When Heads Collide: How to Make Conflict Productive at Work

When Heads Collide: How to Make Conflict Productive at Work
  "If we aren't going to be afraid of conflict, we have to see it as thinking, and then we have to get really good at it." –Margaret Hefferna We frequently weigh in on our blog and in our resources about the importance of creating more robust inclusion in the workplace. The main idea is this: inclusive cultures require collaboration and divers...
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Navigating Identity Politics: Insight for Leaders

Navigating Identity Politics: Insight for Leaders
There is a phenomenon taking place where groups and individuals are shrinking rather than expanding their points of view, unwilling to consider someone else's perspective outside of their own social group—at work, in friendships, and within families. Political differences and polarization are threatening inclusion. And these rifts are happening in ...
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Calming Your Brain During Conflict

Calming Your Brain During Conflict
This week’s Friday resource comes from Harvard Business Review (HBR) and offers ways to help calm your brain and body during moments of conflict. Conflict is an inevitable part of life. When a conflict takes place, our brains and bodies often propel us into fight or flight mode. While this survival response is useful in life or death situations, it can potentially threaten our ability to move through conflict constructively and devise solutions that strengthen our relationships, both at work and at home. Once our fight or flight mode is “triggered,” our bodies produce stress hormones that dampen our memory and make it difficult to be open to other points of view. What initially began as a disagreement suddenly turns into a perceived threat, and we may feel overwhelmed with both the negative thoughts and uncomfortable sensations occurring within us. Fortunately, there are mindfulness-based steps we can take to prevent...
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5 Critical Steps to Fearless Confrontation

5 Critical Steps to Fearless Confrontation
This week’s Friday Resource comes from  Forbes and details the necessary steps women can take for a fearless (and effective) confrontation. Having a confrontation conversation is rarely easy for anyone and can be particularly challenging for women. Others' expectations and perceptions of gender can add another layer of difficulty when the need arises to face a person or situation head-on. One essential element of a successful confrontation is acknowledging what we’re afraid of and why—perhaps we’re afraid things will go poorly the way they did in the past when we attempted a confrontation, or perhaps we’re afraid of the intensity of our own emotions. Per Kathy Caprino, Forbes contributor, here are some critical steps we can take to overcome reluctance related to confrontation. 1. Mentally prepare. “Carefully evaluate what you’re thinking and feeling, and identify the real issue that you need to address. Tease out all the tangential factors, emotions...
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How to be Fierce in 3 Challenging Work Conversations

How to be Fierce in 3 Challenging Work Conversations
We all need to have them at some point. Those pesky, dreaded conversations. You know, the ones that can be awkward or uncomfortable or come with a crazy mix of emotions. When these unwelcome, challenging situations enter your life, your first instinct may be to run away, either physically or mentally. Once you think about the impracticality of escaping, you may minimize the issue – oh it isn’t that bad. Or I’ll just see if it happens again. Or I just will deal with this on my own. While this is a reality for many of us, I contend that those conversations you want to run from are the very ones you need to have. Why? Well firstly, you spend the majority of your time with the people at work, so from a practical perspective, you can only avoid these conversations so much. Secondly, HR Magazine reported that in a...
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How Your Body Language Impacts Workplace Conversations

How Your Body Language Impacts Workplace Conversations
“What you do speaks so loud that I cannot hear what you say.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson Whether you’re giving (or receiving) feedback, confronting a colleague, having a collaborative meeting, or just engaging in casual conversation, your body language matters. Body language alone can make or break a conversation. According to Psychologist World , human communication is 20% verbal and 80% non-verbal . Body language that doesn’t coincide with the message we intend to send can therefore lead to relationship ruptures, misunderstandings, and unwanted outcomes. Body language is the primary language of emotion, and how others perceive our emotion influences how our communication lands for them. A study by researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and at New York University and Princeton revealed that body language is an even more accurate determiner of judging emotion than facial expressions. In short, your body language plays a significant role in how...
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5 Easy Ways to Handle Conflict at Work

5 Easy Ways to Handle Conflict at Work
This week’s Fierce resource was originally published by Inc and explores five ways to handle conflict at work. Conflict isn’t always a bad thing. Challenging a colleague’s opinion and “interrogating their reality,” as Fierce CEO Susan Scott would say, can produce amazing business results. It is important to know how to have these conversations tactfully to avoid a full-blown argument that accomplishes little. Great leaders know how to facilitate these conversations and set aside ego while practicing patience and self-awareness. Per Geoffrey James, Inc, some tips for handling conflict at the office are: 1. Pick your battles carefully. Although no one should be exempt from these difficult conversations, from the intern to the CEO, it is always best to choose them carefully. It is devastating to the individual and their colleagues if everything turns into a conflict. 2. Admit when you’re wrong. A common mistake for new managers is the...
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When Heads Collide: 5 Tips for Managing Conflict

When Heads Collide: 5 Tips for Managing Conflict
"If we aren't going to be afraid of conflict, we have to see it as thinking, and then we have to get really good at it." –Margaret Heffernan Since January, we’ve focused our content heavily on creating more robust inclusion in the workplace. The main idea is this: inclusive cultures require collaboration and diversity of thought, where each team member has an equal opportunity to share their perspective. But what can you do as a leader when perspectives collide, causing friction between team members? Starkly opposing views can potentially stagnate timelines and cause friction—especially when one or more people hold particularly passionate views about a topic or high-stakes decision. Conflict can be productive, but in its midst, we want to assure we're making decisions effectively, maintaining (or reestablishing) a sense of team unity during the decision-making process, and patching any tension that may arise during and after heads have collided....
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Post Election Hangover? A Challenge for You

Post Election Hangover? A Challenge for You
Do you have a post-election hangover? There is a good chance you do. And, there is also a good chance that you are in the office with someone who feels differently than you do about the outcome of the election. It can feel awkward to interact with that person, especially if you engaged in prior discussions around your choices. This scenario of not seeing eye-to-eye is likely to pop up in all different scenes in your life – the office, school, church, grocery store, etc. The reality is, it is easy to point the finger. To disagree. To shut out. It is much harder to entertain an idea that competes with your own. To be curious. To be open. Given that, I wanted to share an excerpt from Fierce’s Founder, Susan Scott in Fierce Conversations: Achieving Success at Work & in Life, One Conversation at a Time : What each...
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6 Ways to Conquer the Fear of Confrontations

6 Ways to Conquer the Fear of Confrontations
This week’s Fierce resource was originally published by Forbes.com and provides six ways to conquer fear of confrontation. Whether we like to admit or not, most of us are guilty of avoiding a conversation that we know will be difficult. Excuses enter our heads, like “not wanting to rock the boat,” and we convince ourselves that things will eventually change. Wrong. Whether it is a work conflict or a relationship issue, you owe it to yourself (and the other person) to have the difficult conversation to move the relationship forward. Amy Morin, psychotherapist and Forbes contributor, shares some effective ways of overcoming a fear of confrontation: Identify the problems with being a pushover. It is difficult for someone to change behavior if they do not see how it is negatively affecting them. Writing down all the problems you experience by avoiding confrontation can help you understand the impact it has...
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3 Steps to Help You Confront Your Boss

3 Steps to Help You Confront Your Boss
Confronting someone is scary. It can be even scarier to confront your boss. Often times, the anxiety you feel is strong enough to make you want to bury your head in the sand, no matter what the issue. However, avoiding confronting your boss can turn a straightforward conversation into something bigger and more complex. For example, at a team meeting your boss makes a comment about your work that you think is off-base. Afterwards, you think: is this what my boss really thinks of me? The next day when he/she walks by you in the hall without smiling, you begin to wonder if you’re a hop, skip, and a jump away from being fired. You now want to avoid your boss at all costs, in hopes that his or her feelings towards you will work themselves out. Soon a low-grade resentment begins to breed toward this person, and every interaction...
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Leadership Tips: Take Time to Talk with Your Boss

Leadership Tips: Take Time to Talk with Your Boss
Today is National Boss’s Day, and whether you loathe or admire yours, it’s a good time to reflect on the role this individual plays in your life. There are identified areas that contribute to a healthier employee-boss relationship, and one of them is continuously giving and acting on feedback. A few years ago, we conducted a Fierce Survey exploring employee-supervisor relationships . Eighty percent of respondents who reported a good employee-supervisor relationship claim that the most important thing a boss can do to create a positive working relationship is to both solicit and value their input. Among respondents who claimed to have a poor relationship with their boss, 42 percent stated that one of the top reasons the relationship was strained was due to their boss’ failure to listen or take their input into account. If you do not feel your boss listens or takes your input seriously, it is...
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3 Tips to Describe Reality as a Leader

3 Tips to Describe Reality as a Leader
As we say at Fierce, no plan survives its collision with reality. And to make it even more complex, reality is constantly changing. What may be YOUR reality may not be MY reality at all – they could actually be directly competing. We might not even remotely understand each other’s key responsibilities in the business. Last year, Deloitte published one of its most popular articles in the Global Human Capital Trends , which was the chapter on “the overwhelmed employee”. Deloitte, and many human capital firms, saw this as a sign that the complexity and feeling of overload was hitting organizations even faster and harder than expected. And hence, there is a massive need for leaders to be able to describe what they think, what they believe, and what they observe in a way that moves the business forward – in a richer and deeper way. Successful leaders are able...
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How to Handle Difficult Conversations at Work

How to Handle Difficult Conversations at Work
This week’s Friday Resource was originally published by Harvard Business Review and details how to handle difficult work situations. Difficult conversations and situations are part of our lives. For those in a management role, these conversations can be more common than you’d like.   Whether you are delivering bad news to a client, or having a performance review conversation with a direct report – it’s no easy task. The difficult nature of these conversations can force some people to avoid them altogether, which is a mistake. These conversations help us grow – as leaders, employees and people. So instead of avoiding them, learn how to handle them in a way that produces a better outcome for both parties. A few tips to help you get there: Plan but don’t recite. You should never go into a tough conversation unprepared, however you should not read from a script. The conversation will...
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Leaders, Stay Away from 3 Toxic Employee Traps

Leaders, Stay Away from 3 Toxic Employee Traps
/trap/ noun: trap; plural noun: traps — an unpleasant situation from which it is hard to escape In a new Fierce Survey released today, we found four out of five employees believe leaders don’t do enough to combat toxic employees. Do your employees think that about you? It’s time to wake up and be aware that the potential for toxicity in your organization is everywhere. And it is your job, leader, to make sure you don’t fall into any of the traps that create negativity. Trap #1 Employees feel undervalued. Employees who feel disposable, commoditized, or who don’t understand their role within an organization often hold on to negative energy. This negative energy can be poisonous when spread amongst other colleagues. Tip: Ask each member of your team how and when they feel most valued. Get curious and learn what matters to the people you work with every day. Make...
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What Managers Can Do When Employees Engage in Conflict

What Managers Can Do When Employees Engage in Conflict
This week’s Fierce resource was published on TLNT.com and was written by Kevin Mason. What Managers Can Do When Employees Engage in Conflict outlines five tips to help resolve conflict in a productive manner. Think of the last time you were angry, how hard was it for you to listen? To be present in the conversation? Often the biggest challenge is to check our egos and emotions at the door to have a more productive and honest conversation. As leaders, we should all be encouraging our teams to have direct conversations to enrich each relationship. Think of a time when you needed to have a difficult conversation, how did you handle it? What would you do differently? Join Fierce and the Human Capital Institute on Wednesday, April 8th at 1 pm for a webcast: Fierce Conversations: How to Address Toxic Employees. “ Focus on listening – It is not necessary...
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Leadership Tips: Confront a Toxic Coworker

Leadership Tips: Confront a Toxic Coworker
It is the gossiper . It is the victim . It is the slacker . Toxic employees show up in many forms. Fierce conducted a survey on toxic employees a little over a year ago. Out of 1,000 executives and employees, 30 percent argue with coworkers once a month, and 55 percent feel that a negative supervisor, peer, and employee are all equally detrimental to the morale of an organization. So what do you do about those troublemakers? Sixty-two percent said they opt to confront toxic coworkers. It is important to have the conversation on the impact of the behavior – not just for the relationship, but also for yourself. This week’s tip is to confront a toxic coworker. If offering constructive feedback has not made the situation improve, it’s time for a direct conversation. It is a skill to confront well. One tip: it is important to name the...
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Difficult Coworker? One Quick Way To Turn The Relationship Around

Difficult Coworker? One Quick Way To Turn The Relationship Around
Do you fight at work? Fist fights are rare but toe-to-toe yelling matches, stonewalling, passive resistance and backbiting are all too common in the workplace. Do you think that if so-and-so weren’t so stubborn or political, your job would be much easier? If so, you aren’t alone. Nearly one-third of executives and employees argue with a co-worker at least once a month , according to a survey of 1,000 workers by Fierce Inc ., a Seattle leadership development and training company specializing in workplace communication. Work warfare, even in the form of passive resistance, wastes energy, lowers morale and reduces productivity. You can be a high performer individually but adversarial relationships with your co-workers can cause loss of trust up and down the management chain, and damage your products and customer relationships. As an executive coach, I’m privy to many of my clients’ struggles with their colleagues. My inbox contains...
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Leadership Tips: Say Sorry First

Leadership Tips: Say Sorry First
We all do it. We say something we don't exactly mean . Or we do something in the heat of the moment. We are human - it happens. What really matters is what you do after. Do you hold onto it and want the other person to come to his or her 'senses'? Or do you lean in and open the conversation to make it right? This week's tip is to say sorry first when something has not gone the way you intended. If you can't in the heat of the moment, go back to it when you are ready. In the spirit of the holidays and bringing 2014 to a close, let forgiveness and compassion be the gifts you give. It sounds cliché. However, we all know these gifts can be the hardest to give. The bonus? It is a gift to yourself too. You can travel light.

3 Tips to Motivate Your Employees by Tapping into the Love of the Team

3 Tips to Motivate Your Employees by Tapping into the Love of the Team
This Friday we celebrate the holiday of love: Valentine's Day. Despite what your company thinks of interoffice romance , tapping into the emotions of how your employees feel about their colleagues, themselves, and their organization can be a great way to build relationships, and thus, motivate them to show up even more engaged. For a lot of us, the people we spend most of our days with are our co-workers. While common business practice would say that it's not a good idea to say you love your colleagues or boss, the truth is many of us develop deep connections that are made up of respect, admiration, loyalty, and trust - all the components of a loving relationship. Below are 3 tips to motivate your employees to be more engaged by tapping into the love of the team. Tip #1: Teach Them How to Confront All healthy relationships have a certain...
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Damage Control After an Office Showdown

Damage Control After an Office Showdown
This week's Fierce Resource was published this week on both the Wall Street Journal website and in their publication, and was written by Sue Shellenbarger . Damage Control After an Official Office Showdown explores how office showdowns affect morale. The piece features Fierce CEO & President, Halley Bock , and references our most recent Fierce Survey, of more than a 1,000 participants, about toxic employees. "Some 30% of executives and employees argue with a co-worker at least once a month, according to a recent survey of 1,000 workers by Fierce Inc., a Seattle leadership development and training company specializing in workplace communication. A small number of those arguments escalate into emotional screaming matches that no one can win, says Halley Bock, the company's president." To read the full article, click here .

Resolving Conflict Across Generational Lines

Resolving Conflict Across Generational Lines
We should all work in a multi-generational organization. Whether it is decision-making or brainstorming, there is so much richness and wisdom that comes from soliciting different perspectives. However, with all the positives that come from the different generations working together, there are also unique challenges. Difficult conversations are necessary to a business' success across generational lines. Why does it sometimes feel harder to confront an issue when it’s with someone of another generation? Typically, we sidestep having the conversation because confronting behavioral or attitudinal issues is just not fun to do. Add on that you need to confront someone of a different generation who reports to you or someone who has been in the field longer than you have been alive, and you have a situation that is appealing to avoid. What’s the problem with avoiding these conversations? First, the issue will not just go away. The unresolved conflict will...
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Leadership Tips: Resolve Your Outstanding Conflict

Leadership Tips: Resolve Your Outstanding Conflict
In our Fierce Conversations training, the Confrontation model is typically the first module people want to know about. No office, no life for that matter, is without conflict. If you’re a leader you should consider your team a great success if there is discord, if people challenge one another's ideas, if leaders address behavioral and attitude issues. This week’s Fierce tip encourages you to begin to resolve any outstanding conflict you have by having the confrontation conversation . If you need some tips, check out Fierce President and CEO, Halley Bock’s blog here . The cost for keeping this conflict unresolved is large for your company and yourself. The most poignant takeaway the first time I went through Fierce Confrontation was this: It is not the conversation we have that should alarm us; it’s the ones we don’t have that should scare us to our core. So, what can you...
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Confronting an Employee? 3 Communication Mistakes Managers Make

Confronting an Employee? 3 Communication Mistakes Managers Make
This week's Fierce Resource was first published on the The Daily Muse website and was written by Fierce CEO & President, Halley Bock . Confronting an Employee? 3 Communication Mistakes Managers Make explores the three most common errors managers make when having a confrontation conversation and how to use the conversation to enrich the relationship. "Yes, when it comes to confrontation, it can be a frightening world out there for leaders. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be so tough—and if we stop making some highly unfortunate communication mistakes, it can get a whole lot easier. Here are three of the most common errors managers commit, and tips on what you can do instead—so neither you nor your erring employee has to dread the conversation." To read the full article and learn all three tips, click here .

3 Steps to Embrace Being Confronted

3 Steps to Embrace Being Confronted
It’s never fun or easy being confronted. For many, our instinct is to deny, defend, or deflect what is being put before us. At Fierce, we believe confrontation conversations are healthy and can be rewarding. However, it does take skill and practice to ensure the conversation is productive and moving the relationship forward. Below are three tips to help you achieve this. #1: Take a Breath and Listen Whether you saw this conversation coming or not, it is normal to have some physiological reaction to it while it is happening. Take a moment and breathe. Literally, deep breath in, deep breath out. Once you’re grounded, resist the inclination to become defensive and focus on listening. This is not easy to do, yet this conversation could be an amazing opportunity to learn something about yourself. #2:  Take Time with the Process Give yourself and the person confronting you permission to move...
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Investing in Conversations

Investing in Conversations
Each month, Fierce contributes to the  Learning Forward blog hosted by Education Week . Director of Fierce in the Schools, Janet Irving, wrote our newest piece which was  published today, and we wanted to share a portion of the blog with you. Conversations are the life blood of a school. An integral part of the educator's job is communicating with students, parents, and other staff. These conversations range from team curriculum meetings, coaching conversations with staff and students, and, of course, some confrontation conversations. Parents, students, and community members all have an expectation that administrators and teachers know how to have these conversations well. Why do we make this assumption? Because intuitively we understand how important effective conversations are to the success of a school. The problem is that many education institutions don't dedicate time or resources to the development of staff in the area of communication. Schools have limited...
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Success and Confrontation Go Hand-in-Hand

Success and Confrontation Go Hand-in-Hand
A challenging conversation becomes increasingly more challenging the longer you avoid it. What was once a simple and straightforward issue only becomes more complex. Time compounds the situation. Very few people think they will thrive in situations when they have to confront someone. It can be awkward, unpleasant, and most of all, scary. The range of uncertainty only escalates the “what if” factor. It is easy to focus on the negative. Yet your success is dependent upon addressing issues as they arise. To be successful, one must be able to have confrontational conversations in your workplace. When things are not going the way one individual thinks they should, that person has to have the skill-set and support to have that conversation. I recently read a blog posted on onlinecollege.org titled, 15 Characteristics Correlated with Success . All these characteristics for success supported skillfully having difficult conversations rather than avoiding them....
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Conversation is the Anti-Bullying Solution

Conversation is the Anti-Bullying Solution
October is Anti-Bullying month . While the topic has national attention, let’s engage in conversations on how communities are going to handle bullying issues across our country. Having children of my own, and being a former educator, it’s a topic that is near and dear to my heart. As I gear up to head off to this year’s 2011 Annual Learning Forward conference with Fierce, where our Founder Susan Scott will be doing a session on Accountability, I can’t help but step back and see how important, now more than ever, it is for teachers and administrators to create an environment for our children where personal accountability is not just talked about, but actually occurring. Our children’s safety, academic growth and the school environment are dependent on it. Being personally accountable involves having the conversations that need to occur. Bullying becomes an issue when conversations aren’t happening or are ignored...
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Learning Conflict Resolution Skills at ASTD With Our Fierce Confrontation Model

Learning Conflict Resolution Skills at ASTD With Our Fierce Confrontation Model
We are three weeks out from the American Society of Training and Development (ASTD) International Conference and Expo .  Fierce is looking forward to both exhibiting at the conference and hosting our two mini-training sessions . As I wrote in a previous post , our first session, on May 23rd, is covering the Fierce Coaching model , and our second session, being held on May 24th, will cover our Fierce Confrontation model . I’m excited in today’s post to explore the topic of our second mini-training session: confrontation. The story of my grandma and grandpa’s romance is legendary in my family. It’s the stuff that romantic movies are made of. Love at first sight, childhood sweethearts, and a separation that spanned three years while my grandfather was over in Europe fighting in World War Two. Fast forward 60 plus years later, and they still are crazy about each other.  It’s so good...
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How to Confront: 3 Traps to Avoid

How to Confront: 3 Traps to Avoid
There are two places where confrontation can go seriously awry . The first is when you initially confront someone and deliver your message. Hopefully, you’ve done your homework around this and are using the 60-second Opening Statement from our Confrontation Model . If you are, congratulations! You’ve avoided pitfall #1. The second opportunity for things to go sideways is immediately after Step #1 above. Sorry folks, no one said this would be easy! The great news is that navigating the whitewater is simple once you’re aware of the upcoming traps . Okay. You’ve delivered your statement and it’s their turn to speak. Lets assume you are confronting someone in customer service whose behavior towards a client was a little lacking, shall we say. Here are the 3 most common tactics you will encounter and an example of each : Deny : “It wasn’t me, you must have me confused with...
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How to Confront: First, Prepare!

How to Confront: First, Prepare!
Close your eyes and picture someone whose behavior you need to confront. It could be a spouse, co-worker, friend, boss. Have a good image? Great…. Now imagine that they are standing right outside your door at this very moment waiting for you to confront them. What do you feel?! I would guess nervous, anxious, fearful, something along those lines. Truth is, most of us are uncomfortable with confrontation. I certainly was until I learned a few key steps outlined in Fierce Conversations . Reading this book has done wonders to take the edge off confrontation and it's now a conversation I welcome, rather than avoid. For me, it boils down to 3 key steps in preparing for this conversation: 1)  Change your context . When we think of confrontation, we often picture ourselves in an adversarial position: Fingers pointed, squared off on opposite sides of the table, guns a-blazing. But...
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Taking the Verbal Boxing Gloves Off

Taking the Verbal Boxing Gloves Off
I am comfortable with nuance. It's gentle, considerate, subtle.  Don't get me wrong, I have explorer tendencies and love difference, even glaring difference. It can be exciting, adventurous, fun. On the other hand – the darker side – glaring difference can be loud, obnoxious, always looking for a fight. Things don't have to be perfectly black and white for me to appreciate the differences and embrace the similarities. Then it happened. What seemed like nuance to me suddenly became a painfully, large difference to someone else. What's up with that? How can our contexts be so far apart? As the conversation quickly took a turn, down what rapidly appeared to be a dark alley, I couldn't help think, "This is really not a big deal". Oh, did that just come out of my mouth? And we're off – verbal boxing gloves in place – I'd just stupidly made that gap...
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