753: How to Stop Avoiding and Start Resolving Conflict with Ralph Kilmann

By March 24, 2022Podcasts

 

 

Ralph Kilmann, co-creator of the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument, reveals the surprising source of all conflict—and shares his best practices for expertly resolving them.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The surprising root of almost all conflict  
  2. Why collaboration isn’t your best and only option
  3. Two strategies to overcome the stress and discomfort of conflict

About Ralph

Ralph H. Kilmann, Ph.D., is CEO and Senior Consultant at Kilmann Diagnostics (KD) in Newport Coast, California. In this position, he has created as well as produced all of KD’s online courses and assessment tools on conflict management, change management, and more. Ralph’s online products are used by such high-profile organizations as Amazon, Bank of America, Harvard University, NASA, and more.

Ralph is an internationally recognized authority on systems change. He has consulted for numerous corporations throughout the United States and Europe, including AT&T, General Electric, and the Office of the President of the United States.

Ralph has published more than twenty books and one hundred articles and is the co-author of more than ten assessment tools, including the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument (TKI), the Kilmann-Saxton Culture-Gap(R) Survey, and the Kilmann Organizational Conflict Instrument (KOCI).

Resources Mentioned

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Ralph Kilmann Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Ralph, thanks for joining us here on How to be Awesome at Your Job.

Ralph Kilmann
Thank you for having me, Pete. I’m delighted to be here.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m excited to chat with you. I have heard of the TKI many times, and you’re the K in the TKI.

Ralph Kilmann
Yes, I am.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s pretty cool, and you’ve also got a book we’re talking about Creating a Quantum Organization. So, let’s dig into this fun. Maybe, to kick it off, could you share what’s one of the most surprising and fascinating and maybe counterintuitive discoveries you’ve made about conflict over the many years you’ve spent researching, teaching, and exploring it?

Ralph Kilmann
Well, so often, we think about conflict as being out there, between a person and other people, whether in a family or in a work situation, so we’re trying to resolve those interpersonal differences of opinion, what to do, how to proceed, when I have discovered that you have to look inside because the conflicts begin internally.

We all grow up as human beings and we have some kind of trauma. It can’t be helped. It’s just part of being human. I don’t condone, I don’t want people to have trauma, but once they have it, and they will, what do you do with it? And if you just let it sit there and get stuck in your body, and then you become an adult, then you’re projecting all that trauma on everyone around you.

That’s the conflict you’re dealing with, and it’s not just between you and other people, it’s between you and your past. And until you learn to resolve those internal conflicts, you’re going to have a hard time improving how you manage external conflicts. Now, that may not seem too surprising but I have found people tend to stay away from what’s lurking on the inside.

It always seems to be more comfortable to talk about other people, conflicts out there, than, “What I’m struggling with as a person,” and that’s particularly the case when we move into organizations because people in their personal lives, with their friends, they often share traumas they’ve had or how they approach challenges in their emotional life, but in the organization, there are often norms, “Don’t talk about it. You’ll come across as weak. You won’t come across as confident. People don’t want to hear about it.”

Pete Mockaitis
Uh-huh. Well, that’s juicy right off the bat there. And so, it feels like there’s a whole several episodes digging into that. But if you can give us the survey preview version, and how does one look inside and deal with their stuff. It’s so funny, what’s coming to mind right now is a line from the TV series “Succession,” and this character Roman Roy says, “This is what it looks like when you’ve dealt with all your issues. All your issues are resolved.”

And it’s sort of a joke because, hey, we all have some ongoing stuff. It’s never quite fully done. So, what is the process or practice or approach we engage in to deal with our internal conflicts and traumas?

Ralph Kilmann
Well, first, I think it’s useful to think about mind consciousness, body consciousness, and spirit consciousness. Those are three ways of looking at what’s going on inside. Now, first, with mind consciousness, it’s like, “How does our mind make sense of our life?” but it’s all mental, it’s all thoughts. And we can talk to people about it, whether it’s a therapist or reading a book, to uncover those mental assumptions we’ve made from past experiences, and we can clarify our thinking.

But then there’s also body consciousness because it turns out, what’s stuck in the mind is stuck in the body, into tension patterns, and you can talk all you want about these internal issues, in fact I call it talk therapy when you’re talking to a therapist, but it is just talk. It’s not getting into the body where it’s stored.

So, you can talk all you want, you can try to change your belief systems, you can reexamine your childhood, but you have to release it from your body, and that has to do with all kinds of things like yoga, and all kinds of massage methods, or kinds of exercise. You’ve got to move. And as you move, your body opens up and you dispel some of these old stories, but that’s mind and body.

And, finally, with spirit consciousness, and that’s the greatest challenge to the Western world, is to recognize that we are more than just our mind and our body. In fact, there’s this expression, “The skin-encapsulated ego,” as if within our skin, that’s who we are, and it’s all about ego and mind, whereas, we can be much more than that.

So, spirit is saying, “We are all connected.” There’s a human consciousness across the entire planet. People resonate with one another. People feel what’s going on. People can intuit what’s going on far beyond their mind and body. And when you can appreciate that, you say, “Hmm, what does it mean to have transcendent dialogue?” where you get a group of people together, either in a family setting or in a workplace, and they have dialogue that goes far beyond.

They come up with things that neither of them knew beforehand because they stimulate in one another to tap into this universal consciousness, or what C. G. Jung called the collective unconscious. It’s been called many names over the years, but there’s a consciousness that encircles the globe that we can tap into.

Now, what’s interesting, I’ll tell you a survey I took, Pete, is I’d be talking to like a few hundred people in an audience, and I’d ask, “Okay, please raise your hand if, in your personal life, you’ve done things like yoga, meditation, talk therapy, exercise,” and I go down a whole list, and 95% of the audience raises their hands, and says, “Yes, I’ve done that. I’ve done those things.”

And then you say, “Okay. Now, how many of you are willing to talk about this in the workplace?” The hands go down because, as I mentioned, the culture says, “We don’t talk about our personal lives. We keep it to ourselves.” In fact, in the old days, what we bring to the workplace is manual labor, hands for hire. Then, eventually, we developed additional skills we were willing to bring into the workplace. The last remaining area of human capability is bringing consciousness into the workplace, all of you – mind, body, and spirit. That’s where creativity and innovation reside.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Thank you. Well, we are off to the races here. So, tell us, your latest book Creating a Quantum Organization, what’s the big idea or thesis here?

Ralph Kilmann
That book, I call my legacy book. I previously wrote about 20 books over a period of 50 years and maybe it was because of the pandemic and I’m trying to figure out what to do with all this downtime, and I said last year, this was about a year ago, I said, “Let me put together a book that integrates everything I’ve done in 50 years. Can I do that? What would that be like?” And that’s exactly what I focused on for the entire year.

So, in the Creating a Quantum Organization, I integrate conflict, change, consciousness, and transformation, everything I’ve done, and I’ve called it a legacy book because, quite honestly, Pete, I don’t know of another book I’m going to write. I think I look at that book and I say, “This is what I came here to do. This was why I did all my work. This is why I was born, to do this book.”

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Well, congratulations, that’s a spot many of us don’t feel like we reach, so kudos. That’s so awesome. Well, so we got four zones. I’d like to spend a disproportionate amount of our time talking conflicts just because, well, you’re so famous for it and this is our moment we have together, and then hit a little bit of a flavor for the others.

So, you mentioned in your conflict model five different conflict-handling modes. Can you give us a quick kind of field description for them, what they look like in action, and a sense for is there an ideal time and place for each of them?

Ralph Kilmann
Well, first, the basic TKI model is two dimensions – assertiveness, cooperativeness. Very simply put, assertiveness is the extent to which you try to get your needs met. Cooperativeness is the extent to which you try to get the other person’s needs met. And on that space of the extent to which you’re trying to get your needs and other people’s needs met, there are these five conflict modes.

So, competing is you’re only concerned about your needs. You’re not at all concerned about the other person. You want to win the argument. Period. Accommodating is just the opposite. You want to help the other person get their needs met, and, for the time being, you’re not at all concerned about your needs. Maybe that issue is more important to the other person than it is to you, maybe it’s his turn or her turn to get their needs met, whatever, but you give up your need satisfaction to help the other person.

Then there’s compromising, which is in the middle, we split the difference, we flip a coin. It’s somewhere in between competing and accommodating. So, you get something you want, I get something I want, but we’re both somewhat dissatisfied. It’s like 50% of our needs are met but there’s that other 50% that we haven’t addressed. In fact, compromising is going back and forth between competing and accommodating. The more you get, the less I get; the more I get, the less you get. It goes like a see-saw, and compromising is 50-50 in the middle.

Now, avoiding is no one gets their needs met. We leave the situation. Now, sometimes, there’s good reasons to leave the situation. People are not being nice to one another. People need time to think. People need to collect more information so they stay away from it until they’ve done that. That’s avoiding. But, meanwhile, no one’s getting their needs met because they’ve stayed away from coming up with a resolution.

But the fifth mode which often seems ideal at first is called collaborating, and that is you’re getting all your needs met and I’m getting all my needs met, so we completely satisfy our needs. Now, as it turns out, collaborating can only work under a very unique set of conditions. We have to trust one another. We have to really share what we need and want, and that it won’t be used against us when we share that. We have the time or we take the time to work on the issue. We communicate effectively so we can listen to one another without getting defensive.

In other words, collaborating sounds like the ideal but it’s not easy to bring about. Sometimes you have to change the situation first, like establishing trust, improving communication skills, setting the time aside to have the discussion. You need to establish the conditions first if you ever hope to collaborate. But for each of those modes, there’s a set of conditions where it works best.

Now, with the Thomas Kilmann Instrument, people find out which of those modes they might be using too much or too little. Maybe you approach every situation with competing, you always think you’re right, you always think you’re more important than the other person, and so you’re always trying to assert yourself without any concern of the other, and then you find out, “Huh, maybe there are times I have to let the other person get their needs met because, then, they’re going to be more favorable to me in the long term.”

So, you start thinking about, “How can I work with other people to bring out an effective resolution of the conflict?” And sometimes accommodating, as I mentioned, works best when the issue really isn’t that important to you, it’s more important to the other person, so why not let have the other person have their way. As I mentioned with avoiding, you don’t want to avoid conflicts that are really important to both people in terms of your need satisfaction, but there are times when you need more time to think about it, to talk to other people, to collect information.

So, what you have to understand with conflict management, there are these five approaches, five repertoire of skills you can use, but learning when to use them and how to use them effectively. For example, I can avoid a group meeting by saying, “I’ve had enough of this nonsense. I don’t want to hear this anymore. I’m getting out of here.” I stand up, leave the room, and slam the door. I’m avoiding.

Or, you can avoid by saying, “You know, I’m not ready to make a decision yet. Can I have a few more days to think about it and talk about this with my coworkers?” That’s avoiding too but it’s done in a much more respectful, dignified manner. So, what’s important besides knowing those five modes, when to use each of them in the correct situation, but then also how to enact each mode with care, sensitivity, dignity, and respect.

Pete Mockaitis
Well-said. Ralph, I have a feeling you’ve spoken about this before.

Ralph Kilmann
Well, for about 50 plus years. In fact, I just spoke with Ken Thomas, my co-author, yesterday and we kind of reflected that we’ve known each other for 50 years since our days at UCLA, and an amazing journey.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool. Well, so then we figure out which one is the most appropriate, and then we use the elegant version of that, ideally, in terms of sort of being optimal with regard to your relationships and needs meeting. And so, I got a good sense, I think, in terms of collaboration seems ideal but a few things have to occur and we have to have that trust and communication and the time to go there. Accommodation is great when it’s really important to them and I don’t care so much. Can you give us a view for when the other approaches are just right?

Ralph Kilmann
Well, compromising would work best when there’s a fair amount of stress, you don’t have a lot of time to discuss the issue, it’s only of moderate importance to both of you, and coming up with an expedient solution allows you then to focus on other more important problems and conflicts. So, compromising is very expedient, it doesn’t take much time to flip a coin or split the difference.

So, you and I want to meet, I want to meet at 4:00 in the afternoon, you want to meet at 2:00, we say, “Why don’t we make it 3:00 o’clock? Instead of spending an hour discussing what time to meet, let’s just split the difference.” That’s compromising.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Sure.

Ralph Kilmann
Now, both of us may only be partly satisfied by that because maybe there are reasons we wanted to meet at 2:00 or 4:00, but let’s talk about the main issues and not get bogged down with something less important, like a couple of minutes here or a couple of minutes there.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, so there’s compromise. And how about the others?

Ralph Kilmann
Well, as I mentioned with avoiding is when the issue is not important or you’re overwhelmed by stress and there’s not going to be a quality discussion if people are overwhelmed with stress. Save it for another day, save it for another meeting. Or, you need to collect more information, or you don’t want to be pushed to a decision, or a decision doesn’t have to be made till next week or next month, we don’t have to do it now, so let’s focus on things that have to be done this week that have a higher priority.

But, as I mentioned, if something is very important to you and someone else, and you avoid it because you don’t like conflict, you don’t like confrontation, then you’re walking around and your needs are not met, the other person’s needs are not met. And, long term, if you and other people’s needs are not met, your most important needs, you either disengage from the situation or you leave. Or you leave a relationship, a workplace, whatever. People have to get their needs met at some point.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Understood. And I really liked how, with the avoiding, you gave us a fine way to avoid and a not-so fine way to avoid. Could you give us those illustrations for the others as well?

Ralph Kilmann
Well, the favorite one is competing, where picture a very autocratic manager slamming his fist on the table, saying, “We’re going to do this. I don’t want to hear any argument,” and he’s shouting, he’s screaming, he’s pounding his fists, and people are almost too afraid to speak or to do anything different.

Whereas, the healthy side of competing is I’m sitting very calmly, and I’m saying, “Let me share with you why this issue is so important to me, and I’m hoping you can see why I want this to come out in the way I’m suggesting. And if you allow me and you indulge me on this one, when something is that important to you, then I’ll concede to you, but please hear me out.”

That’s a completely different approach than putting my fists on the table and shouting at people and talking in people’s faces. Both are competing but they have a completely different impact on others.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s right. Okay. And how about what’s a sloppy cooperation look like?

Ralph Kilmann
Well, a sloppy cooperation would be…it might be said that there is some stress in the situation but, basically, people don’t like conflict. Maybe that’s something we should talk about, why conflict is often viewed in such negative terms as if it’s bad and we simply want to get rid of it. The world would be a better place if there were no conflict. But, as it turns out, conflict is like death and taxes; it’s inevitable. You can’t get away from it. It’s the nature of the universe.

But, essentially, with compromising, it would be, “We don’t like conflict so we don’t want to talk about it. Let’s flip a coin even though these needs are important to us and we’re not getting them satisfied. But I’d rather flip a coin and split the difference than have this  discussion with you that makes me uncomfortable.”

Pete Mockaitis
Got you.

Ralph Kilmann
So, to move from compromising to collaborating, not only do you have to develop trust, effective communication skills, you have to be comfortable with differences, you have to be comfortable with confrontation, and saying, “I disagree with you. Please hear me out. This is how I view the situation. I know we can figure this out together.” But it’s knowing what to say and how to say it to engage other people in addressing the issue.

And I might say, Pete, if you look at the world today, I think you might well agree, I don’t want to put words in your mouth, there seems to be more conflict now across the globe than ever before in the history of this planet whether you’re talking what happened from the pandemic, from politics, divisiveness, systemic racism, climate change, fiscal issues, job issues, economy issues. We are embraced with conflict like never before.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. Well, I guess in terms of…well, I only have the years I’ve been alive on the planet to look at, but it sure feels more verbally divisive.

But, yeah, I hear you there. From some vantage points, it does seem like there’s more conflict than ever before. For no other reason, there’s more humans than ever before and who have more access to ideas and different opinions.

Ralph Kilmann
And the pandemic and the politics have put people globally under stress. And under stress, you’re less likely to use conflict modes effectively. You’re likely to go to the extreme. We’ve seen people have meltdowns when they’re asked to put on masks or to keep their social distance, bad meltdowns, because they’re on overwhelm, and it just takes a little bit to take someone over the edge. You can’t use an effective approach with conflict management with dignity and respect when you’re totally stressed out. In fact, let me suggest what the TKI conflict model looks like under high stress.

Competing becomes fight, avoiding becomes flight, and accommodating becomes freeze. Fight, flight, freeze, which are the three physiological responses to stress for the sympathetic nervous system. So, when we see the sabertoothed tiger, or when we see that we are under a threatening condition where we could lose our life, we go into overwhelm. We fight, flight, or freeze.

And so, the conflict model that is mindful with collaborating and avoiding and compromising, and choosing those behavioral approaches to best match the situation, all collapse into fight, flight, freeze under high stress. So, what we’ve seen in the US and in other countries is some of the conflicts we might’ve been better able to resolve without all that high stress, we see a lot of fight, flight, and freeze. Depression is freeze.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. And so then, let’s talk a bit about this emotional stuff. When it comes to saying, “You know, I just don’t like conflict,” or when we are feeling like, “I’m under a lot of stress,” how do we tackle some of that emotional stuff so that we’re saying, “Hey, you know what, conflict is alright. Maybe it’s not my favorite thing, but it’s okay. It’s like taxes is not my favorite thing but we get through it. It’s alright”? As well as the stress, like, “I’m freaking out about this thing and I’d be able to resolve it a lot better if I weren’t.” So, what do I do with this stuff?

Ralph Kilmann
Well, first, I have found it’s so important for the reasons I was giving to reduce the amount of stress. If people are under high stress, you cannot have a good conversation. They’re going to get one another defensive. They’re going to use the extreme forms of the conflict modes that get other people defensive, on and on. It’s not going to work. So, how do you remove the stress?

A simple method, and this is from mind, body, spirit modalities, is breathing. You breathe in like for seven seconds, you hold your breath for a certain amount of time, you exhale for seven, eight seconds, and then you take these long deep breaths, and that resets the sympathetic nervous system to the parasympathetic nervous system so it relaxes you. It’s called the relaxed response.

So, again, you breathe in. I don’t remember if it’s four or five seconds. Hold your breath for seven seconds. Breathe out for eight, then hold it a little bit more. You do that a few times, you will reset your nervous system. That’s so important.

Pete Mockaitis
Now, four, seven, eight sounds like Andrew Weil, like sleepy breath. Is that the same one?

Ralph Kilmann
Yeah, it’s something like that. Well, you’ll find different people, like they differ.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, there are so many different counts, “Do box breathing. Four, four, four, four,” I mean, there are so many.

Ralph Kilmann
There’s conflict over how many seconds to inhale and then exhale and then hold your breath, but the point is, by slowing down the breathing, making it deeper, you reset your nervous system so you can use your cognitive mind as you’re intended to do. So, you got to remove the stress. And then what I found very useful is to get a group of people together who have respect for one another and they share how are they responding in today’s world, how are they dealing with these issues, how are they approaching it.

It’s like creating a conflict support group so we can all say, “Yes, we’re experiencing stress. Let’s try to keep that down at a level so we can use our minds as intended. And let’s discuss how we’re each approaching this so we can support one another. What did you find works when you tried this approach or that approach?” And then they can talk about it.

When this is done in a work setting, it’s a thing of beauty, Pete, because so often they’re talking about getting the work done as opposed to saying, “But how do we work together as a team? How do we resolve our differences? How can we do this more effectively?” There will always be conflict. You cannot get away from it, but the difference is how you manage it. That makes all the difference in the world.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Beautiful. Well, so before we shift gears, anything else you want to say about conflict?

Ralph Kilmann
Well, we certainly should look at internal conflict because that’s where it all begins. So, if we have time, I’d like to…

Pete Mockaitis
Let’s do it.

Ralph Kilmann
Okay. Well, in my book, I talk about these four foundational inner conflicts that drive all the outer conflicts. The first one, and this is so basic, are you an energy body or a physical body? Now, sometimes people in the Western world say, “Well, I’m a physical body. What are you talking about energy body?” Well, in the Eastern world, we’re more into energy that we radiate, for example, through the seven chakras in the body than we are in the Western world where it’s all about how we think about things.

So, the question becomes, “We’re not just physical, we’re not just energy. We’re both.” In fact, I asked the question, “Are you a physical body or an energy body?” which pits the conflict on that model to say, “Either this or that,” and you can go back and forth arguing which is which. Whereas, in fact, the collaborating approach says, “You’re not either. You’re both.”

And when you walk into a room and talk to people, it’s not just your words that impact people; it’s your energy, it’s your mood. If you are depressed or sad or angry, or you have a lot of pride and arrogance, whatever words you use are going to come out a certain way. As opposed to coming into a room with other people, and saying similar things but the energy is one of love, joy, peace, compassion.

How different does that sound from anger, fear, grief, pride, and arrogance, love, joy, peace, and compassion? That’s the emotional energies. And when people get in touch with their body and their feelings, and then they radiate that energy, they’re not just choosing words. They’re choosing, “What is the energy I use to present these words.” The energy I find, Pete, is more important than the words themselves.

And you can walk into a room and you can feel tension or you can feel joy. It’s not the words; it’s the energy. So, anyone who says, “Oh, we’re just physical bodies,” say, “Walk into a room and tell me what you feel.” You can feel it. And what’s interesting, you can learn to assess those energies. We don’t learn that in the US in our educational programs where everything is about the mind, the head, the intellect.

Physical education, we separate the body from the mind. You go to physical education where you do sports and fitness, but you don’t really get into your feelings and what sensations are in your body. So, we address it by separating it out into physical education, whereas, in reality, you can’t separate out the mind and the body, they’re together. And some day, educational programs will help children express what they’re feeling in their bodies so they’re more aware of what they’re feeling and what they’re all about and who they are.

Pete Mockaitis
So, when you say what they’re feeling in their bodies and the emotions and the energies, kind of like an integration might sound something like, “My neck feels like things are crawling over it. I’m very uncomfortable and worried about this situation we’re in right now.” Like that?

Ralph Kilmann
Exactly. In fact, I would say most of the researchers suggest if something comes to you, it first affects your body and then your mind picks up on it. So, if you can say, “Huh, why is my neck so stiff? Why have I had neck pain for the last two years? What’s going on in my life that gives me that kind of a tension? I have this anxiety in my solar plexus that doesn’t go away. I’ve taken things for it, what is that all about?” Well, that’s some tension.

But one of the modalities for body consciousness is called somatic experiencing. Somatic is of the body, and you actually pay attention to the tingling and the feelings in your solar plexus, and you pay attention to it, and you stay there, and you focus on it. And guess what? It dissipates. But if you think, “Well, it’s my body and that’s separate from my mind, and I can’t do anything about it, and I have to live with this,” you’re missing the opportunity to look at the signals and the messages that your body is giving you even before something gets to the mind where you, then, conceptualize and say, “Oh, I must have tension.” Well, your body already knows that. So, the sooner you pay attention to the body, the quicker you’ll get on top of what you’re experiencing.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So, that’s energy and body. How about what are the other internal conflicts?

Ralph Kilmann
Well, they’re all fun. The second one is one of my favorites. Actually, they’re all my favorites, but the second one is “Are you governed by your ego or your soul?” Your ego and soul are two different kinds of inner voices you have that suggest how you should be living your life, how you should make decisions, what actions you should take. And ego, just to give you an idea, is focusing on things like self-image, safety, security, survival, success, immortality, fame, glory, being in control, being in power, being more important than anyone else. Those are ego things.

Now, the soul is “Why was I born? What am I here to do? What’s my special calling? What’s my piece in the universe? What will give me the most meaning and satisfaction in life? Why was I put on this planet and given the privilege of life? What does that mean? What am I to do?” Ego and soul, I don’t mean it to be religious, I don’t mean it to be Freudian, it’s simply saying the ego is of the mind, and the soul is of spirit. It’s a beyond the mind-body. And those are two different messages.

So, someone can say, “Well, my ego wants to live forever, and I want to be in control, and I want to have more money than anyone else.” Fine. Soul says, “But what do I want to contribute to society? How can I serve people?” And here’s what’s interesting, some of the Eastern traditions suggest we have to destroy the ego and feed the soul. I don’t believe that at all. Why would you want to destroy or discard any part of you?

The issue, again, think of the TKI conflict model. It’s first, either/or, I’m governed by ego or soul, but then if I create the right conditions, I can have both. When my ego and soul are on the same page, the ego gives me the energy to pursue my soul’s mission. When I’m fighting the two, then I’m at odds with myself. My ego doesn’t want to do this so, therefore, my soul is not going to be satisfied. Or, my soul will want to do this but the ego says, “I’m not participating. You go on your own.” If you can get ego and soul working in the same direction, on the same mission, then you are maximizing your life, your needs, your contribution to society.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Beautiful.

Ralph Kilmann
So, that’s the second one. The third one is also kind of fun. You’re ready for this?

Pete Mockaitis
Let’s do it.

Ralph Kilmann
Are your surrounding systems – and I’ll define what I mean by that – separate from you or an integral part of who you are? Notice how we say because we first set it up as that debate on the TKI conflict model, before we resolve it into a more integrated collaborative manner. So, essentially, it’s people generally think of the culture of the organization, the reward system, the strategy, the structure, other people as outside them, they’re outside my ego-encapsulated skin. And, therefore, since they’re outside of me, they’re someone else’s responsibility.

Now, what happens, Pete, if everyone believes that the systems of the organization are someone else’s responsibility? “It’s not me. I’m just what’s inside me, what I’m feeling, what I’m thinking.” But what’s fascinating is when you realize that we’re all in this together, we’re all connected, the systems we create are part of our psyche, we can’t really be separate from anything. And once people say, “You know, I am equally responsible to my surrounding systems, that’s a part of who I am, so I think I have to take some steps to improve those systems so that I can create the conditions that we can resolve our conflicts in the healthiest most successful manner.”

And, yet, what’s interesting with that inner conflict, that third one, of, “Are systems a part of you or outside of you?” is so fundamental because I always come across people who believe those systems are outside, “They’re not a part of me. That’s someone else’s responsibility.” And, yet, again I have to emphasize this, Pete, if everyone thinks the system is someone else’s responsibility, who’s taking care of it?

Pete Mockaitis
Nobody.

Ralph Kilmann
Nobody, yeah. Like all the discussion now about infrastructure, is that a part of who we are or is that a problem in other cities, other nations, other bridges, not my bridge, or do we realize that it’s all together? In fact, to show you the spiritual perspective, someone had asked me once, “Give me an example of that spiritual perspective when we really recognize we’re all in this together and we’re all one.”

And that’s the case when you discover that someone on the other side of the globe, say in Africa, is suffering. That suffering is as important and significant to you as if your own child is suffering. There’s no difference between a stranger in Africa and your own child. I’m not there yet, most people aren’t, maybe the Dalai Lama is, but, essentially, that is the ultimate where we say, “You know, we’re part of this human race, we have this consciousness that we all tap into, and if we can work together across the planet, we can all have a better life and get our most important needs met.”

Pete Mockaitis
Alrighty. And the fourth?

Ralph Kilmann
The fourth is the hardest to resolve, and that’s why it’s listed as number four. And I suggest that if you make significant progress with the first three, you’re then ready to really deal with the fourth one. And the fourth one is “Have you resolved your primal relationships or is your life still being drained by traumas from the past?”

In some work situations, picture a group having a meeting, and those people are triggering one another from previous relationships 30, 40 years ago, when they were kids or teenagers where they got hurt, and these people remind them of those people. And so, they’re talking to one another as if they’re the ones that hurt them 30 years ago. That’s called projection.

Actually, the full psychological dynamic is splitting, “I don’t like this so I’m going to get it away from me”; projecting, “I’ll put it on the other person and then I’ll attack the other person.” So, basically, unless you’ve resolved your primal relationships, it’s hard for you to be present with the people that are right in front of you. You are projecting unresolved stuff from previous caregivers, from people who perpetrated you with one injury or another, a dog you lost, a brother, a friend, whatever, and that’s your life. You’re living that way. You can’t interact with the people in the present and resolve conflict if you’re reacting or the phrases you’re being triggered by unresolved problems in the past.

So, the more we can help people resolve the primal relationships, more of their consciousness will be present in the moment to address the really important issues and get people’s most important needs met. But it’s the hardest because who wants to go back and examine those demons? But if you don’t, you’ll spend the rest of your life, perhaps, running from them. That’s the ultimate avoiding is to say, “I don’t have any issues. I’m done with the traumas. I’m over it,” and, meanwhile, they’re yelling at other people as if they’re yelling at the people who hurt them 30 years ago.

So, if in an organization, we had people who work through those four inner conflicts – energy, physical body, ego versus soul, separate systems versus integral part of me, primal relationships – if people have worked through that, then their consciousness, all their mind, body, spirit, is fully available to contribute to the organization today and tomorrow.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Beautiful.

Ralph Kilmann
Now, whose responsibility is it? You can say, “Well, people should do their own therapy, their own meditation, their own exercises, their own massages, on and on,” or if the human resource objective is to get the most of the human resources talent in the organization working in the same direction, maybe organizations need to take responsibility to help people develop their mind, body, spirit consciousness, and then make sure that’s brought into the organization.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, yeah, I think that when there’s a great ROI to be had, organizations should just go for it. That’s my take. So, I love it when I hear things like, was it AETNA providing incentives for sleeping enough? It was like, “Right on. Go for it. That’s great. Sleep is important and it makes a huge difference.” So, if it’s a little bit of a nudge or an incentive can improve people’s sleep, which improves their thinking and their creativity, their stress, and collaboration, then I am all for it even if it feels a little weird or different. I think we’re on the same mind there.

Ralph Kilmann
Well, what’s interesting, Pete, is in today’s world, so many people have heard about and experienced meditation, yoga, physical exercise, talk therapy, self-help books, there’s so much out there, and they’re doing it. The problem is often the organizational cultures says, “It’s taboo to talk about that and bring it into the organization.”

And, yet, when I work with organizations and we begin that discussion, and people start sharing their personal journeys, again, they have to trust one another, the culture has to support it, so some preliminary work has to be done, but then, my goodness, does the conversation open up. So, we regularly have these meetings in the organization where we talk about this stuff, and you build bonds and connection and understanding. You develop relationships at a deeper level so that you can solve the most complex problems with your fellow colleagues. It makes a huge difference.

And then you go into an organization where no one’s allowed, based on the culture, to talk about those things. “It’s taboo. We don’t talk about it. The last time someone said they were visiting a therapist, they were laughed at and told that they were crazy. Look, don’t do that again. Take care of yourself. People will hurt you.” People are closed off. Then how can you work together to solve complex problems if you’re so guarded, so defensive, and you don’t know who you are and what brings you bliss?

Pete Mockaitis
Great perspectives, Ralph. Now, can we hear a few of your favorite things, starting with a favorite quote?

Ralph Kilmann
One is by Lao Tzu, and it says, “If you’re depressed, you’re living in the past. If you’re anxious, you’re living in the future. If you’re at peace, you’re living in the present.” And I think it was Oprah who said, “Doing your very best in this moment is the best preparation for the next moment.” So, how do you get present instead of projecting all that junk and unresolved stuff from the past, or being engrossed with fear about what’s likely to happen in the future? Stay present, be conscious, work with people, I think that’s essential.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And a favorite study or experiment or bit of research?

Ralph Kilmann
I guess recently I read a book that really impressed me. It’s a book by Colin Tipping called Radical Forgiveness. Absolutely brilliant. And it’s about the resolution of primal relationships and it’s really saying that even when something bad happens, the spiritual perspective is to look at it and say, “How is this really a gift? What is this showing me that I’ve been unresolved about? Yes, I’m angry. Yes, I’m frustrated. I want to hurt that other person for what he said. But, wait a minute. It’s a gift. What did that person trigger in me that I haven’t yet resolved?”

And then in terms of forgiveness, it’s not even saying, “I forgive you for doing that.” It’s like, “Thank you for doing that. You allowed me to look at something in myself I would’ve never looked at if you hadn’t triggered me. Thank you. It’s a blessing.” And when we can see events in life as spirit giving us an opportunity to further grow and examine, it’s not about being angry; it’s about finding out, “Why did I have that emotional response? It’s a signal that I haven’t developed or resolved something, so let me do that now and become a better person so I can serve others and society more effectively.” That’s radical forgiveness.

Pete Mockaitis
And how about a favorite tool, something you use to be awesome at your job?

Ralph Kilmann
A tool? I think of tools in terms of assessment tools.

Pete Mockaitis
All right.

Ralph Kilmann
And besides the TKI conflict model and the TKI instrument, which measures those five, I’ve developed at least 10 other assessment tools. And what’s fascinating, I find, when people say, “Why do you develop those instruments?” I said, I’ll give you a radical statement, even if they’re not entirely valid and no instrument can be entirely valid, when you give somebody a number and say, “This is how you resolve conflict,” or, “This is the cultural issues that concern you,” or, “Here are your beliefs,” you put a number on it and people say, “What does that mean? What number did you get?” they start talking about it.

The beauty of assessment is you personalize the topic whether it’s culture, or courage, or conflict, and then people start talking about it. They want to say, “How did I come out on this? Why did you get a higher score than I did? What does that mean?” It just opens up the dialogue. So, I find, for me, assessment tools that pinpoint something important about people’s lives, either at home or at work, is an opening to get concrete about a topic so we can learn more.

Pete Mockaitis
Alrighty. And if folks want to learn more or get in touch, where would you point them?

Ralph Kilmann
Best would be my website, which is www.KilmannDiagnostics.com. And that has everything on it, and, of course, my recent legacy book Creating a Quantum Organization. There’s nothing else for me to write. It’s all in there. It’s weird for me to say that, Pete, but it’s like I have nothing else to do. I think I’ve completed it. Now, we’ll see what happens in six months, okay?

Pete Mockaitis
Alrighty. And do you have a final challenge or call to action for folks looking to be awesome at their jobs?

Ralph Kilmann
Yes. Recognize that even though it sounds difficult, can be a little fearful, is look in the mirror because that is the essence of who you are. Discover yourself, love yourself. If you love yourself, all good things will happen, but you can’t love yourself if you’re running away from yourself and everything that’s happened to you. So, while it’s difficult, the rewards are huge for you and everyone that works with you.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, Ralph, thank you. It’s been a real treat. I wish you much luck with your book, Creating a Quantum Organization, and the rest of your fun projects.

Ralph Kilmann
Thank you so much, Pete. It’s always a pleasure to talk about these issues because they drive everything else.

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