This is how to overcome your conflicts

Two caricatures of faces. One red and one blue each looking the opposite way

The Collaboration Effect® is all about connecting relationships, listening actively, and educating judiciously in order to build bridges to negotiate closure. This is a core statement. Although many blogs have been offered through this site relating to the application of The Collaboration Effect with the IRS, estate planning, exit planning, working with difficult people and in many other areas at my blog site, I want to take this opportunity to spend a little more time on each of these elements of The Collaboration Effect. This commentary is a little more detailed than any of the other blogs, but is still simply an introduction to the topic.


Connecting relationships


In order to work with someone, it is important to relate to that person first. If you are just meeting someone for the first time, you want to introduce yourself and ask them some questions about themselves. Let them share about themselves first.  If you know ahead of time that you will be with someone for the first time, learn all you can about them ahead of time in social media and from others. You want to relate to the other person. You want to make the other person feel special. Let them tell you all about themselves, what they are proud of, and what is important to them.


     In a negotiation


In a negotiation make an even greater effort to learn all about the other party ahead of time via social media, networking with associates at work, and with other contacts. The reason for this is to introduce yourself to them and look for areas to connect with the other party both at the start of the negotiation and at various times such as breaks or lunch during the negotiation. Building a relationship is key to working together collaboratively to come up with something that works for both parties.


     Consider your and their attributes


This is not simply a resume search, though a resume is helpful. This is an attempt to learn more about the person to connect deeper. To connect deeper explore your own and consider their attributes. We all have primary attributes such as race, age, ethnicity, physical attributes, sexual orientation and class. These may or may not be visible. We also have secondary attributes such as religious beliefs, nationality, geographic location, marital status, parental status, education, income, work background, military experience and other elements. Finally, as tertiary elements consider elements such as learning style, personality, conversational and emotional intelligence, and other areas. Once you begin to think of all of these elements regarding yourself and others, there are a host of potential areas to explore about the other party to build a connection.


Listening actively


Listening actively focuses on exploring interests of the other party. This is even harder when working with difficult people. Recently a gifted speaker, Jill Konrath, shared a story with an audience based on an experience she had when she was about 16. It had to do with a date with a guy she had a crush on. A friend said, to her, when you go to McDonalds just keep asking him questions. To prepare she wrote down a dozen questions and kept them in her purse. When should could not remember any more questions, she excused herself and went to the bath room. She looked over her notes and returned with more questions. As they were driving back to her house, he said he wanted to go out with her again, and that he really enjoyed their conversation. He had not asked her anything. She had just practiced listening actively. She kept asking open ended questions and actively listened.


     What just happened?


In short, she paraphrased what he said in her own words. She summarized key points to demonstrate listening. She was empathetic reinforcing his feelings so that he knew he was heard. She engaged him in the way he wanted to be engaged. She gave him 100% attention. She worked to discover common interests.

In a negotiation questions you can do this to when you ask questions like this:

What would you like to have happen?

What would it take for you to feel satisfied?

What haven’t we covered that you want me to know?

What can I do to help you?

Are there any other concerns or problems?


     What do you need to do?


Listening actively does not just happen. You have to make a considered effort just like the Jill in the story she told. She knew she wanted to listen actively. She prepared ahead of time. She made use of her notes, and the other party felt fully engaged.  Note that Jill did not feel listened to in this conversation. It would have been nice if he had focused on her too. But that wasn’t the point.  She wanted to have a second date. She accomplished her goal. To do that she had to focus on listening actively. Consider making such an effort with someone you want to connect with is sales, a negotiation, or any other situation.


Educating judiciously


We all have ways we prefer to be educated and to learn. These can be visual, auditory, kinesthetic, or reading and writing. Using a mixture of these may allow the other party to see what you are trying to convey if you are not aware of their preferred method.          Pictures, diagrams, and written instructions are preferred for the spatial or visual learner. Providing handout and giving participants time to absorb information is very helpful for the visual learner. Auditory learners prefer listening to a good story. Asking others to respond to questions and their opinions engage this type of audience. Kinesthetic or tactile learners learn by doing. They like to be physically involved. Reading writing learners enjoy reading and then writing down elements from their research. By embracing each of these styles as appropriate to your audience you can convey key concepts.

In a negotiation be there first to understand. Actively listen. Don’t judge. When it is your time to speak and educate, be calm, be focused, provide information at a high level. Provide enough information that you entice them to ask questions. Being responsive to questions is more important than inundating the other party with information. All too often too much information is provided. Although you know a lot. You are prepared. You have all this knowledge. Generally, that is not what is needed. Rather what is needed is simply to give them three reasons why what you want is beneficial to them and let them respond to your comments.


Building a bridge to negotiate closure


It is not about me. It is all about we. But we starts with me. By taking these three steps (connecting, listening, educating) into a conflict, a collaboration, a negotiation, or a mediation it is possible to have a much better result. In a negotiation understand your position. Determine your Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement (BATNA). Your BATNA is that if you don’t at least have this amount, you are prepared to walk away. Compute at least three numbers between your position and your BATNA. Having alternatives gives you room to show a computation based on certain assumptions. Use BATNA in a negotiation with difficult people.

Explore your interests and theirs. Write them down. Consider how strongly you are emotionally tied to your interests. Consider how strongly they are tied emotionally to what you perceive to be their interests.

Step back, and for each issue summarize what you see as the facts, your and their interests on each issue, and the emotion each of you has tied to that issue. By exploring these three elements for each issue whether you are in a conflict, negotiation, mediation or working to collaborate with someone else, your chances are enhanced by practicing this approach. Given potential negative emotions tied to an issue, look for ways to offer a golden bridge to retreat to other party to save face in the process.

By expanding your horizons and theirs through this process you may be able to overcome differences and come to a conclusion that everyone can live with going forward.

About the author

Mike Gregory is a professional speaker, an author, and a mediator. You may contact Mike directly at and at (651) 633-5311. Mike has written 12 books (and co-authored two others) including his latest book, The Collaboration Effect: Overcoming Your Conflicts, and The Servant Manager, Business Valuations and the IRS, and Peaceful Resolutions that you may find helpful. [Michael Gregory, ASA, CVA, MBA, Qualified Mediator with the Minnesota Supreme Court]