be conflict.

CrisMarie: Or it’s bumping into my idea of who I am. I’m not the type of person that does this and I just did, that’s a real, oh my God what do I do with that? If you’re a part of any 12 step programs, the first step is, admitted I was – we admitted we are powerless over the effects of alcoholism, or other family dysfunction and that our lives have become unmanageable. And it’s that desire to control the external world, people, events, that brings that sense of, you were saying, unmanageability.

I was coaching somebody just before this – we’re recording this. And the level of anxiety she had because her husband wasn’t doing what she wanted him to do. Her mother-in-law, this is happening and she’s worrying about the future, all that is her trying to control something that really is outside of her ability to control.

Susan: Yes. And so many times, at least in the leadership coaching that I’m doing, I’m listening to someone who’s talking to me about their internal stress. And I’m also hearing exactly how it’s being deliberate on the outside. And I can see a lot of times what’s missing is when you described how you were talking to that person; I don’t think you included the impact it was having on you. Or I don’t think you included how you felt. And sometimes it’s not appropriate to bring in what you’re feeling. Sometimes you do have to go and deliver a message and it’s probably pretty important.

If somebody’s, they’re having to fire someone because they stole something, maybe you don’t want to say, “I feel really crappy that I have to do this.” You’ve got to go stand up and do your job. But it is helpful if you can have someone to talk to where you can talk about I’m incredibly uncomfortable doing this. I don’t like the fact that I need to hold this line. So having someone who can hear that is really valuable.

CrisMarie: Yeah. And I do think, so this whole idea of this – so many of – when a client first comes to me they’re focused on controlling the results, controlling their team, controlling their partner. And these people aren’t behaving the way they should. And really what is the largest lever is noticing what’s happening inside and learning to, one, recognize what’s happening. And then building your capacity to feel and talk from that space, from the inside out.

Susan: I am smiling as you’re talking about this because this is one of the reasons why equus coaching is so profound. I mean...

CrisMarie: And equus coaching just because that’s a terminology not all of you may know. But it’s working – it’s coaching people and it’s using horses, which is the equus part, as a tool. And it’s all done on the ground, in the round pen, no saddles, no harnesses, anything like that, carry on.

Susan: Well, a part of the reason that equus coaching is so appealing to me or I really see some transformational things happen is a lot of times – well, one, horses are prey animals so they naturally don’t want to hurt us. In any given situation they’d prefer flight. However, they’re relational. So they rely on a herd and they rely on their connections. So they adapt well to being in a relationship. But the thing about them is they’re 15, you know, 1200, 1500 pound animals.

CrisMarie: Big.

Susan: And they are constantly reading and measuring their position in the world through their own – they’re in their bodies and they’re sensing the heart rate, temperature, tension, all sorts of things and whoever else is around them because that’s actually going to give them a reading of, you know, like if a cougar is going to attack. And they know it pretty quickly, their attention [inaudible]. And when we are kind of in there with them, they pick up on our heart rate, all of that. And if it’s going too fast or if there’s a lot of tension they tend to want to move away.

CrisMarie: Yeah, like you are dangerous, I’m not sure what’s going to happen.

Susan: Yeah. And also you can tell your people to do something.

CrisMarie: As a leader you need to lead.

Susan: As a leader, you could probably raise your voice. You may even in your own mind think you could physically move them. But you can’t do any of that with the horse. None of it’s going to work.

CrisMarie: Well, you can try it.

Susan: Your tone isn’t really going to have that kind of impact. And I don’t know how many times I’ve seen people try to push, like as though, it’s like, really, do you think that’s going to move that horse? It’s 1200 pounds, you cannot push that horse around. And so you’ve got to come up with a different way to communicate, and influence, and have an impact than you normally would.

CrisMarie: Yeah. And when you’ve worked with me out in the arena what has been so fascinating is, I have tried all those pushing the horse if they’re too close or okay, I’m going to yell at you, whatever it is, all my strategies, none worked. And what you had me do is like just notice what you feel inside. And for me you were like, “Connect to your hips and your feet.” And as I settled and connected to my body, which I can often, when I’m trying to control everything else, I’m usually not connected with my body. And when I sunk inside it was so different.

I didn’t have to do much of anything and the horse was doing what I wanted it to do, it was very powerful.

Susan: Yes. And I also know that a lot of times I’ve watched people when they’re working with the horse and they are trying to get them to do something. And they’re very focused on the horse. So maybe the horse is following them but they’re constantly looking back over there, is the horse there? Is the horse there? And what they may not realize, but it’s pretty obvious from the outside and usually when I ask them, “How present are you in yourself or are you just focused on the horse?” And nine times out of 10 what I hear is, “I am only focused on the horse.”

So try seeing if you can become incredibly aware of your own body, however you can do that, through breadth, through feeling your feet in your boots so to speak, your hips, moving your hips, whatever. But see how embodied you can be and see if it’s any different. People always say, “Wow, it was totally different.” And usually the horse is very responsive to that.

CrisMarie: And how this translates to people, and even over a video conference, the more we are influenced we believe we follow people that we can trust. And people that are connected to their bodies, their sense of presence is much – I don’t know, it’s palpable. And we want to be around those types of people. So the more that you can land in your body and be kind of aware of what’s happening in there the more you’re going to be influential and connected, one, to what is happening, picking up cues more effectively from the people around you. But also your words will carry more weight when you’re delivering them.

Susan: And a big part of that starts with beginning to pay attention to what we started with, that internal conflict that might be going on. Because if you know, wow, I have some conflict inside myself about doing this, and you deal with that, you can be much more effective when you make your final decision. But if you don’t even know you’re in conflict about it that actually gets transmitted and probably has a big impact on how well it’s received.

CrisMarie: I can tell you, I work with this with my clients as far as when they’re in their mind spin, I call it a fear storm because our mind, when you’re letting it run the ship you’re usually kind of tense, worried, maybe obsessive, could be even anxious and believing all that. Versus when you’re tapping into something deeper and that’s going to be – I’m going to call it a wiser part of you which is usually more connected to your head or your gut, kind of lower in your body.

Susan: Your heart or your gut.

CrisMarie: Yeah, what did I say?

Susan: Your head.

CrisMarie: Oh golly. Sorry about that folks, your heart or your gut. Those H words, thank you. Your heart is actually connecting to – so you’re really, you’re using the same thing. You’re connecting to your body and slowing down and you’re usually going to feel more relaxed, calm, there is a sense of resonance like oh, or settled when you listen to that part. And often people are like, “Well, how can I tell the difference?” And really that felt sense is a big indicator of who you’re listening to on the inside.

And if you want a couple of tools, one, you can ask yourself if you’re really worried about a decision like oh my gosh, I’m going to fail if I take this new job. And you can ask yourself; this is a Byron Katie trick but is it true? And your mind’s going to say, “Yes. Of course it’s true. I’m really worried about it.” And then you can say, “Okay.” And take a deeper breath and say, “Can you absolutely know that it’s true?” Ask yourself that. And usually there’s more of a pause and you’re going to start to connect to a deeper wisdom inside.

And that is just loosening that hold that your mind has on you that’s trying to say, “It’s going to be very, very dangerous.”

Susan: So I mean I think that’s a really powerful tool. And also just noticing, you know, for me so many times if I just take a little step back. And that may be just be – and this used to be something I’d do in any kind of family therapy session or therapy session with someone. Because someone was often sitting right in front of me and if I would just sort of scoop back just a hair, just a little bit, they may not even notice. And then take a breath, I would be much more prepared to say something if it was the right thing to say, before saying something take a breath, take a pause.

CrisMarie: Susan, I think what you’re getting at is you become more present. There is less focus on oh my gosh, do I have to say it, what’s the right thing to say. Versus, and there’s more connection to you and a connection to your presence and innate wisdom that is able to come in, because that wiser part, your heart or your gut is connected to your body which is taking in a lot of information that your mind can’t process.

There’s even your mind can process 11 million bits of information. Your body processes 40 billion bits of information in a second, it’s amazing the difference. And so when you lean back, you take a breath, you’re getting more presence and you’re even connected to something I believe larger than yourself, the collective unconsciousness, source, your higher power, soul, whatever that…

Susan: Whatever, however you think about that or name that. And I think there’s always time for a little bit of a pause. You may not think so. The mind will say no.

CrisMarie: You’ve got to say something right now.

Susan: It’s really important. But I really do believe when I pause, you know, when I go and spend any time with the horses I realize I’m really not a super fast paced person. And I like to think of myself as fast paced but truthfully I don’t think I am. I actually move at a slower rate. I enjoy moving at that slower rate. And I do think when I do that I tap into more of my own innate wisdom and find it easier to share that. Now, our world is moving very fast so sometimes it’s hard to take that extra.

CrisMarie: Well, I think we get seduced into believing no, no, believing our mind, our thought set, I can’t take a breath, I can’t take a minute. I have to decide now. And that’s a lie that our mind, because it thinks our survival is dependent on this very decision or whatever, this is happening right now and often it’s not.

Susan: And now more than ever with everything that’s going on in the world I do think, one, it’s important to learn how to track your internal space. Where are you in conflict? Where are you wrestling with some part of yourself? Do you even know the various parts of yourself?

CrisMarie: Well, often people don’t recognize when there’s a source of tension, whether it’s in your head, or your back, or your shoulders that’s a part of you that is tense and is in conflict with the rest of you. So even taking a deeper breath into that can soften that level of conflict.

Susan: So we’re saying all this because we do think, and especially in the coaching we’ve been doing lately, these types of things are coming up a lot.

CrisMarie: Yeah. When people are frustrated and they feel like oh my gosh, I don’t know if I even matter at this job. It feels like so much pressure. Why am I doing this? That’s often a time that people will reach out.

Susan: And I do think a lot of times people, because of Covid, because of various other reasons, maybe they’ve been working remotely for a long time, they have a lot more mind spinning than they might have other times and wondering about their place, or how they fit in, or how well they’re doing. And this is really a time to potentially have some support and some for yourself as a leader and get some coaching.

CrisMarie: Even if you’re burnt out, or anxious, or stressed, or some people have oh my gosh, everything’s fine but it’s my relationship to my boss. I don’t know how to actually talk to them or anything I say, he or she just doesn’t even seem to let in. Or if there’s unhealthy or unsupportive relationships with your peers which can be happening because you’re not going out to lunch as much or connecting that way, or even just feeling your lack of confidence or your inability to speak up.

Those are all times to actually reach out to help and leveraging something that you think, tell me the right thing to say. Versus no, we’re going to actually help you find your sense of safety inside of your own self which will help you settle, that connection to something greater than your mind.

Susan: And we both do similar work and we also do it differently. And we’d love to support you, if you are wanting to get some coaching right now, we’ve been doing most of our coaching online, or on the phone, although we’re moving now to where hopefully soon I’ll be able to have some of my clients come back out here to work with the horses, or come, we’ll do our share Mojo experience. We’re setting some dates so we’re excited about that.

CrisMarie: For those of you that don’t know, Find Your Mojo is a four day intensive retreat with the horses and some other things in Whitefish, Montana. And we think things are opening up enough that we can get that going in September or October. So stay tuned for that because that’s a really fun experience.

Susan: Yes, and if nothing else, things are opening enough so that if you can come out here to Montana you can do an intensive and it can be transformational I think to your leadership in the way you feel inside yourself as well as with your people.

CrisMarie: So when Susan’s talking about an intensive, she’s saying come out and work with her with the horses for a day, or a course of a couple of days. And integrating your coaching, because tell me where I’m wrong Susan, but you usually work with clients for six months to a year and in that timeframe usually they’ll come out for a couple of days and do an intensive with you.

Susan: Yes, that was the pre Covid pattern, hoping that it’ll be a post Covid pattern.

CrisMarie: Exactly. And really we want you to value what’s happening inside of you because it is really your biggest lever point. If you’re not having fun or you’re not present, the people around you are not going to be having fun or present.

Susan: Well, somebody better be. But I often say.

CrisMarie: Okay. We hope this is helpful and please reach out if you would like some leadership coaching. Even if you’re not leading a team it’s kind of the leading yourself, being willing, dealing with that beauty of conflict or creating the beauty from the conflict within.

CrisMarie: If you’re interested in checking out leadership coaching go to our website, that’s And go down to our services and click the link for coaching. And if you’re interested in Find Your Mojo in Montana all you have to do is Google, Find Your Mojo in Montana and we’ll pop up. Be sure to put Find Your Mojo in Montana.

Susan: Because otherwise who knows where to find your mojo?

CrisMarie: Exactly. And also if you want to connect to us we’re doing a lot more on LinkedIn under Thrive Inc. We’re putting out a video series on the four toxic team killers and much, much more. So be sure to follow us on LinkedIn. Take care.

Susan: Thank you for listening to The Beauty of Conflict podcast. We know conflict, stress and uncertainty can be hard to navigate.

CrisMarie: We want to support you becoming more resilient, able to speak up and have healthy relationships and business teams that thrive. Connect to us on LinkedIn at Thrive Inc. Learn how we can work with you, your team, or your company at That’s

Susan: We hope you have a peaceful, productive and beautiful day.

CrisMarie: Take care.


CrisMarie Campbell and Susan Clarke

Coaches, Business Consultants, Speakers and Authors of The Beauty of Conflict

CrisMarie and Susan work leaders and teams, couples in business, and professional women.

They help turnaround dysfunctional teams into high performing, cohesive teams who trust each other, deal with differences directly, and have clarity and alignment on their business strategy so they create great results.

Download the eBook, How to Talk About Difficult Topics, today!

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