In addition to being a sought-after speaker, Dr. Jennifer Goldman-Wetzler is the founder and CEO of Alignment Strategies Group, a premier consulting firm based in New York City. She is also the author of a new book, Optimal Outcomes: Free Yourself From Conflict At Work, at Home and In Life. Jennifer joins Marcel Schwantes on this week’s show to show us how we can experience conflict freedom.
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- Jennifer defines a conflict loop as a vicious cycle of conflict that usually occurs because of family cycles. In her own case, her grandfather’s angry response to conflict influenced how she responds in similar circumstances. Now her understanding of conflict cycles helps her help others deal with their anger. [5:36]
- 40 years of research suggests that we have conflict habits. When our conflict habits interact with other people’s, it forms a pattern of interaction that keeps us stuck in the conflict loop. Jennifer identifies four conflict habits in her book:
- Blame others – one person blames the other, and that person blames the first person.
- Shut down – we avoid conflict to the extent that we stop communicating.
- Blame and shame oneself – your knee-jerk reaction in any conflict is that it must be your fault.
- Relentlessly collaborate – continuously trying to be kind, generous and collaborative when the other party is not interested in collaborating. [7:40]
- There are 16 variations of conflict patterns. Jennifer names 5 of the most common patterns in her book. [14:46]
- Conflict that can be resolved efficiently within a relatively short period of time can be healthy conflict. [16:05]
- When you try over and over to resolve a conflict and you keep failing, Jennifer says stop the madness! Acknowledge that the issue is not likely to be resolved. It doesn’t mean the situation is hopeless, rather that you need to apply a different approach. You can free yourself from the situation, Jennifer says. [19:03]
- “If you’re someone who has anger issues or you’re dealing with someone else who tends to get angry, the work begins by looking inside of yourself,” Jennifer says. [24:00]
- Marcel asks about practical ways of freeing ourselves from conflict, in particular, the mindfulness practice of pausing. Jennifer recommends that we all practice pausing every day. She describes the difference between a reactive pause and a proactive pause. The more we practice proactive pausing, the better we would be able to catch ourselves when we’re about to fall into a trap in conflict, she says. [25:06]
- The most important thing to do when you’re stuck in a conflict loop is something pattern breaking. First, acknowledge what pattern you’re in – you can use the free assessment on Jennifer’s website to find out your primary conflict habit. Once you identify your habit, try to identify the other person’s habit. Then, do something pattern-breaking which can be anything besides what you usually do! [29:01]
- Marcel comments that you need to have intentionality and courage in order to do many of the practices in the book. Jennifer says that the book is for people who are ready to make the mindset and skillset changes necessary to experience conflict freedom. They are called practices because you need to do them on a regular basis, she points out. [33:31]
- Marcel and Jennifer discuss how values play a role in conflict. [35:07]
- “Empathy doesn’t mean you let someone off the hook for bad behavior,” Jennifer says. It simply means taking the time and effort to understand why they are the way they are. As a leader, having empathy towards your employees means that you can take a step back and recognize that it’s not about you. This new insight could be the thing that breaks the pattern of interaction and frees you from conflict. [44:33]
- Jacqueline Carter: The Mind of the Leader (Episode #31)
- Melanie Katzman: Connect First (Episode #27)
- Jerry Colonna: Radical Self-Inquiry (Episode #19)
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