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  • Writer's pictureThrive Inc.

Crisis, Conflict, & Change

A recurring theme around the world right now is the level of uncertainty that recent times have brought us. Given that most of us prefer stability, certainty, and routine, we are not comfortable, and many of us are struggling to adapt. It’s slowly becoming clear that we won’t ever go back to ‘normal’ as we knew it, so how do we create a new status quo? The answer is clear – by adapting our mindset.

As a human being, when presented with conflict, tension, and uncertainty, we opt-out. We tell ourselves a storyline so that we can make sense of the things that are happening to us, but this can often lead to rigid and dangerous black and white thinking. In our attempts to regain control and power over our situations, we forget that embracing vulnerability and harnessing our humanness can give us many more options and possibilities.

Join us today to learn why the world in which we live may encourage us to suppress our feelings, and why we need to make sure to go against this curve to be more open to change. We’ll discuss why embracing discomfort and uncertainty can lead us to expand our potential, and how changing our mindset can help us navigate through uncertain times.

If you want to learn how to deal with conflict more effectively, as always, we are both available for individual one on one and couples coaching. For the next couple of months, we are also offering free virtual training to organizations. Our goal is to support you, your team, and your business both at work and at home during this pandemic. Get in touch with us to find out more!

If you enjoyed the show, please share the podcast with your family and friends, or post a five-star review on Apple Podcasts. 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:

  • Why you should learn how to deal with conflict properly.

  • Why collaboration is the key to navigating through a crisis.

  • The difference between a ‘fixed’ and ‘growth’ mindset.

  • Why learning to embrace vulnerability is important.

  • How to show yourself the same empathy and compassion you show to others.

  • How changing your mindset can evoke creativity and innovation.


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. Hi, I'm CrisMarie.

Susan: And I'm Susan. We run a company called Thrive, and we specialize in conflict resolution, communication and building strong, thriving teams and relationships. Conflict shows up in our lives in so many ways. Most people, unfortunately, are not very good at handling conflict. Most people have never been taught the right tools for dealing with conflict, and then it leads to unnecessary friction, arguments, passive aggressive emails, tears, hurtful comments, stuck-ness, all kinds of things we don't want. We're on a mission to change all of that.

CrisMarie: We've spent the last 20 years teaching our clients how to handle conflict in a whole new way. We're here to show you that conflict doesn't have to be scary and overwhelming. With the right tools, you can turn a moment of conflict into a moment of reinvention. Conflict can pave the way into a beautiful new system at work, a new way of leading your team, a new way of parenting, a new chapter of your marriage where you feel more connected than ever before. Conflict can lead to beautiful things.

The last few weeks, Susan and I have been doing a lot of support for people, one, with our podcast talking about the crisis. We’ve also been doing a lot of speaking for chambers, organizations about how to help deal with the stress that comes up in crisis, and also coaching people at the corporate level and personal level to how to deal with this. And what we realized is, oh my gosh, the reason we are so good at dealing with crisis is because for the last 20 years we’ve been helping people deal with conflict.

And what happens in both of these situations, conflict, crisis, and even, change is a level of uncertainty. And most of us are not comfortable with uncertainty. We like certainty, predictability, “Tell me what to do, I’ll follow it.” And so we are now plunged at a global level into this uncertainty and a lot of us are uncomfortable. And so we’re bringing the same skills to work, to organizations and couples and teams in dealing with conflict to this situation.

Susan: Really the truth is for a lot of years we’ve been trying to convince people that it is really worthwhile to learn how to deal with conflict. And in our more status quo of how business has been over the course of time, it’s been a hard sell sometimes because, unless people were in their own business crisis or team crisis – and the reason is that pretty much we don’t want to dive into uncertainty. We would prefer to avoid it. I mean the way we found some leverage was to say, “This is a competitive advantage if you learn how to do this.” Little did we know that soon there was going to be a pandemic that was actually going to plunge us all into a global version of uncertainty.

CrisMarie: Because think about it, business is all about predictability, certainty, “If I can generate revenue and know how to do it then I’ll feel secure.” Well, that’s not happening, not even at a business level, not at a state level or a country level, it’s the entire world is rocked on this.

Susan: And you may think, you know, okay, I mean we’ve been thinking now for the last 45 days or, for some people, even longer, things are going to get back to normal. And I think it’s becoming pretty transparent that it’s not really going to get back to normal.

There was a status quo, we did have beliefs about how businesses ran and about our own economy and about the world economy. And yeah, we were able to predict that things would flex and flow in highs and lows. But I don’t think, well, at least here in our country, we were not really ready to say a global pandemic could happen and send everything adrift.

CrisMarie: And so what we have said in conflict, any time we’ve worked with a business team or a couple, any relationship. When you have these passionate people who have different opinions and they’re focused on achieving something. What comes up is different opinions, strong emotions, and then right, wrong, and boom into conflict. And that, all of a sudden, I feel tension and uncertainty because I don’t know where we’re going to go.

And what I want to do is go right back into certainty so we opt out of conflict. And then we minimize. Conflict is really the source of potential energy. Uncertainty that we’re facing now is a source of potential energy for innovation, creativity, if we don’t just diffuse it and try to get back to normal.

Susan: And now that there are parts of our country in the US that are beginning to reengage in reopening, well, first let’s talk a little bit about what happened when we went to lockdown. Because when there was a decision made because of health reasons, survival reasons that we needed to lockdown, it wasn’t necessarily the easiest thing in the world, but people did it, they responded because it was a survival thing.

And we were told, “Your life depends on it. If we don’t flatten the curve 2.2 – half a million people are going to die.” And it was pretty clear we’d got to go into control mode really.

CrisMarie: And it was control mode, we went into fight, flight, freeze. We all went inside. We pretty much obeyed because we were afraid of our own survival.

Susan: What’s been interesting is even in this time of being in, people have handled it in different ways. Some people have fought it, “We never did the right thing. It was a mistake.” They were looking for some way to say, “This was all crazy.” Hopefully that’s a small percentage. Most people realized, “Okay, I’m going to try to figure this out, I’ll do my thing for two weeks and then maybe we can get back out again.” And it became three weeks, and it’s become four weeks and there’s…

CrisMarie: Eight weeks.

Susan: I know, and…

CrisMarie: We’re still in.

Susan: And people have started to use that like, “Okay, so how can I make more of this experience I’m having while inside? How do I find connections? How do I begin to deal with my anxiety differently?”

CrisMarie: And that’s really what we have, our first line of coaching was really, “How do you help yourself come out of that fight, flight or freeze into more of a parasympathetic state?” You can get out that narrow focus of survival because your brain’s not fully online in that state. And come down that curve – not the flattening of the curve, but come down the nervous system curve where you’re more into a parasympathetic rest and digest response.

And what happens at that point, you do see a bigger picture. You also start to feel more. You get in touch out of that numb place into like, “Wait a minute, I may not feel as happy about what’s going on.” Or, you know, you may feel anger, you may feel sad. You may feel shame in the sense of who is leading, what’s going on here? Or, sadness of people losing their lives or people losing their business or freedoms, or even shame, like, “I failed, I didn’t do what I should do.” And we’re not comfortable with those sorts of feelings. We typically work to repress them or even unconsciously suppress them.

Susan: I think too the other thing is, you know, we tend to want to find now who is the expert? And we keep looking as though what country did this the worst? Which country did this to us? Or, how can we tell ourselves a storyline that somehow starts to have these uncertain times start to make sense?

Now, that’s when this becomes, I think, really a very critical dangerous point. Because as soon as we go right back into that right, wrong thinking, who did what, you know, and try to figure out which expert is telling us the right thing. We’re thinking we’re going back to what it was before, but we’re not really. We’re actually just avoiding, in our model, we would call it we’re avoiding the conflict. And we’re staying in a fixed mindset about it, right, wrong, who did what? When did it happen?

And we really have to realize that right now we need to learn how to collaborate. We haven’t always done it well before. But beyond just teams collaborating, we have to learn to collaborate across states, across countries, across business teams.

CrisMarie: Because we haven’t really – I think this desire to find the one right answer. Tell me, you know, maybe this person will have the answer. But we’ve never been through this level of a pandemic before, so there is no one expert.

So we have to take health people, we have to take economic people who are used to only staying in their silo, basically, of health or economic. And we need to – and political people and businesspeople – we need to put everybody in a room to kind of hold the tension and bat around these ideas and learn and collaborate, like what Susan’s saying, in order to find our way through this.

Susan: Now, that would be great if, on a leadership level, that was happening. Now, there are some countries where I think we are seeing that that is happening. I take New Zealand or I take Australia, two countries, one Conservative, one Liberal, both handling it with a great deal of non-partisan ability. To sort of bring together this idea of science, the economics, the empathy, and the people side of it. Now, I don’t know that all countries are doing that.

And I actually have some concern about ours because we have a very bipartisan split and a political split pretty much around what we should do and shouldn’t do. As long as our leadership is in that kind of gap then we, as the people of this country, have to somehow find a way to balance that from maybe a more grassroots community based way of pulling together.

CrisMarie: We talk about this idea of a fixed mindset versus a growth mindset. And a fixed mindset, is this right, wrong? I’m going to try to get power over or control this. And it’s really focused on doing and it’s rigid. And we’re treating a lot of people like objects. I treat myself like an object.

Certainly when I was a rower I had a fixed mindset a lot of the time. I was like, when my body got hurt, I was like, you know, so mean to it, like, “You better get back in the boat,” because I was just an object. Versus more of a growth mindset which is really dropping in to how we feel, and feeling that level of vulnerability that we tend to not want to do because, well, we’re just not used to that.

Susan: And shifting to vulnerability, recognizing there isn’t a way through this that doesn’t involve acknowledging that right now there is not one answer. And if we continue to sort of grab hold of that, we may be missing an opportunity. And it’s not like we’re just going to suddenly go into this growth mindset all the time. But we need to engage our curiosity, engage our choice.

CrisMarie: So we want to talk a little bit more about a fixed mindset versus a growth mindset. Because a fixed mindset is about control, getting power over, getting control over, and it’s very black, white, right, wrong. And it’s rigid. I’m focused on doing and forcing. It often has a, “I feel like a victim of my circumstance and I want to blame somebody else.” You know, there’s a certain level of perfectionism in it.

Susan: And understand that there are ways in which this is a really valid and good that we learn this. We do learn things. We learn how to do math the right way, not the wrong way. You want your dentist to be very controlled in how they put in, you know, Novacaine and take your tooth out. So it’s not like there’s not a time and a place for black, white, very clear defined ways of doing things. However, we tend to overemphasize that.

And right now in crisis or conflict that is not what is usually needed because there isn’t one right way. And there isn’t a known way to get through this. So you have to then let go of the rigidity of that fixed mindset and shift into more of a growth mindset.

CrisMarie: This is not an easy thing to do. I mean when I was a rower I was definitely in a fixed mindset. I was going to power over my body, make it do what I needed it to do until it got hurt. And I was off the water and I felt like, “Oh, my gosh, I can’t survive without rowing.” It was hugely – I mean, I went into a suicidal state until I recognized, my physical therapist said, “Hey, we’re doing a lot to fix your body but you’ve got to do something to fix your head there.” Because I was so black and white about my value as a human being and who I was as a rower if I couldn’t row.

And it wasn’t until I actually dropped in and felt what I was feeling about being off the water, really genuinely feeling the grief and the sadness. And recognizing I had a choice. That I actually came back from that injury and decided I’m going to row anyway and got back into the boat. But it wasn’t like just a mind switch. I had to feel my feelings about that, which is on the growth side, that more vulnerable side.

Susan: And so, you know, tapping into that growth side really does mean that you have to be willing to embrace vulnerability. And we have so many judgments about vulnerability, that it means weakness, that it’s not a good thing. And yet vulnerability is simply, I mean, really it takes a tremendous amount of courage. You know, it is about speaking your truth and standing forward without knowing that anyone’s going to believe you.

I mean this is the beauty, we were talking earlier about different leader styles, I mentioned New Zealand. The woman who is leading New Zealand does these Facebook lives, she’s incredibly human. And yet, you know, she’s still making some pretty big decisions. And she really does balance this.

She has empathy. She’s also talking about the challenges she’s faced. She is very human, she’s very real. And it is rallying that country in a way that I think a lot of people are stunned by. But I think some of it is that she’s young and the vulnerability, if she chose some other path they wouldn’t believe it.

CrisMarie: Well, if she said, “I’m an expert.” She hasn’t been around that long to actually be an expert.

Susan: And yet she is willing to take a clear stand, listen and navigate through various experts telling her what would be best and making decisions.

CrisMarie: So that’s an example of a growth mindset. We think rather than getting control, it’s about dropping into that vulnerability. Rather than black and white, it’s shades of grey, and being more flexible and dialog and personal and authentic. Those are ways of kind of harnessing your humanness, which gives you a lot more options when you’re dealing with conflict, crisis and change.

Susan: And so, I mean, we would encourage those of you that are actually in a place where you’re beginning to look at opening up, maybe reopening your business. This is going to be a time that when you step back in, if you’re a business leader, it’s a time to listen to your people, because some people are not going to want to come back to work. Some people think it’s really been too long. There’s going to be a lot of conflict out there. You’re going to have to deal with that as it shows up.

CrisMarie: I had a gal that I knew, she has a shop and she’s actually stayed open. But she’s had to deal with the conflict that some workers don’t want to be there. And she was first really mad at them, like, “No, they should be here.” And then realized, “Well, wait a minute, they don’t feel safe. I can’t really force them to work.”

But she had to deal with that. And when she actually got curious about what is happening for you? That’s when she learned, wow, “I’m really forcing this person to do something that they don’t want to do, that doesn’t fit.”

Susan: So why we’re bringing this up is this is likely to become a time if you have actually started to recognize it. You’ve either numbed yourself out, or been in a lot of anxiety that a lot of other feelings are going to start to surface. So, one, try to be kind and patient with yourself, to give yourself permission to feel. And give that same compassion and empathy and understanding to the people around you.

CrisMarie: You know, we don’t say that lightly, because we think we’re a culture that doesn’t really know how to feel well. We’ve been taught to repress and suppress what we’re feeling. And we’re saying that pressure is probably going to be – it’s kind of like keeping a beach ball under water. It’s going to be harder to keep those feelings down, because there is so much uncertainty, so you are going to feel more.

Susan: So the things that we suggest. One, remember to breathe, drop in and feel. And that, you know, get as descriptive and as understanding of your feelings as you can be without making them wrong, even the ones you don’t like. And then the next thing that is probably the most critical for being relational in this next stage is be willing to check out your story.

Now, we’ve done a number of different podcasts about this. But we tend to think we’re right or wrong, but usually we think we’re right, we fight for that. And we need to suspend that right now, even our favorite experts. You know, if you are a big Trump fan or a big Cuomo – usually people have one side of that or the other – try to just find your path through. What is there that I need to understand, not just make everything wrong.

And sometimes that is really hard for me based upon how things get presented. But I would encourage you, if you can, try to check out your story with the people in your world who may be on one side of that or the other, instead of making it us versus them.

CrisMarie: And even being, you know, like how could they have come to that point of view? Especially when you think it’s so counter to what you think is right. But really when we work with teams, and we are working with teams, still it’s really about how do you develop the capacity to hold for that tension? Hold for that energy inside of you, which is your feelings, and also hold for this person that has very different opinions.

And when you can kind of hold that container, new things start to emerge and new ideas. That’s where innovation and the creativity start to spark and happen. And we really believe that this is the path towards getting through this and finding a new status quo. Creating new ways of business, new ways of commerce, new ways of health. And it’s not always comfortable.

Susan: And hopefully realize we are not giving you an answer here. We’re giving you a path to begin to question, to begin to explore, to begin to consider, and be in this discomfort and uncertainty as we emerge. Not trying to just get back to normal. But to expand our potential for what is possible. And we always say this, “Sometimes that conflict stage gets messy.”

So we’re not saying it’s all going to start looking good yet. There is still a great deal of uncertainty. But if you can get curious and interested in shifting from your fixed mindset, going back and forth, that is a path we think can get us through this.

CrisMarie: And if you need support in learning how to hold for that uncertainty inside yourself and also hold for the uncertainty in your relationships and your business. That’s really what we’ve been doing for 20 years. So we’d be happy to coach you and/or your team or your couple through this time. Because really we believe your capacity to hold and deal with uncertainty is really the life skill that we are being asked to develop and cultivate right now. Have a good day.

Susan: Have a good day.

CrisMarie: If you want to learn more about what we discussed today or how to deal with conflict more effectively. Susan and myself, CrisMarie are both available for individual one-on-one coaching. We also offer couples coaching, which now as we live and work 24/7 together, may be more important than ever.

Susan: We continue to do our team facilitation, both live and now virtually. Let’s get real, until you’ve had a tough conversation over Zoom you may not be building the trust you need on your team.

CrisMarie: For the next couple of months we are offering free virtual trainings to organizations. Our goal is to support you, your team and your business, both at work and at home during this pandemic.

Susan: Right now you can find short videos on mine and CrisMarie’s LinkedIn and Facebook, with tips, tools and inspiration. To contact us, email, that’s

CrisMarie: Okay, stay safe, stay healthy and remember, together we’re better and stronger.

Susan: 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.

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