Know Your Conflict Triggers

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Rick recently asked LinkedIn’s Center for Conflict Dynamics Network Group: “I was taught that all you need to know to resolve a conflict is good communication skills. Now, I know better. Is there anything you were taught about conflict resolution that you found out does not work or makes conflict worse?”

Here’s how I answered:

My basic rule of thumb, Rick, is that anytime someone says “all you need to know,” it isn’t.

That said, I have found there’s meaningful leverage in helping people better recognize their hot buttons and triggers earlier than they currently do — if they do at all. That’s because the more they can recognize — in the moment…

  1. THAT they’ve been triggered
  2. what they tend to DO, when triggered, that they tend NOT TO DO when not triggered
  3. what they tend to NOT DO when triggered that they tend TO DO when not triggered
  4. the counterproductive impact that all this “automatic” behavior has on themselves, the person(s) they’re with, and the situation(s) they’re in…

…the more interested they seem to naturally become in learning more about what their triggers are and how to better manage them — preemptively and in the moment.

That simple intention often DOES help them de-escalate a conflict — or resolve it entirely. But to say that’s “all you need to know,” um, no.

Rick replied: “Barry, I really like the triggering information. Your list of 4 items is quite fascinating. Especially the part about what I do not do when I am triggered. I can see that would be very useful information indeed. Thanks.”

My response:

Thanks for your kind words, Rick.

Yes, some go ‘hot’ when triggered; others go ‘cold.’ So as example, what the ‘hot’ tend NOT to self-manage is what often appears to others as them ‘scorching the earth.’ And what the ‘cold’ tend NOT to self-manage is what often appears to others as ‘aloofness and uncaring.’

To make matters worse, there’s an almost perfect correlation between how someone reacts when triggered and what triggers the person they’re reacting to. So Person A says/does something to trigger Person B and Person B reacts in a way that invariably triggers Person A (who then reacts in a way that re-triggers Person B, who reacts in a way that re-triggers Person A) and it isn’t long before no one even remembers what they were talking about! Sad, but so often, true!

That’s why I believe that early trigger-recognition is so important — it’s so much easier to put out a fire before everyone starts throwing gasoline on it!

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