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How History Impacts Today's Conflicts with CrisMarie Campbell

Updated: Nov 18, 2019


This may be hard to believe, but at one point CrisMarie had thoughts that she was a loser…while she was at the Olympics as a participating athlete!


This was the story she was telling herself and one that stayed with her for a while. It held back her courage of speaking up and showing up as all of herself.


The good news is that CrisMarie has changed this story about herself and you can too. You can learn how to say what you think and feel and have the courage to truly be you.


We’re sharing more about this on today’s special episode where we hear from CrisMarie as a guest!


You can learn from her insights and hear her version of how conflict growing up manifests later in life by tuning into the show via the link below!


We can’t wait for you to hear more of her background and what’s led to the CrisMarie we love today, have a listen and then let us know your favorite story she shared.


Listen on Apple Podcast | Stitcher | Spotify

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Full Transcript:


Susan: Hello and welcome to the Beauty of Conflict podcast. Today is a special day. I, get the privilege, I Susan, get the privilege of interviewing CrisMarie. And we are going to be talking about, The Beauty of Conflict and why the Beauty of Conflict. So let me just start off by asking you, CrisMarie, why for you is this called the Beauty of Conflict?


CrisMarie: Well, we did put the pain crossed out on front of the book. And I have to say when I first met you Susan, I was terrified of conflict. And even so much as when we would get into a conflict, I would think, oh, our relationship's over. We cannot do this. And time and time again, you would be like, no, I want to hear from you. Even if you have a different opinion. And you were often quite passionate about that, which was equally as terrifying at the time. But it did make me show up and hang in and say, okay, I, I think this is a dumb idea or I completely disagree and here's why. So I would, I would come, with your encouragement, I would come forward.


Over and over again I saw us come up with solutions that weren't my idea or your idea, but something that we could both, we are both excited about and it worked and I was like, wow, this, this really works. And, and then we were working with our clients in the same thing we would see in business teams over and over again.


Susan: Is there a particular example you can give a specific example of that either in the relationship?


CrisMarie: No, it's just more of a, I don't see, can we start again?


Susan: No, no. This is ok. Oh you can tell, we might get into conflict in this episode. I just wondered cause you were saying, that and I thought that was a great.


CrisMarie: It was just, it was just a solid pattern. So I can't come up with a specific example. If one pops in, I will share it. But it, it was such the antithesis to any relationship I had been in because I was a people pleaser. So, and that, so I can share kind of more of what I learned about conflict growing up with. Would that be a good place to go.


Susan: I think she may be leading the interviewer and I came to tell me what you're experiencing right now.


CrisMarie: Frustration. Like did you not know you should open with that. Okay.


Susan: Okay. So let me, let me just ask you, cause we, you know, we do believe that a lot of how you feel about conflict comes from your own experience around conflict. So, how about you tell yeah, us and the listeners a little bit of your back story and what you learned about conflict growing up.


CrisMarie: Well I grew up with an army colonel, dad, anybody who knows me know, knows this story. And he was a, he was pretty volatile and we always had dinner together at our round table in our kitchen. And every night was like running the gauntlet and hoping he wouldn't explode. And later in life, I'm the youngest, so my sister is seven years older, my brother's 11 years older. He was Kinda gone by the time this, you know, I became aware of all of this, but you know, when we sit around the dinner table, dad would say, what did you do for school? And in the bubble he was looking for an executive report on what did we accomplished at school, he really was.


And my sister just, I don't know, she liked to push his buttons. And so she'd say, he would say how it's going. She'd say, fine. And you knew that was just going to get under the skin of dad. So I would be like, I'd ask a question. I changed the subject. I'd say, you know, dad, I think what she means to say is. I would totally, you know, and I gave my executive report like I gotta I got a B in English and I got an A on my math test and we're going on this band concert and I need the permission slip. And so I learned how to give executive reports at the dinner table and just not engage. And also one of the dynamics that would come up when I would bring any opinion up, both my, my mom and sister would like to analyze my topics and they'd say, well, why are you interested in that? What about this? And have you thought of that? Or, and I would just, I couldn't as a young person couldn't answer their questions. So I pretty soon stopped bringing my ideas forward because of the, the curiosity you could say from my mom.


Susan: I think you referred to it as scrutiny.


CrisMarie: I felt scrutinized by all their questions that I couldn't answer. And then the fear of saying the wrong thing and dad blowing up. So I was terrified of conflict and how I dealt with to survive is I just got really good at not sharing much and asking questions and facilitating conversations around our dinner table.


Susan: I know that to be a master skill you have these days because when we're in certain situations, you are masterful at asking the right questions, drawing people's point of view out perspectives out when we're working with clients...


CrisMarie: ...synthesizing information.


I mean it is. I learned my facilitating skills, the Malcolm Gladwell 10,000 hours to become an expert. That was my dinner table and I do now make a good living facilitating executive, two day retreats and helping teams understand each other where I don't necessarily need to share my opinion. However, it became a career limiting experience to not share my opinion.


I was working on a project at a software company. I was, I had gone to engineering school, worked at Boeing as a flight test engineer. I didn't want to keep doing that. So went back and got my MBA and started working at Arthur Anderson, which at the time was a well-respected consulting firm and I was leading a project at a software company. So I was a team leader and I had a team of about six Arthur Anderson folks and we were working for a vice president of a very big company to solve their problem. And my senior manager at Arthur Anderson came in and said, hey, this is a strategy for this project. This is what you need to do. And the bubble in my head was like, I don't think that's going to solve the problem of the client, but of course I didn't say that.


Instead, I asked a question, I said, do you think that's going to solve the client's problem? And he said, yes. He was kind of insulted. He got a little aggressive. I was catapulted back to dad's dinner table and I was like, okay, nevermind. And I did what he wanted me to do. We got to the end of this. This is a six month project. Following that strategy. And Lo and behold, we did not solve the client's problem and the client knew it, but Arthur Anderson wanted to garner more work at this esteemed client. And so they invited all the partners in. There's like six or eight of them. And I was sitting against the wall cause I was, you know, lowly project leader there and the vice president, they were asking him, you know, so how's the work? What can we do to help you, blah, blah, blah. And he said, "Well, you know that project CrisMarie lead", he stuck his finger out and he actually pointed to me across the room and he said, "that was a disaster, a complete disaster". I just felt like I wanted to melt in my chair. I felt so humiliated because I know it was a disaster. I knew it was going to be a disaster from day one and I didn't have the courage to speak up and give a different point of view and say, wait a minute. No, I get you think it's going to solve it. I didn't stay in there.


Susan: What I find that so fascinating because I know I've heard you share the story and I know the story but I, and I also, for me as I listened to the story, I'm like wow, that head of that big huge company thought you were the leader of the team. He didn't think that other guy who was supposed to be the leader of the team was the leader of the team. And I know where you go with it is oh my God, I am the one who failed, versus I am the one he saw as the leader. And darn if I didn't give him my best idea.


CrisMarie: Well I didn't give him my best idea.


Susan: No, I know. I wish. I wish I had it.


CrisMarie: I mean I continued to work with him. He was a difficult client.


Susan: But did you give him your opinion?


CrisMarie: Well, I didn't have a disagreement in the future project so it was okay. So as long as I'm agreeing it's fine. But when I do have a felt sense like wait a minute, this doesn't work. It's having the courage to speak up then. And even though I knew, okay, I got to figure this out, I cannot live my life, and it was shortly thereafter I met you and saw you deal with a group of conflict in a very different way. I saw you stand up to a bully and I thought, ah, I want to be able to do that.


And so I, you know, I had the motivation. I wanted to learn how to deal with conflict differently. I saw other people do it and I could still not do it and it wasn't...


Susan: Uh, can I, I want to take you slightly off, because I'm so struck by this because I think the other story that I was thinking of is how the so applies in which she hasn't talked about yet, which I'm sure we're going to get to, is the fact that she actually got to the Olympic Games.


CrisMarie: I did kind of skip over that.


Susan: You did, an experience that I believe you actually cut off from, because at, for some odd, obscure crazy notion, you saw yourself as losing a loser at the Olympics.


CrisMarie: Would you like me to tell that story?


Susan: Yeah. I just want to the listeners to hear, cause I'm sure some of you are sitting there. I'm hoping like me going what? How can you get to the Olympic Games and consider yourself a loser? But I will let her tell the story now.


CrisMarie: I did, I did go to the Olympic Games in 1988 and part of why I think I was successful in sports, so you have to know I wasn't an athlete in high school. I, I took a jogging class, I don't know in maybe, 11th grade and I, but before I was headed to college, I had seen, which is at the University of Washington.


All my friends were going to East Coast Ivy League schools and I was going to the UW. Nobody knew where that was. They thought it was in Saint Louis or something. And I saw this, I'd seen the campus, but it didn't really jazz me, my parents were retiring out there. They said you have to be on the same coast. So I was heading to the UW and I saw a made for TV movie like the summer before I went there and it was, you know, it's a made for TV movie, but it was a love story and it was filmed at the University of Washington and he was a rower and she fell in love with him and they were kissing under the quad, which has beautiful cherry blossoms. And I was like, ah. The campus looked pretty, the sport looked pretty and I thought, cool. Then not like a week later I got this flyer from the rowing team that said, hey, if you're five foot eight or taller, come out to try out for the rowing team.


I'm only five foot six. But I didn't think they check. And I also thought my god did, they knew I was watching that movie. That's pretty creepy. But I decided I'd try this rowing thing. And so the first day of school I showed up 110 other women showed up. Now these were all athletes. Maybe they weren't rowers, a lot of them were, but they were basketball players, swimmers, strong, athletic women. And me and the coach walked up and said, hey, do you want to be a coxen? Which is that small person that steers the boat. And I said, no, I want to row. And she just was like, whatever. She turned away. Yeah. Didn't pay me much mind, but I persisted.


Susan: It was a good thing. It was a woman coach. It didn't catapult you back to your dad's dinner table and you stuck it out.


CrisMarie: I believed in myself. I believed that I would, I just loved it so much that I wanted to figure it out. I didn't, I wasn't involved in sports, so I didn't have a lot of, kind of the preconceived notions of that I had to be.


Susan: I do believe, if I'm not mistaken, you, we're a competitive flutist, a flute player. And, had left that world of competition to take up crew.


CrisMarie: Well, that quartet was pretty competitive. I was in a flute quartet and we had to go to competitions and, and it was stressful. It wasn't when I was in band and orchestra, but it was the quartet that threw me over the edge. And I thought, no, I don't want to compete.


Susan: So here is a woman who did not associate competitions with sports, which is a good thing because, she associated the sport with romance.


CrisMarie: I did romance and connection and thank goodness I had rowing when I went to the University of Washington because it, you know, there's 20,000 people in that school. But I had a smaller population than to connect to. And I develop friendships and I got in shape cause I didn't know how to do that. I learned how to row. And then I realized, oh my gosh, there's only gonna be eight women that make that top boat. That seems so unfair. Out of 110 of us, that's wrong. But I thought, okay, I want to make that top eight. And Lo and behold, an assistant coach said, hey, you gotta get strong and you've got to figure out how to develop the rhythm in the boat. Cause you're a squirt and you'll be lucky to do anything. And she even said, you have to lose the attitude that you can do anything because you're just, you're too cocky. I was like, okay. So I did get strong. I learned how to set the rhythm.


I made that first eight, which was amazing. So that was my freshman year and we won. It was pack 10s back then. We went Pack 10s and I was set. So I went onto the varsity level the next year, my sophomore year, and I made the varsity boat. So junior year made the varsity boat. We won nationals that year and I also wanted to be the learn leadership. So I learned how to stroke and I was voted team captain. So then it became... do you just want to keep interrupting? I did not interrupt you this much when I interviewed you. I just have to say.


Susan: It's very possible, but I like to kind of highlight things that I think are important for the listener to hear. To me there, you know one thing about you that I find just so refreshing and, and I think it's really fundamental to you being an Olympic athlete as well as this, the successful woman that you are, is when you decide you want to do something, you have no qualms about asking for help. You will go, you'll get, you'll ask a coach, what do I need to do and then you do it. You know? I mean I have coached a lot of people and myself and guilty of this. I've been coached by people. They tell me to do things. I don't do that.


The times of my life when I have had been major things, but that is something you consistently do. Yeah, and so I brought it up because both with that initial coach who told you here's how you're going to get on in that boat of eight and then also when you decided I want to be the stroke. You didn't decide I'm going to go be the stroke. You said you went and found somebody.


CrisMarie: I did. I found an upperclassmen that was the seven seat, which is the person that sits behind the stroke. And I said, can you go out in a pair with me? Can you teach me how to do this? And she did.


Susan: That's why I wanted to interrupt because I think those are, yeah, great qualities. And I think why you are such a great coach, which, we'll get to eventually, but is because you know, you, you yourself have been coached and you know the benefits of it and you know how to support and encourage somebody. And I think people who work with you get that felt sense.


Susan: Yes and I still get coached. I will continue to get coaching for because I, it's so nice to have somebody in my corner working, working for me in things that are important in helping me. And that is true. And I think that is part of, learning and growing and working. You know, kind of the, I think some of the strengths that I bring to a team is I, I do tend to pull people together, help them see a vision, help them believe in themselves and make things happen. Whether that's in business or in sports. It certainly was in sports.


We used to do Ham and Eggers, which were every Friday they'd put our names in a hat and come up with random lineups and we'd have to race. And that junior year, out of like 18 Fridays, I won 15 of the races. And the only thing differently than I did was, before we got on the d before we got in the boat, when we're standing on the dock, this random group of eight, I'd say, you know, I know it looks like that boat can be wind because it's got all the seniors or all the varsity people. But if we pull together, we could do it. And lo and behold, we did time and time again. So now that ability to pull people together, this is not conflict. It's actually the teamwork piece that I, that I leverage. And I leveraged that when I went onto the national team, we, I was in 86 I was a spare, but in 87, I made the women's eight that went to Copenhagen. And part of that, I mean, I think it was our ability to trust each other.


We did deal with differences on lineups. And I was, "technically" supposed to be the stroke because I was a winning stroke. I was doing well, however, I was green. I had never competed on the world stage. And so we had a much more experienced stroke than I was technically faster. But heck, if I screwed up, I'd have a huge impact. And we decided she would be the stroke of the boat and the leader and I'd be in the back, which is really the bow, the front of the boat.


Susan: So I mean, that's a profound thing that you're mentioning because I mean, having worked, having, I mean though, I never made it to the Olympics. I've been on many teams. I was a big jock, a fan of sports. And um, and what I know is it's not easy. You know, there's a lot of ego in most sports including rowing.


CrisMarie: Oh sure. Yeah.


Susan: And for you, that could've been a high conflict situation easily. And instead of it being kind of the worst of conflict, it was still a conflict situation. But you actually agreed this is...


CrisMarie: Yeah, I really saw the the bigger purpose that she would be a much better choice to lead that crew. And she was, and I, you know, I really respect her and it was a great, it was a fabulous team that we had. And when we got to Copenhagen, this is the, the time, the era that the Russians were dominant and they'd been dominant like for 15 years. And you know, they didn't come in 84 they didn't. And the US didn't come to 80. So there was a lot of times that we didn't get to meet them. And this is 1987 and the Russians were top seed. And so they were a rowing course is kind of often on a lake or something. And they were on the inside lane. It was smooth water. We were all the way on the other end of the course because we were not supposed to do anything choppy water. We took off, the Russians flew out of the gates very fast and we've got six crews that were five other crews we're racing against. And we get halfway through the race and all of a sudden the Coxon says, Hey, we're moving on the Russians. And it was like, whoa. So our boat picked up and surge forward in the end, Romania won gold, but we won silver and we were all happy that top the mighty Russians. It was awesome. And this, uh, we got to, the docs pulled the pull the boats up to the docks and this Romanian woman, she's big, she comes marching over to us and she had this white shock of, hair, short white hair. And she picked up me in one arm and another US rower and she's just like, Woo. So it was really fabulous. That was as definitely a magical midas touch crew. I love that, that team.


Now when we got to ‘88, we were heading in, they're expected to metal cause hey, we got the silver medal in the world championships coming into soul, the Seoul, Korea Games, they were slating us to, you know, be in the middle contender. And what happened for me is I got injured, um, six months before the games and was off the water. That was a really scary time for me. I couldn't race and I felt so much shame. I needed somebody to say, even if you can't row, you're a good human. And I didn't have that in my life. And so I got , really close to suicide in that timeframe.


It was really quite scary. Um, and it was three months long. And um, some point in there, and I don't know how I got ahold of the mental athlete book, but I did. And I think it was probably one of the pts, cause I could swim the pool and I could go to PT twice a day. And I was. And then I was just basically isolating, staying away from my teammates and it's miserable. I was miserable. But somebody gave me this book and it was like, oh my gosh, something I can do. Cause the mental athlete is all about visualizing your sport even if you're injured. So because they show your brain still fires the muscles. So I made my, this isn't the time tape cassettes. I made my little cassette, I'd do my lay down on my shag rug on it or whatever it was on the, in my attic bedroom. And I'd listen to my recording, do my relaxing and, and I'd see myself in the doing the stroke and then our boat pulling ahead. And then a few weeks later I still got an invitation to go to the US Olympic selection camp, which is where they select the Olympic team. This is like mid June. And I was grateful. They still invited me because I hadn't been on the water, had a conversation with my doctor and said, he's like, you know what? You've tried all these things. If you row, you'll know if you hurt it more. And we'll do an operation. So he first said, you want to wait four more years? And I'm like hell no, I do not want to wait four more years.


So I decided to go for it and, but I was, I came to camp with, I think there's 32 of us at start and I was the bottom of the pack, you know, even though I was doing the visualization, it took a while for me to get my stroke back and I had to do this, what we call seat racing, which is racing against each person and I was climbing my way up to the top until I was at the spot where I was seat racing for that very last seat in the Olympic Games, the top eight again, it's very, but I had, I had seat race a heck of a lot and you know people talk about the zone in sports, you know that magic thing where time slows down.


And I've experienced it just a handful of times. And one of those times with seat racing for the Olympic eight, we were in fours and I switched seats with somebody and then, oh my gosh, our boat took off. And I was like, can this really be happening? It is so fast. And so we were so fast, it time was slower. We were so fast, it was so easy. And it happened. It kept happening. You know, I think the coach didn't believe it, so he kept seat racing me. But um, yeah, I won that seat in the boat. So I had made it on the Olympic team and I was headed for soul and that was a, that in and of itself was magical and exciting.


Susan: I will say, I'll put a caveat here, if you actually want to know more about this, you really need to hear CrisMarie speak on this because you know, it is phenomenal to hear what she took away from the Olympic Games. And some of it is in the roots of the romance novels.


CrisMarie: The made for TV movie.


Susan: Yes. But, uh, anyway, that's, that's a great story. We won't go into all the details of that.


CrisMarie: It is, I do Igniting the Olympian in You as well. Yes. And that's been fun to develop and it's fun to reclaim. So what happened at the Games is that we, we made the final, but we came in a disappointing sixth. And what happened prior to that is we, about a month before the games we, uh, we're using an experimental boat. And because I was the last one to get in the boat, the coach literally did ask, should we use this boat? What do you guys think? What do you, what do you women think? Do you want to use this? And so we had some sort of discussion. I though it was like, heck, I'm just lucky to get in this. I have no idea how to row this boat, but I'm not gonna say anything cause I'm just happy to be here. So again, I was taking myself out in truth, be told another teammate, she just told me this this past year, she said, oh my gosh, we saw you guys. You were rowing, you women were rowing and you were getting slower and slower and slower in that boat while we were training because it was impossible.


They later tested it. It was impossible. It was designed on a computer and Boeing engineers apparently came out and did water test studies and it was all crazy. You couldn't, so even boats that were not symmetrical had better waterlines, easier to balance. And so it was supposed to go faster against some air quotes, but it, it didn't. And because, so we had this discussion, but I did not speak up. And we used that boat.


We made the heat, but we, we barely made the final. And we scrapped that boat and borrowed the West Germans boat is before the east and west split up. It came together in Germany. We use their boat in the final, but we still came in heartbreaking sixth. So, and I walked away from that thinking, oh, the coach blamed me. It was my fault. We lost. And, and that was kind of a crazy, I don't know why I did that, but I stayed in that pain for 10 years. Solid. And when you met me, I did not want to talk about the Olympics.


Susan: No. As a matter of fact, I, I was so excited to get to talk to an Olympian. It, yeah. A dear friend of mine had wanted us to meet and, and I was so thrilled about getting to ask her about that, that she just about bit my head off. I was like, okay, all right. Um hmm. You need to do some work on that. So fortunately she has and has now owned her Olympian.


CrisMarie: Yes. I mean, yes. And I, I even checked out my story with the coaches this past year, 30 years later, and he said, no, I did not blame you. You were a phenomenal rower. And, uh, so that was...


Susan: I believe he even said, I made you work so hard to get into that boat. There's no way you were detriment because you had been injured. I made you prove it. So, I mean, I was there witnessing this conversation.


CrisMarie: And I could finally let that sink in that every time he tested me, I made that boat go faster. So I did not all of a sudden in the Olympic race like, okay, start eating bon bons during the race. I gave it my all.


Susan: It's a great example of where we tend to, you know, something happens and we tell ourselves a story and boy, when you don't check out that story and you live in that story for long, long periods of time, oh, it's detrimental.


CrisMarie: Yes, I think in that movie Bagger Vance where he suffered so much in coming back from war and the stories that he told himself. So yeah. You know, and I have to say, so you know, those two boats really where I did show up more fully, was in 87 and I

really held myself back, you know, in the discussions in the 88 and that boat I think had more, we had a crummy boat. We didn't gel as a team. We kinda had some, well, I was injured. So I opted out and we had some people that had some egos and factions. I am a big believer that you can have the same caliber of people and create 11, one plus one can equal 11 or one plus one can equal minus one. That '87 boat we were an 11 and in the '88 we were a minus one.


Susan: And I think what you're saying is really one of the biggest elements that makes that difference is the chemistry, the willingness of even a team to get into conflict. And what they do when they're in there in the conflict and they all just opt out and avoid each other or do they dive in and make it.


CrisMarie: And you know this, this is a bottom line business result. We actually made a bad move to use that boat because we couldn't hang in and deal with conflict or couldn't have those discussions and trust each other. So this happens with business teams all the time. Even happens with couples. If you're not willing to hang in and say what you really think and feel and want, then you wind up making the bad choices and you can blame it on the strategic choice, but it's actually the dynamics that caused the problems.


Susan: I'm betting in that Olympic boat. You weren't doing what you did so well with Ham and Eggers, you know, pulling that team together before he got in that boat and saying they may look good but we've got this.


CrisMarie: I've really took myself out and I said, who am I? What is, this is not my place to do. I'm not the leader of the team and I'm just like all, I kept making myself so marginalized when I was in there. So yes, I was not really taking that showing up as all of me and really helping guide that team the way I could have.


Susan: I mean what, what really strikes me as I listen both both to your story at at that large tech company and as well as your story in rowing and what I hear is one, you can take yourself out in conflict. I have definitely seen the signs where you get caught category bolted back to your dad's dinner table. Well, I also hear in these stories times where you were like, you showed right up in, you took us, you know, ask for help, right? Ask somebody to support you took the leadership role, and that, you know, I imagine that that is a big part of what you bring to what you've come to understand about conflict is, you know, you, you can either opt out of it or step into it.


CrisMarie: Well, what happened? True. So true. And you know, I had these desires to show up more real in conflict, but what I recognized is I had imbedded in my nervous system from way back when, just an automatic freeze response and automatic flight response. And it wasn't until we were having dinner with another couple and you and the, partner in the other couple got into this passionate debate like you often did. But I was incredibly uncomfortable and I felt my body, like I felt my head tilt down. I couldn't look up. I didn't want to move. Finally I was like, I'm going to just going to go to the bathroom. They don't notice because you guys were, you two were so engaged. So I went to the bathroom and I was like, oh my god. I started to hyperventilate and shake and then when I came to the edge of the kitchen and said, hey, I'm uncomfortable. I'm scared. I want you to stop. Can you stop? Cause I don't know what's happening for me and I'm scared.


Susan: I remember that. I do remember that moment and I remember the way I recall it, is both the person involved in myself wore you. It was one time where you really got my attention. Like other times when I've been passionate about something, you know, I may not have realized like you'd say you're getting really upset here and I may not have, either didn't realize I was getting upset or was okay with my upsetness. So, your question up me didn't fit. So I didn't really respond. But when you showed up and said, I am uncomfortable, I was incredibly interested in that.


CrisMarie: That is probably the number one pivot that over and over and over you've reminded me to say is talk about what's happening for you. Because I would try to stop you like talk about you, you, you, you're too loud. You're, you know, whatever you need to stop, you need to calm down versus I'm uncomfortable. And when I did that, you two did settled down and got interested in me and I was, it was a process of being bigger than my nervous system by speaking up and saying what is true. And that really started to shift how I experienced conflict. Not that I only ever get when conflict comes up, I still have, that energy comes up. You can see you can't see my hands, but I'm kind of up there flowing up my torso. I get quite, you know, my heart can race, but if I speak about how I'm feeling, that can shift how I'm feeling and I can stay in the conversation.


Susan: And you also, I think because of your own work you've had to do on your nervous system and dealing with this, kind of fight or flight syndrome that you've recognized so fully, you now bring that to the coaching that you do. I mean that's a huge piece of the work that you do with people. In terms of the kind of mind body element of it and how to pay more attention to that.


CrisMarie: Well I think it's true cause I think so many of us, how we deal with conflict now is very similar to how we dealt with it when we were five. We really do, we haven't been taught any other models so we just keep repeating the same things. And I just was really at a point, you know, I knew I wanted to change and I couldn't figure out to change. And so then I did start doing all this mind body stuff and coming back in and feeling my feet and seat and all sorts of things to create more of a relaxed, aware presence in the midst of conflict. Noticing that I'm going there and then intervening.


Susan: And the best part is that as she did all this incredibly great work and started to bring it into her own coaching practice, she also realized that she could tell this story in a business setting with executives. For a while there, I think you held that back.


CrisMarie: Oh my gosh, I didn't say any of the mind, body stuff that I was doing and, and how to deal with emotions and fight or flight. And it is so crazy to think sports is so similar to business and how you show up and, and settling yourself down versus continuing to respond to visually the way you are. You learned when you were five or four, you know, it's, it's so unconscious and so more awareness and helping executives do that so that they can actually tolerate more attention. Which by the way, when you can tolerate more tension, you can actually hang in for bigger meetings. You can still be creative and innovative. There's so much more you can do when you can increase your tolerance for differences and conflicts. And people don't recognize that. They think, no, no, I just want to stay away and it's like, hang in.


Susan: Okay. Well I am, I am loving the conversation and I was, you know, um, and I could keep going. I have questions I still want to ask, but I am also aware, of the time, but I do think one piece you haven't really mentioned yet that I think is worth kind of closing on because I think it's a pretty phenomenal part of who you are is in this process. You have also been a woman and you have been, you know, and in the world of men, a lot of different places and you bring a unique twist to that these days that I think, um, would be worth talking a little bit about.


CrisMarie: Okay. Well it's true. I mean, I didn't think growing up as a girl was a really great a benefit when I was living with an army colonel, dad and, and I went right into corporate America. I was one woman out of 80 men engineers. So I really learned how to give the executive report stuff, my feelings talk.


Susan: Dress in Brown or black.


CrisMarie: Exactly nothing frilly or florally or colorful or, and I mean it actually took me a while to even start to wear makeup. I can't believe that. But it did cause up till now.


Susan: There's no holding back on some of these areas.


CrisMarie: But I really tried to fit, become almost like a little man to pass to match the men. I wanted to actually beat the men at their own game because that, that's what made me feel safe. I was so intimidated and it's not, it's only been um, well more recently, like the last 20 years that I've actually come back to feeling my emotions, which was a key to actually getting my health back. Cause I had a chronic back injury, I had skin issues, I had digestive troubles, I had allergies. And all of that, I kept trying to find somebody to fix me. And actually the magic ingredient was coming into my own body, feeling my feelings and making friends with them on an ongoing basis and recognizing that our emotions are there for really good reasons. And that's so not supported in the business world typically, but I really work with people, work with myself and work with other, particularly women on how to embrace their emotions. But this even happens for men that feel like I can't, I've got to have a stiff upper lip and I can't show any weakness. And it's like, oh my goodness, you are so working against yourself. It's, it's unhealthy to do that. So yes, I've embraced more of my feminine side.


I dress in all sorts of colors and I feel my emotions. I've actually, we were leading a CEO group, these were like 10 CEO's and I, it was after a really stressful world event and I just started crying and one of the CEOs was like, oh my gosh, you know, I feel like I have to take care of you. And I said, nope, I'm just crying. I can take care of myself and this is what's happening. And it, it, you know, and we went on, I led the group. But it was so many people are uncomfortable with feelings because they're uncomfortable with their own feelings. But once, once I learned it's the key to actually my intuition, my guidance, my both my physical sensations and my emotions. It's transformed the choices I make now. I do acting, I do hip hop dancing, I'm a painter so I have a much broader life.


Susan: One of my favorite talks that she doesn't give quite enough in my opinion is, you know, going from that brown suit to a tutu. I just think that that should be the, yeah, she's been captivating.


CrisMarie: She's referring to one of my hip hop, uh, outfits last year was a tutu and I loved it. Oh my gosh. Cause I never got the tutu when I was growing up. So I'd loved getting the tutu at, what I was 54 at the time.


Susan: Actually, I think you can four or five tutus.


CrisMarie: I had a lot of Amazon prime going on at that point.


Susan: Well I think this has been a wonderful interview and uh, I just, any final words before we go about the beauty of conflict or where you are now?


CrisMarie: Well, I really, I know a lot of people are scared of conflict and intimidated and it makes sense probably based on what happened. But if you don't have to be a victim to your nervous system or what happened, you can actually grow beyond that and growing beyond that will oh, it will. So enrich your relationships at home and at work and uh, yeah. So I want you to know that there is, there is hope.


Susan: All right, well thank you CrisMarie.


CrisMarie: You are welcome.

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.

Connect with CrisMarie and Susan on LinkedIn.

Watch their TEDx Talk: Conflict – Use It, Don’t Defuse It!

Pre-order their new book The Beauty of Conflict for Couples: Igniting Passion, Intimacy, and Connection in Your Relationship.


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