• Thrive Inc.

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?

Listen on Apple Podcast | Stitcher | Spotify

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 thriveinc.com, that’s www.t.h.r.i.v.e.i.n.c.com 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.