Conflict Management : Throw ’em a LIFE line

By Peter Jeff
The Leadership Mint Guy

Here’s an idea to get your proposals approved in a negative environment.

         “I don’t like it one bit,” groused the president after reviewing a  proposed policy from one of his vice presidents. The vice president stood firm as the president shot his proposal down like a  gunslinger in those old Western movies in a duel at high noon. The vice president fired back but his bullets of information seemed to bounce harmlessly off the president.  The vice president left the office depressed and dejected. The president felt misunderstood and abandoned. Nerves fried. Egos frayed.

         Resolving conflict in the executive suite is modus operandi. As leaders we know that we are supposed to first seek to understand then to be understood as Stephen Covey conveys  so well in his Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. But you and I both know that resolving conflict is easier said than done.

        We jab and jaw to get our ideas heard, understood and acted upon, yet too often our ideas are dead on arrival. Here’s a way to pump LIFE in to those proposals . LIFE is an acrostic for: Listen, Investigate, Feel, and Explore.


     Resist your urge to be defensive or worse  argumentative in the wake of initial criticism to your proposal.  Don’t be defensive. Be pensive. Listen with your eyes. Your eyes  have 22 times the nerve endings that your  ears have. Be present in the moment. Don’t let your thoughts wander off into planning your response. And keep your mouth shut. After all saying nothing is the ultimate COMMAND of the language.


   Probe with empathy. Stay calm. Seek to understand the specific criticism with a clarifying phrases like: “Can you  tell me  what specific areas you don’t like about this new proposal? Practice what Socrates called “Koinonia.” In Greek, Koinonia means “the spirit of fellowship.” Practicing Koinonia you dialogue without arguing and without interrupting.


       Confirm the critic’s feelings. Acknowledge their point of view. Affirm the validity of their perspective—from their point of view. Then confirm that you really do feel what they feel. Rephrase their point of view until they acknowledge that they have been heard; until what they said and what you heard are virtually a “copy and paste “ function, according to author Chip Bell. In his book Managers as Mentors, Bell notes “The mission of listening is to be so tuned into the other person’s message that understanding becomes a copy and past function from one mind to another.”


       Only after you have a confirmation of the “copy and paste” function, can you begin advancing your point of view – AS LONG AS IT STAYS FIRMLY CONNECTED to the other person’s major concerns and objections. Don’t offer a prescription. Offer a mutual exploratory examination.  Suggest that you work together –you and your critic– to adapt and adjust the proposal to satisfy your mutual needs and concerns.

Ear-itate Your Critics

    Throwing your critic a LIFE line of Listening, Investigating, Feeling and Exploring is predicated on  LISTENING  to pumping LIFE into proposals that are dead on arrival. B(ear) the burden of leadership. Ear-itate your critics. Make them a part of the heard —not apart —from the herd. Appreciate the nascent power of the ear. Scientists tell us that the ear is the first organ in the womb to fully develop. And why not? The ears preserve LIFE.

      I like to think that my ears are like two LIFE preservers. I’m  always ready to toss my LIFE-saving ears into the seas of cognitive dissonance, confusion and concern to save an idea or proposal from drowning. It’s critical to factor in more than your capability and credibility in presenting a proposal. Often the key to pumping LIFE into your proposal is rooted in its compatibility with the values and vision of your critic. The only way to discern your critic’s values and vision is to listen openly, then adapt your proposal to that inherent value or vision. Then you will more readily Investigate, Feel and Explore to bring your proposal to LIFE.

       How does  listening play a role in your ability to manage conflict? I look forward to listening to you . Use the Comments section below.

 Today’s ImproveMINT
Listen, Investigate, Feel and Explore to keep your leadership skills in mint condition.

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4 thoughts on “Conflict Management : Throw ’em a LIFE line

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