Tag

KF #9. Manages Conflict Archives - How to be Awesome at Your Job

821: How to Keep Calm and Defuse Tensions in Conflict with Hesha Abrams

By | Podcasts | No Comments

 

 

Master attorney mediator Hesha Abrams shares her tried-and-tested strategies for navigating conflict with ease.

You’ll Learn:

  1. How to actually calm people down in an argument 
  2. The four part process to defuse any situation
  3. The magic phrases that help any conflict 

About Hesha

Hesha Abrams is an internationally acclaimed master attorney mediator, with a unique talent to manage big egos and strong personalities and a keen ability to create synergy amongst the most diverse personality types, driving them toward agreement. Specializing in crafting innovative solutions for complex or difficult matters, Hesha has resolved thousands of cases in every conceivable area during her career including over the secret recipe for Pepsi. She coaches executives in politically difficult situations to prevent conflict and speed resolution.

Resources Mentioned

Thank you, Sponsors!

  • StoryWorth. Help your family share their story this holiday season with StoryWorth today and save $10 on your first purchase!

     

Hesha Abrams Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Hesha, welcome to How to be Awesome at Your Job.

Hesha Abrams
My pleasure.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m so excited to hear some of your wisdom about Holding the Calm: The Secret to Resolving Conflict and Defusing Tension. Could you start us with one of the most tense situations, negotiations, mediations you found yourself plunged into, and tell us the juicy dramatic details of the story?

Hesha Abrams
Oh, goodness. I have so many, it’s hard to choose. But the one that people seem to like the most is that I mediated over the secret recipe for Pepsi.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, do you know the secret recipe for Pepsi?

Hesha Abrams
I do.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Hesha Abrams
I do.

Pete Mockaitis
Is it just carbonated water and high fructose corn syrup?

Hesha Abrams
No, I’m sworn to secrecy. I’m sworn to secrecy. But what’s interesting is that the recipe is different in different parts of our country and in different parts of the world. So, what it really is, is a trademark for Pepsi, Coke, things like that. It’s really their trademark that they have to protect so they can’t allow anybody to use a recipe and then change the trademark and be, let’s say, “Pakistani Poopsi tastes like Pepsi.” And that would be disastrous.

And so, that was a very juicy, very interesting case. But I’ve done cases for Google, and Facebook, and Verizon, and Yahoo, and Nvidia, and IBM, and Microsoft, and all the major players, and then tens of thousands of individuals trying to find some level of justice. And that’s why I joke when you said, “Share your wisdom.” What I want to say is it’s battle-tested.

I have been boots not only on the ground but in the trenches of human conflict with blood and guts on my boots. And there’s lots of good books out there that talk about theory and philosophy and ideas about resolving conflict but I wanted to write a tool book, “What do I do with my idiot brother-in-law?” “What do I do with this horrible boss?” “What do I do with this terrible neighbor, or friend, or supplier, or client?” fill in the blank. What are the things you can do right now to improve the situation?

And, literally, that’s why I wrote the book. This shouldn’t be for professionals only. This should be for everybody.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s powerful stuff. And, Hesha, we can edit this out if we need to, but am I to understand you’ve literally had human entrails on your boots in a wartime scenario?

Hesha Abrams
No, I’m being very overly literal, and I like it.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, there’s a dramatic story. I think that’s the one maybe that we needed to…all right. We’ll see.

Hesha Abrams
We should not edit that out. That’s terrific. But I have had people spit.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, wow.

Hesha Abrams
I’ve had people get into a fistfight. I had two oilmen once that were both billionaires fighting over, whatever it was, I don’t know, $10, $20 million, which is pocket change to them, want to come to blows, and I literally put my body in between them. So, things get pretty intense when you’re dealing with amygdalas being triggered and bumper kart egos, and, “Mine, and you’re not going to take mine.” Well, we act at our most cavemen/cavewoman best, is what we do.

Pete Mockaitis
All right.

Hesha Abrams
And it’s normal. Every single one of us. You poke on amygdala enough; people are going to roar. And so, the question is, “What do you do when someone’s poking you? What do you do when you want to poke someone else? How do you get out of it?” That’s the thing, is how do you freaking get out of it? And I have easy tools, easy ways to do it, and I’m so glad your listeners are listening so we can talk about it.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, I’m glad, too. So, tell us, is there anything that’s particularly counterintuitive or that most of us get wrong in our conception of conflict?

Hesha Abrams
Yes, and that’s a great question. So, let me give you an analogy that I use. Spaghetti sauce. You drop it on the counter, you take a wet sponge, you wipe it right off. No big deal. You leave it overnight; you’re scraping it off with a spatula. You leave it three or four months, it’s old and moldy and nasty. And that, my friends, is conflict.

And so, why don’t we just wipe it up when it’s wet? That would be so easy. Well, we don’t because we’re afraid, we don’t know how. We’re afraid it will get worse, we’re afraid to know how to handle it, and so we close our eyes kind of ostrich-like, and just hope it’ll go away, and hope it’ll get better. And I’m here to tell you it doesn’t get better. It just gets old and moldy and nasty, and it finds a way to erupt at the most inopportune times because all conflicts, 100% of it starts with tension. Every single one.

Even if it’s the silent, “Mm-hmm” thing. We just don’t notice it because we’re not trained, we’re not taught, we don’t have these Holding the Calm tools to know how to wipe the spaghetti sauce off when it’s wet, so it’s harder, it’s older, and nastier and harder. And to stay with the analogies, sometimes people pee in their own bathtub, and you can’t get it out. You got to drain the whole tub. So, how can you avoid it and then how can you drain the tub when you actually need to? So, those are analogies between spaghetti sauce and peeing in the bathtub people aren’t going to forget.

Pete Mockaitis
Now, just to be really clear here. I’m getting the message associated with the spaghetti sauce in terms of addressing it quickly. Now, the peeing in the tub, what are we saying there? It’s like that seems another metaphor. I’m thinking it’s like, “Oh, I shot myself in the foot,” but maybe you’re getting at it’s hard to separate urine from bathwater once they’re intermingled.

Hesha Abrams
Correct.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Very visceral imagery. Thank you. Okay.

Hesha Abrams
Which means we won’t forget it. You’ll think about it now. We can always say, “Oh, don’t put your foot in your mouth,” right? But we all do, we’re all humans, and we do. What do we do to get out of it? How do we get out of the doghouse? How do we avoid getting in the doghouse to begin with? That’s what this Holding the Calm stuff is about. And it works with giant CEOs of giant Fortune 100 companies, global conglomerates.

Why? Because those guys and gals have egos just like the rest of us, and they want to win, and they want to not lose, and they want to look good just like if we’re fighting over a hundred bucks or a hundred million. It’s honestly the same thing.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And then, maybe before we go into some of the detail tools, is it a general principle, like the spaghetti sauce, you recommend we go ahead and address stuff quickly before it becomes extra, like it will have a tendency to grow nastier and more vitriolic over time? Is that the general pattern you see over and over again?

Hesha Abrams
Well, it depends. Yes, often that is the case, but a lot of times, just again, I give so many analogies because people will remember the analogies of what we talked about. Let’s say there’s a bomb in the town square. That guy waddles out his Michelin soup. He doesn’t just start cutting wires. He looks. He diagnoses it. Is it pressure switch? Is it chemical switch? What is it?

And what tends to happen is that we react, we don’t diagnose. We don’t take a step back. If I’m in conflict with an extrovert, that is going to be a different set of tools than when I’m in conflict with an introvert. Just that simple thing right there. Also, what if somebody is a visual, auditory, or kinesthetic learner? That’s easy. It’s just one, two, three. And if I can give you a list, there’s an example of that. It’s paying attention to the verbs.

“So, I see what you’re saying. That looks good to me,” somebody is a visual learner, I’m going to use visual cues with them. “I hear what you’re saying. That sounds right to me,” they’re an auditory learner, I’m going to speak auditory words to them. Kinesthetic means that you touch and you feel, and they’re going to say, “I don’t get it,” or, “That doesn’t feel right to me,” or, “It’s not good in my gut.” All right, that’s a kinesthetic learner.

So, when I’m talking to them, it’s just like, a Samsung versus an iPhone. They’re both smartphones but completely different operating systems. So, when you’re interacting with someone, the first thing you do, like the bomb detector, is you look at them, you listen to them, you let them talk for a minute. And while they’re talking, you’re listening to content, of course, but I’m going to say to myself, “Are they introvert or extrovert? And are they a visual, auditory, or kinesthetic learner?” That’s it.

Now, I have a wealth of knowledge. Which tool am I going to use? Am I going to use a scalpel or am I going to use a sledgehammer? Am I going to delay or am I going to push? Am I going to deal with feelings and emotions or am I going to deal with tasks, process? It’s not hard once you know to look for that, and that’s what I go over in Holding the Calm is the easy simple ways to be able to do that, and sentence them so that you can just simply ask, and then people will reveal themselves to you easily.

And then when you respond to them in their own operating system, they’re not going to say, “Oh, thank you for noticing that I’m a visual learner and speaking to me in visual words.” No, they’re just going to go, “He gets me,” “She gets it,” “I feel heard. I can trust her,” “I can believe in him. He’s got integrity.” That’s what they’re going to say.

And all it is is that you met them where they were. You hit them with their frequency, and you resonated with them. And all it takes is a few moments of holding the calm, stepping back, and diagnosing. And it’s incredibly simple. And that’s what some of the things that I lay out in Holding the Calm.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Well, so we take a step back, we listen, we diagnose, we see, “Are they introverted, extroverted? Are they visual, auditory, or kinesthetic?” And then we just use those types of words or visually words versus auditory words? And just like that we have an extra degree of rapport in the room?

Hesha Abrams
Indeed.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, that sounds easy.

Hesha Abrams
Indeed. It honestly is.

So, there’s a corollary story that I wanted to add here. I heard this on NPR’s Hidden Brain. There was a couch company that sold bespoke customized couches, $20,000 and $30,000 for a couch, custom arms, custom piping, custom fabric, blah, blah. People will go through the process, and a huge percentage of them at the point of sale would not complete the sale. Well, the company was very frustrated.

So, what do we normally do when we have a problem? I joked that we have flat foreheads because we smash our heads against the wall all the time. So, you usually have gas in the car or you have a brake. And what we usually do is we do gas, we push forward. So, the company did more sales, more promotion, more discount, more marketing, and it didn’t do anything.

Finally, they put on the brake. Remember the bomb detector analogy I gave everybody, stepping back and diagnosing? And they had somebody call all the people that didn’t complete the point of sale, the vast, vast majority. Do you know why they didn’t buy this $20,000 couch? Because they didn’t know what to do with the old couch.

So, the solution now is obvious. “When you buy the new one, we take away the old one,” but it didn’t dawn on them because they hadn’t taken the time to diagnose and to find out and to put the brakes on. That’s a huge beautiful example of holding the calm.

Pete Mockaitis
You’re a pro.

Hesha Abrams
So, one of the things, the way I designed the book is I didn’t want to make 15 volumes. I’ve got 35 years, like I said, in the trenches of doing this. What would be immediately accessible for people? So, I wrote 20 tools in 20 chapters, each one with stories and anecdotes. And I’m going to give some of them today on our talk, and I give them away to people. I say, “Take my stories. These are battle tested. They work. Use them with other people.”

Just imagine what happens. Somebody says something, and what we’re going to do is we’re going to school you. We’re going to tell you where you’re wrong, how you analyze it incorrectly. We’re going to bring you additional data. And everything we’re doing is like that finger-in-the-air schoolmarm going, “You’re not right.” And what does the person do? He just shuts down, not listening to a doggone thing you say because no one, even if they are wrong, responds to that. It’s just not going to happen.

So, what you do is you build some kind of rapport, and you can do it with, “Oh, well, you’re a golfer, I’m a golfer,” “We both like to bake.” But then the person has to be self-revealing to tell you stuff about themselves, and in conflict, they’re not going to. So, all you have to do is listen, like that bomb detector in the town square, and as they’re talking, you’re going to hear these things. So, now, I know how to speak to you. Now, you feel listened to and heard. Your amygdala calms the heck down because never in the history of calming down has anyone ever calmed down by being told to calm down.

And they actually train cops and police officers in that. You don’t walk into a volatile situation and say, “Calm down. Calm down.” All you’re saying to somebody is, “Whoa, you’re out of control. You don’t know what you’re doing. I do. I’m going to take power and control from you,” which just freaks them out more. So, you back off, let the person breathe, lets you breathe, and, now all of a sudden, you’re an ally instead of an enemy, and all kinds of magical cool stuff can happen.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, that sounds beautiful. Can we dig into some of these 20 tools? Are there a few that leap to mind in terms of having a really good bang for the buck in terms of, “Oh, this is not very hard, and yet it makes a world of difference in these situations”?

Hesha Abrams
Indeed. So, chapter one is speaking to the ears that are hearing you, and that we just talked about and there’s more, obviously, than what I can do right here, but that’s at least giving you a start. Let me give you an advanced technique that’s not as easy. It takes a little more effort but not very much, and everyone is going to laugh when I say this. If you’re dealing with somebody difficult, VUC them. I was going to with…

Pete Mockaitis
With a V.

Hesha Abrams
Yeah, “What did she just say?” I’m going to say, yeah, you VUC them because they can’t VUC themselves. And it’s V-U-C-S, and I came up with that purposely because everyone knows what they’re thinking they thought I said. Now, you won’t forget it. So, V-U-C-S. The V is validate, the U is understand, the C is clarify, the S is summarize.

It’s a four-part process to defuse anything. And when I say anything, I’m not using hyperbole. Anything. I’ve mediated multibillion-dollar cases. And late at night, you know what we’re talking about? The CEO is asking me about his idiot brother-in-law that he’s got to deal with, or a problem at work, or a problem with his private school kid’s coach, a Lacrosse team or something like that, and how does he handle that. That’s what we’re talking about.

So, this is a human being thing. It works for all of us. And that V of the validate is the number one. It’s the WD40 of interpersonal relations. But where it gets hard is that if you can validate, sure, go ahead, “I see your point of view. I can understand why you’re so upset. What happened to you was wrong,” blah, blah, blah. But let’s do the advanced class. Let’s say you can’t do that because you think the other person is wrong or an idiot or arrogant, self-righteous, stubborn, misguided, I mean, fill in the blank with whatever you want. How do you validate then?

Here’s the trick. You name the emotion. That’s all you got to do, “Wow, you sound angry.” “I’m not angry, I’m frustrated.” “Okay, you’re frustrated.” Now, I got data, don’t I? “Okay, help me see that. I want to understand.” Now, I’m going to say, “Help me see that,” if they’re a visual person; “I want to hear more about that,” if they’re an auditory person; “I want to understand that more,” if they’re a kinesthetic person.

And I’m just listening to them, and then using verbs. Literally, verbs. And someone may say listening to us, “Ugh, that sounds a lot of work. That’s too much.” Really? I can do it in two minutes. Or, you can spend the next hour fighting with somebody. What’s less work? And by starting with just the V, validate if you can, and if you can’t, just name the emotion, hear what they’re saying, let them talk. Then the U is the understanding part.

Unless someone is completely psychotic, really ridiculously psychotic, they have a point. You may not agree, you may not understand it, but they have a perspective and they have a point. So, dismissing them as, “Well, you’re just an idiot,” or, “You’re stupid,” or, “You’re misguided,” or blah, blah, blah, and, unless again, they’re psychotic, they’ve got a point I want to understand so I’m going to ask some questions.

And I have all kinds of sentence stems in the book that I tell people, write them down on a Post-it note and stick it by your phone or your computer, or put it in a note in your phone so you have it at the ready when something like this happens. And they’re wonderful because they just let people start to talk, and that’s the U for understand. Because when you do that for somebody, they’re going to feel understood.

Then the C is to clarify, just ask questions, “Okay, how would that work? Under what circumstances would that happen? Does that always happen?” those kinds of questions. Then, at the end, you can summarize, “Okay, so what you’re concerned about is this, and you feel like it’s unfair, or you don’t like the way this happened, and you’re looking for this kind of a response.”

In a complicated situation, that’ll take me 40, 45 minutes. In a more simple situation, 15, literally. Or, you can spend the next two days fighting with somebody.

Pete Mockaitis
Now, the whole V-U-C-S taking 15 to 45?

Hesha Abrams
It depends on the complexity of the problem.

Pete Mockaitis
Got you.

Hesha Abrams
And how well you do it, quite frankly. The better you do it, the quicker and easier it is. And the bonus is, at the end, the person is not going to hate you, they’re not going to think you’re awful, or you’re dismissive, or you’re disrespectful, or you’re offensive, or all the other things that people think when they’re not listened to. They’re going to feel like, “You get it.”

And often the position will soften because someone is actually listening to them. And people will start to say things, like, “I know I said that but, you know, it’s not really that bad,” only because you defused the tension. You wiped the spaghetti sauce up when it’s wet. You off-gassed the tank so that it wouldn’t explode. Just that simple stuff is wet-spaghetti-sauce wiping, which maybe should be the title of the next book.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, perhaps. And can you give us some examples of these stems?

Hesha Abrams
It depends on the situation. That’s why I have them divided throughout the book because it depends on the situation. So, let’s say you’re having to deal with somebody that is just obnoxious, or all of these DEI stuff we’re talking about these days. You think he’s racist, or sexist, or homophobic, and they’re just saying stuff, and you’re taken aback. You don’t know what to say or how to say it.

You can say, “Did you intend to offend me with that statement?” You will see backpedaling like you don’t want to know. No one’s going to answer, “Yes, I intended to offend you,” right? And if they are, then I’m going to VUC them, I’m going to say, “Well, you’re really passionate about that. I want to understand why.”

Pete Mockaitis
All right.

Hesha Abrams
Now, all of a sudden, I have another tool that I can use. And let me give your listeners what to do at the Thanksgiving table or the Christmas dinner table with that one relative that just always says nasty stupid stuff, either because they really mean it or because they just like to get your goat, and you know that happens at the table.

A great one is to turn to them and say, “Do you know what I admire about you?” Freeze. Everybody pauses. That guy will pause, ears, boing, are going to open, and then you can say anything you want, “Your passion, your curiosity, your ability to hear both sides of an issue,” whatever you want to say, there’s no retort to that, there’s no answer to that, so it stops and everyone else around the table will smile and nod, and say, “Thank you for shutting that down,” and then you go back to eating turkey.

Pete Mockaitis
And I’m thinking if it’s the person who just says stuff, it could just be, “Your courage. I would feel sheepish and embarrassed to spout the things that you’re saying.” I guess you don’t say it that way. But I guess that is something I would admire in terms of I tend not to say things that will trouble people willy-nilly because I’m scared.

Hesha Abrams
But that’s the whole reason why I wrote Holding the Calm for everybody because that’s the wet spaghetti sauce. We don’t say anything because we’re scared and we don’t know how to do it. But if you say to somebody, “You know what I admire about you?” how is that bad? It stops the conversation immediately.

And then find something to fill it in with, “That you’re so passionate,” or, “That you’re so punctual, you’re always on time,” or, “You always dress so well,” or, “You bring the best potato casserole,” or, or, or, whatever you can actually say. You can make it harder and firmer or you can make it gentle and easy, but either way, it stops because nobody is going to say, “Oh, I don’t want to hear the rest of that sentence.” “What I admire about you,” “What I respect about you,” “What I like about you,” nobody is going to say, “Eh, don’t tell me. I don’t want to hear.”

Pete Mockaitis
And so, it doesn’t need to be at all related, it doesn’t need to be at all directly related to what they’ve just mentioned?

Hesha Abrams
Exactly, isn’t that great?

Pete Mockaitis
You could just absolutely, “You’ve got great taste in earrings.” Okay.

Hesha Abrams
And it shuts it down because, let’s say it’s something weird like that, “You have great taste in earrings.” How do you respond to that? What are you suppose to say? It just stops the conversation. So, holding the calm is pragmatic. It’s not Kumbaya, “Let’s hold hands and walk through the meadow together.” We live in a jungle, there’s predators out there, there’s real-world stuff we have to deal with.

So, I wanted to make this book extremely practical for real-world stuff. So, sometimes all I want to do is get you to stop because that’s all I can do. Sometimes I want to get you to understand. Sometimes I want to get to make a cold peace with you. Sometimes I want to get to make a warm peace with you. I want correct a misunderstanding, repair a relationship, move us forward. That’s sort of the spectrum.

You choose whatever it is you want to do, whatever your courage wants to do, whatever your need is. Maybe you only see this person once a year at the holiday dinner, or you don’t have to see your boss very much, or your neighbor, or, let’s say, your spouse, those kinds of things. You figure out what it is you want and then apply it however you want.

And then what you’ll find is it’s so easy that the more you do it, you’ll say, “Oh, hot darn, those were like magic beans. They worked. All right, I’m going to try something else. Oh, look at that.” That’s how it actually happens. I got 30 years of doing this, and I’m telling you the same techniques I’m teaching all of you. I walk into a conference room, and one guys says, “Give me $100 million,” and the other guy says, “Here’s $100,000, hands down.” How do I solve that?

Everyone’s got fancy schmancy lawyers, they went to Ivy League schools, that are everyone smart, and they’re arguing over all kinds of stuff. How do I get that settled? With all the stuff I’m telling you, because it’s human beings, whether you’re wearing a T-shirt or a $5,000 suit. It’s exactly the same.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, so then it sounds like, in that particular scenario that you highlighted, in terms of there’s a huge gap associated with the financials that people are willing to go for, you’re not so much, it sounds like, getting into the particulars of how one arrives in an appropriate dollar amount technically, financially speaking, so much as the human emotional side of things. Is that fair to say?

Hesha Abrams
Again, I hate to keep saying it depends on the circumstances. That’s why I go through that in the book so that it’s not one-size-fits-all. Let me give you another example. There’s a guy named Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky, and they were psychologists. And before them, Adam Smith’s rational man was the way economics was built. Human beings are rational, we make rational decisions, it’s all databased. And those of us in the social sciences know that’s just not true. It’s just not true.

Well, Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky proved it mathematically and scientifically, and they won a Nobel Prize in economics for proving that. And it’s absolutely brilliant how they do it, and so I’ll give you a quick short example. Bananas, 25 cents each. I’d buy a couple. I’m going to make a banana bread. Bananas, four for a dollar, 35% boost in sales.

Now, that’s just dumb. Why would it make any difference at all, and you want an extra 10% boost in sales? Limit two. That guys is going to knock at my bananas. I may have two bananas that rot and get all brown and nasty, and I got to throw them away. But look at that, how it works on the human brain. And people that are trying to sell us, the data people, the retailers, they know this stuff. That’s why you see price points the way you do.

It used to be that 4.99, people will see it as $4 not $5. $499, they will see it as $400 not $500. Even at 4,000 versus 5,000, that’s how the human brain works. Now, we can say, “Oh, you wouldn’t fool me with that. I look at 499 and I know it’s 500 bucks. I get that.” Not your brain, not the part of your brain that makes decisions. It will see it as, “Ah, that’s pretty reasonable, it’s about 400 bucks.” No, it’s not. It’s 500.

But that’s why they keep doing it that way because they know how we think. And you know who are masters at this kind of stuff? Casino owners. Do you ever notice in a casino, there’s no clocks, there’s no windows? They want to have people not know what time it is and not have anything about the outside world. They want them completely total captive audiences, and the drinks flow freely. That’s not because they’re being generous.

They want to keep you at the table because they know the odds are they, of course, are going to win, and they’ve absolutely figured out mathematically how often the slot machines need to ching, ching, ching, ching, ching and have somebody win, and how little they can have the win before it will hit the dopamine receptors in their brain like a chicken in a pen hitting that pellet to get that pellet out, they know it mathematically. That’s how amazing it is because we take human beings, and we put electrodes all over their heads, and shove them in MRIs. We know all kinds of stuff about the human brain works.

Scientifically, it’s just that normal people haven’t been able to catch up to how it is so we still think, “All right, you know, bananas, four for a dollar, that’s a good deal, even though I only need two.” So, to understand how human beings think, honestly, is a way to serve them better. Now, of course, people can manipulate, a fork can be used to eat or stab you, so every tool can be used different ways.

What I try to do in Holding the Calm is it’s very ethical and there’s high integrity to it, and the basis of it is service, “How can I serve you better by understanding you, by being on the same wavelength as you?” It’s better for a negotiation, it’s better for problem-solving, it’s better for team building. This kind of stuff is used for all of that. All of it.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And I’d also love to hear a little bit more about some particular words and phrases. We’ve heard some about matching the visual versus auditory versus kinesthetic. We heard saying “Calm down” never does the trick. And we’ve heard “You know what I admire about you…” is magic. Any other magical words, phrases that you love or really hate?

Hesha Abrams
So, I have a whole chapter on percentages which I find so interesting. People will speak in superlatives or in generalities, “We always do this. We never do that.” And 20 years ago, I’ve done a lot of…I probably made 10,000 speeches in my life, and I’ve consulted and trained all over the world. I’ve done a lot of this stuff. And I would have big groups, and I could guinea pig and try different new things and see how they would work.

And so, one day, I just thought of that. And so, I had a large group, and I said, “What percentage of the time does always mean?” And then I had people write it down, and then we facilitated up in the front on a big flipchart. Always goes from 100% down to like 65. Now, the people that say always is a 100 think the 65-ers are idiots. And the 65-ers think the 100s are extreme.

How about with never? You think never is zero? Au contraire, monsieur. It is not. To a lot of people, never is 20%, maybe even 25%. The same with rarely and a lot. So, I have a whole thing in there where I call it “Always Never, Rarely A Lot.” People will use those four words all the time. And by all the time, I mean 100% of the time.

So, if somebody is being adamant with you, “We never do that,” let’s say you want to return something, you just practice easy negotiation, and you go return something at a store, “We never do that.” “Oh, what percentage of the time is never?” “Well, it’s like 80%.” “Oh, so what are the exceptions that fall into the 20%?” Bing, bing, bing, bing. Now, I got information. Now, I got data.

People will say that, “Oh, we never do salary raises,” or, “We always do salary raises, or salary evaluations at the end of the year.” “What percentage of the time is always?” Now, if you get 100%, okay, now, you have information and you can feel comfortable, “Right, it’s happening at the end of the year. Well, I think 75 or 80% of the time.” “Oh, so what do we do the other percentage of the time? What would be the reasons for that?”

Now, it’s a pathway in and you have information. And look at all you did. You asked a clarifying question, “What percentage of the time is always, never, rarely, a lot?” and you’ll like it.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, it’s so funny, Hesha, well, one, that’s eye-opening, like, “Wow, I never would’ve guessed,” so that’s insightful and powerful right there. Thank you. I guess I’m thinking I am in the camp that always does mean 100% and never does mean zero percent. And if you asked me the clarifier, “What percentage is always?” I’m almost insulted, like, “Well, of course, it’s 100%. That’s why I said always. Otherwise, I would’ve said often or frequently or most of the time.”

Hesha Abrams
Isn’t that great?

Pete Mockaitis
And so, now I’m intrigued. That question doesn’t rub people the wrong way or do you have alternative variations you recommend?

Hesha Abrams
Well, what’s interesting is sometimes it does. And then let say it does, “Really?” and then you ask somebody else, “What percentage is always to you?” And, guaranteed, even with CPAs, even with accountants who are very numbers-oriented, it will vary. And then somebody else will say it. So, if you’re afraid you’ve got somebody like that, you ask a couple people in a room.

And it’s a technique that I use often if I have to do large groups or if I’m meeting with a board, for example, and I’ve got a bunch of people. I don’t want to say to people, “You know, we all have different perspectives, and we all think about things differently, and we have to be open to blah, blah, blah” That’s like nauseous. No one wants to hear that kind of garbage.

But I say, “You know what, who wants to do a fun little exercise?” No one’s going to say no, and I do this little exercise. And you can do it on one of the words. I would do it on at least two or you can do all four. And then as people go around the room, and they say different percentages, then somebody like you, Pete, will go, “Huh? What? No. You think that always is 80%? How can you think that?” “How can you not think that?”

And then, all of a sudden, a new interesting conversation opens up. And it’s a way of having people see for themselves we are very different. We think very differently. It’s not just a visual, auditory, kinesthetic, introvert, extrovert. Baskin and Robins have 32 flavors for a reason. There’s a lot of different things that people want.

And even something silly. Let’s say I’m in a more casual group and I want to do an icebreaker thing. I may say, “Okay, choose, salty or sweet?” And sometimes people go, “Huh? What?” “If you had to choose, potato chips, French fries, or cake cookies?” You will see people divide up instantly into their salty-sweet teams. Instantly.

And then you know what kind of happens? “That other guy across the room who I hate, he’s a salty and I’m a salty, he’s a sweet, I’m a sweet, are you kidding me? How can I have anything in common with that guy? And what if we’re the only two in the room that both think that? Oh, God, now I got commonality with that guy?” It begins to bridge some of that.

I’ll give one more thing just because I’ve done so much of this. I experiment and then I come up with new ways of trying to make these points because people will get it better if they can get it themselves. It’s the whole “teach them to fish, don’t give them a fish” thing. So, I once did this just on a lark, literally on a lark. I was on a big Zoom conference call probably 10 years ago. I was doing Zoom a long time ago, and I had all these people and they looked super bored and disinterested, and, “Okay, I’ve got to get these people attached.”

So, I said, “What’s your favorite flavor of ice cream?” And everyone went through it, and, all of a sudden, people started having conversations because, “Ooh, the vanillas are purist,” or, “The chocolates like it to be decadent,” or some of them wanted the gooey, chocolatey, ribbony, nutty, rocky road-y thing. And then people couldn’t stop talking and it created this commonality between people.

And at the end of the training, when they did the evaluations and they’re all saying, “Oh, it was so great.” “What was your favorite part of it?” A huge percentage said the stupid little ice cream exercise that I literally made up on-the-fly. And that’s because it was so personal to them, “This is me. See me. Hear me. Validate me. And now let me bond with you. I don’t care what I bond over. It’s ice cream.” It’s a sports team, it’s a politician, it’s a food restaurant.

Human beings have this clannish desire to bond and connect with each other. And when you create and foster ways for that to happen, I’m telling you, barriers fall down, things break down. It doesn’t have to be this big huge fancy schmancy stuff. In fact, the big huge fancy schmancy stuff doesn’t really work. It’s too big. It’s really the small.

I have a whole chapter in the book that I call “Small Winnable Victories,” that you don’t solve problems with big huge things. You solve them brick by brick, stone by stone. You dissolve problems from the outside so that they melt in. You create commonalities to where, “You know, I really thought I hated you and you were an idiot. But it turns out you’re not so bad, you know.”

And I’ll give your listeners a quick easy, easy way to deal with somebody you absolutely dislike or despise, and you got to deal with them. Look at them, ask yourself one question, “Would they pull my kid out of a burning car?” And if the answer to that is yes, which 95% of the time it will be, they’re not so bad. There’s something redemptive.

And if, in fact, they did pull your kid out of a burning car, you’d have a very different relationship with them. So, we start from that place, and it just lets walls start to come down so solutions can be found, team building can happen. This stuff works, I’m telling you. It works.

Pete Mockaitis
What’s so funny, it’s like as I think about that question and folks I might be at odds with, it’s sort of like my bias is tilting or slanting me so it’s just like, “Okay, statistically, yeah, maybe 95% is probably the overall view. It’s like, but I’m really not so sure about this guy.”

Hesha Abrams
That’s marvelous. That’s marvelous because it means that you’re demonizing him or her unless and until they do something redemptive, and they may not, so you pretend. And if you can pretend, it’s like the placebo effect for your mind. If you pretend that they actually did do something redemptive, all it does is give you more avenues and ways to deal with them because in Alcoholics Anonymous, they have this great saying that says, and I’m not sure if they originated it or not but I’ve been told that, that, “Resentment is poison that you drink but expect the other guy to die.”

Think about how amazing that is. Poison that you drink but expect the other guy to die. And what happens with this paradigm-shifting technique I’m teaching you is it stops the poison, and you get to a point where, “You know, you’re still a jackass but you don’t bother me anymore, you don’t affect me anymore, you can’t harm me anymore.” There’s tremendous freedom and power in that. Tremendous. Tremendous.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s good. Thank you. Well, Hesha, tell me, anything else you want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Hesha Abrams
Well, I wanted to remind people I created a website HoldingTheCalm.com. And my goal with this is to just get this out into the world because I feel like we were all cavemen, cavewomen shoving food in our face, and I want to give people a fork, a knife, a spoon, chopsticks so we have better ways to handle things.

So, I put all my podcasts on there. I’m doing webinars. And I’m just putting everything free. Just download it and take it. And I’m doing this little one-minute videos. So, people don’t have time, and we’re all so busy, so it’s a quick one little minute video on a little topic with one of these techniques or one of these ideas that you can like or forward it onto someone else, and say, “Hey, this might be good for you, too.”

So, I have that, and I have a discussion guide in the back of the book. And, originally, the folks wanted me to sell that as a separate workbook, and I refused. I said, “No, I’m giving this away for free, and I want it in the back of the book,” so that if you’re an organization, or a company, or a church, or a homeowners’ association, or a family, any group of people, and everyone gets the book, you can go through the discussion guide which is like five pages, so it’s nothing.

And you just start asking questions of each other, then it makes it real, and it makes it to be, “What percentage is always for you? What percentage is it for the other guy? Really? How can you think always is 80%? I don’t understand that.” Then you’ll learn something about them. They’ll learn something about you. It creates this team-building bonding thing that actually creates a little bit of Teflon against conflict, which is really pretty magical.

So, that’s why I did it that way because my goal is to just get it out there and help people learn to do this better because we don’t teach this in school. We’ve got people running around shooting people because they’re so angry and mad, and write nasty things on social media because there’s no off-casting valve. So, anyway, this is my little tiny contribution within my sphere of influence to try to help make the world a little bit more harmonious, so that’s my message. And if it resonates with you guys, please, take it, use it.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Thank you. Now, could you share with us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Hesha Abrams
Well, I’m a major Trekkie, so I love Captain Jean-Luc Picard, he said, “Only impossible until it’s not.” And I like that. And I would tell you, I have one more that I put in the book, actually, both of those are in the book. My husband has a friend who’s a Navy Seal, and Navy Seals, as part of their training, have to tread water for, like, ever, and they’re supposed to do it until they die is the concept.

And so, my husband asked this guy, “So, how long can you tread water?” He said, “I don’t know, I’m not dead yet.” And I think about that, at least for myself and for everyone else, “How big can I get? How smart can I get? How loving can I get? How forgiving can I get? How graceful can I get? I don’t know, I’m not dead yet.”

And I feel like if we all sort of be continuous learners, which everyone has to be listening to your podcast, they’re continuous learners, and they’re committed awesome people or they wouldn’t be listening to this kind of podcast, how big is big? I don’t know, I’m not dead yet. So, let’s get big, everybody. That’s the goal. That’s my little inspirational speech for the day.

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

Hesha Abrams
Well, I love the Daniel Kahneman-Amos Tversky thing. I love there’s a chapter in the book I have on politeness and stability matters because there was a study done in England, literally, scientifically, about “Does politeness actually get you anything? Can it actually work?” And it does. And they figured out, neuroscientists have found that there’s 187 cognitive biases in our brains, and one of them is called the bias of reciprocity.

And, again, unless you’re a sociopath, and you’re just like a normal person, which is the vast majority of us, if I do something for you, you kind of feel compelled to do something back for me. You get invited into someone’s house for dinner, you bring a bottle of wine or flowers. There’s this, “I don’t want to be in debt to you. I want to do that.” That’s what politeness does. Simply being polite and civil in engenders politeness and civility back. And I love that study.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And could you share a favorite book?

Hesha Abrams
Oh, God, I have to many. Should I be a dork and talk about my Star Trek books that I read like candy? I consume the right candy.

Pete Mockaitis
I’m intrigued. What’s the dorkiest Star Trek book you own?

Hesha Abrams
Oh, God, they’re all marvelous. I just got done finished reading one on Kathryn Janeway called Mosaic by Jeri Taylor that was just fantastic. I really like that one. But I read a lot of neuroscience stuff. I just got done with Erik Barker’s Plays Well with Others which was just fantastic, really marvelous. I read – what was that other book about – Influence by Robert Cialdini, of course, is marvelous, the Ken Blanchard books are always good because they’re trying to make the world a better place. So, I have the nonfiction stuff that I enjoy, and then I have my guilty pleasures.

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

Hesha Abrams
HoldingTheCalm.com, it’s got everything you need.

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

Hesha Abrams
Oh, what a great question that is. The Navy Seal analogy. I would suggest that what you do is write down on a piece of paper why you’re good at your job. What is it that makes you good at your job? And then, tomorrow, do it better.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Hesha, thanks. This has been a treat. I wish you lots of luck and fun in your conflict resolving.

Hesha Abrams
Thanks so much. It’s been a pleasure talking to you.

815: How to Get Along with Anyone at Work with Amy Gallo

By | Podcasts | No Comments

 

Amy Gallo shares how to constructively deal with difficult people at work.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The massive costs of bad relationships at work
  2. How to build your immunity to criticism
  3. How to work well with eight key types of difficult people

About Amy

Amy Gallo is a contributing editor at Harvard Business Review. She is the author of the HBR Guide to Dealing with Conflict and Getting Along: How to Work with Anyone, and a cohost of HBR’s Women at Work podcast. Her articles have been collected in dozens of books on emotional intelligence, giving and receiving feedback, time management, and leadership. As a sought-after speaker and facilitator, Gallo has helped thousands of leaders deal with conflict more effectively and navigate complicated workplace dynamics. She is a graduate of Yale University and holds a master’s from Brown University.

Resources Mentioned

Amy Gallo Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Amy, welcome to How to be Awesome at Your Job.

Amy Gallo
Thanks for having me, Pete.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, thank you for being here. I’m excited to chat. And we’re going to learn, at last, how to get along with anyone at work. Impressive.

Amy Gallo
Thanks.

Pete Mockaitis
But, first, we need to hear a little bit about you and karaoke. What’s the story here?

Amy Gallo
Oh, my gosh. Okay, so I have a terrible voice. Like, I feel like I could be the definition of tone deaf but I love to sing, so karaoke is where I thrive. And it’s funny, my husband knows how much I love karaoke, he knows how my voice sounds, but when we go to karaoke with new people, and I start singing, there’s a moment where, like, their eyes go wide, and they’re like, “Wait, what’s happening?” because I think it’s probably pretty terrible but I make up for it in enthusiasm. Because I think they’re just sort of like, “Wow, she’s really having a great time, and it sounds terrible.”

Pete Mockaitis
Well, in a way, I think there’s a certain beauty to that. I don’t know what virtue I’d pin it on but it’s something good. It says something good about you, Amy. Zest for life, hunk humility, fun lovingness.

Amy Gallo
Yeah. And I think confidence, too, of just like, “You know what, it sounds terrible but I’m having fun, so have fun with me.” And my favorite karaoke song is Don’t Stop Believing by Journey, which can be sung as a duet, and oftentimes I’ve gotten strangers to sing the duet with me, but these were pre-COVID times. I haven’t done karaoke in a long time.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, well, I hope that you get some soon.

Amy Gallo
Thank you.

Pete Mockaitis
That sounds like a hoot. All right. Well, let’s talk about your latest here, Getting Along: How to Work with Anyone (Even Difficult People). That’s a nice promise of a title inside that book. Can you tell us, maybe for starters, just to get the juices flowing, any particularly surprising, counterintuitive, extra fascinating discoveries you’ve made along the way in doing your research and assembling this book here?

Amy Gallo
Yeah. Actually, I’ll share two things. One is something I found out in writing the book and something that I found out since writing the book. So, the first one I would say, I knew that social connections were important at work, and I knew that having fractured relationships or stressful relationships or tense relationships with your co-workers was not good, but the depth of research on the impact of social connections, positive social connections, on us as, both in terms of our wellbeing but also in terms of our performance.

There’s this amazing study that showed from a team of professors at Rutgers that showed that people who identify as friends at work have better performance review ratings. So, the whole idea that this is sort of soft, and, “Oh, it would be nice to have a friend at work,” it’s not. This was actually really about productivity and performance.

And then, on the flipside, the research around how terrible stressful relationships are, or animosity in our relationships, both for our productivity, creativity, but also for our health, there are studies that show that having an incompetent manager, for example, raises the likelihood that you’ll have a heart disease. Or, there are studies that show that people who have animosity in their relationships had wounds that were less slow to heal, or were slower to heal.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, okay.

Amy Gallo
So, it’s actually having a physical impact on us.


Pete Mockaitis
That makes a lot of sense. I think that when it comes to the stress and the cortisol, or whatever sort of your biochemical mediators of that, it seems like more and more research are showing up that when there’s a chronic stress situation and not good healthy outlets, such as sleep, exercise, friends, social support, bad things happen in the body.

Amy Gallo
Yeah, and I think, for years, we thought the way we interact with co-workers, our relationships with them, were sort of icing on the cake. And I think just tremendous amount of research that shows the impact of those relationships make it clear that it is the cake. This is how we get work done, whether or not we’re successful, whether we achieve our goals, is largely dependent on the quality of our relationships with the people we work with. And I think it’s just so clear on the research.

Now, the second insight I’ve had I wanted to share, which has been since I wrote the book, and this is a little bit of insider baseball on the writing of the book, is each chapter. So, the book is around archetypes of difficult people, and each of those chapters included a section of what if you are this person, what if you are the insecure manager, or the know-it-all, what you should do. And the manuscript was way too long, so, with my editor, we agreed to cut those sections out.

And part of the thinking of doing that was that we didn’t think people would actually have the self-awareness.

Pete Mockaitis
“Surely, not I, Amy.”

Amy Gallo
Exactly. Like, who would get to that section, and be like, “Oh, yeah, that’s me,” right? But I cannot tell you how many people have LinkedIn-message me, tweeted at me, called me, my friends have texted me, and said, “I’m reading your book, and I’ve seen myself in that archetype, or I’m seeing myself in many of the archetypes.”

Which is so encouraging because that’s one of the themes of the book, is that we’re all the difficult person at times, and it can be hard to recognize that, it can be even harder to admit it, but the more we do that, the easier these interactions and resolving some of the conflicts we have with people we work with will be.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that sounds like a thesis right there. Well, I was about going to ask, what’s the big idea behind the book. It sounds like we hit it. Anything else you want to mention in terms of a core thesis?

Amy Gallo
Well, I think the other thing is we often feel subjected to these relationships, especially if the person we’re having difficulty with is a manager or someone we can’t stop working with because they’re a critical member of our team. And I think one of the other core themes is this is in your control, not that you can change that other person.

I don’t have to explain to people that that’s not going to work. You can’t actually set out making your colleague a different person but you can control your thoughts, your feelings, your reactions, your behavior in a way that changes the dynamic so you don’t have to feel stuck in these challenging relationships. You actually can do something about it.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that is a very inspiring and encouraging, so cool stuff. I don’t have to change someone else. I have some areas or things I can control that will make an impact.

Amy Gallo
That’s right.

Pete Mockaitis
And that’s really cool. Could you maybe kick us off with an inspiring story of someone who there was a co-worker, “Wow, they weren’t feeling it,” and then they saw a transformation and some cool results?

Amy Gallo
Yeah, so I actually will share a personal story. It’s a story I open the book with, and it’s not transformational in that, all of a sudden, this person became, like, my best friend. It just got easier, and I’ll explain. So, I had this boss earlier in my career who was just a chronic micromanager, gossiped about people in the office with me, which made me believe she was probably gossiping about me to others.

She would assign work and then, the next day, assign, like, three more projects. And when you said, “Whoa, what about these other things?” she’s like, “Why are you even focused on that?” It was I really never knew where I stood, and it was stressful. It was just incredibly stressful. And I found myself, about three months into the job, thinking about her constantly.

I would be walking the dog thinking about what I was going to say to her in an email response. I’d be at a birthday party I’ve taken my daughter to, finding myself going over conversations we’d had, and I was like, “Okay, I got to quit. This is not worth it.” And instead of quitting, and I’m not sure what made me do this, but instead of quitting, I was like, “Wait, let me see if I can just change the way I feel about her, and let her stop taking up so much room in my psyche.”

And by sort of re-appraising the situation, seeing it instead of being stuck working with this person, see it as an opportunity to keep this job, which I actually really like, and can I learn something from it, can I learn about the kind of manager I want to be, can I learn about how I handle stressful situations. I stayed in that job for 18 months. She did not change. I want to make that clear. It’s not that she behaved differently. I just changed the way I thought about it, and the amount of investment I put into making that relationship better, because I was so…

Part of what was so hard is that I was set on…I really thought if I could just…well, how do I want to say this? Like, I just thought if I could transform this relationship, if I could show her the way that her behavior was impacting others. And I had a friend who said, “I don’t know she cares.” And so then, I thought, “Okay. Well, she doesn’t care, or I don’t know if she cares or not, so I’m not going to focus on priding myself on being able to reform this woman. Instead, I’m going to focus on priding myself on reforming myself.”

And it really became the beginning of this work that led to this book of just observing relationships, looking into the research around, “How do we deal with stressful relationships?” and what works and what doesn’t.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. That’s a lot of good stuff. And you’ve mapped out eight archetypes, and I want to have a little bit of time on each of them. But it sounds like you’ve got a master key right here that would be applicable to all eight of them, so let’s hit that first. How do we control our thoughts, our feelings, and do a re-appraisal? Are there some super powerful questions, or breathing techniques? Or, what are some of all your favorite tools that can take us from, “Aargh, I want to strangle this person” to, “Oh, okay, that’s alright”?

Amy Gallo
Yup, so a couple things. Number one, I think that there’s a mindset shift we have to make, which is that instead of believing that this relationship is indicative of who we are and what we’re capable of, because that was the problem with my boss is that I was struggling with her, and I was like, “Oh, I guess I’m not good at relationships with co-workers. I guess I’m not good at managing up. Maybe I’m not even good at my job because she seems to be questioning how good I am at that.”

So, rather than thinking of this interaction, this one relationship as indicative of who you are, remember that you probably have many, many more relationships with co-workers, people outside work, that are positive, and let those be a reflection. So, I think that’s the one mindset shift you want to make right at the beginning, is right-size this person’s influence on you, that it’s just one relationship, remind yourself of that, and you’ve got many more that are probably very positive.

The second thing I would say is that you really want to observe your reactions. So, make an effort to really pay attention. When you’re in an unpleasant interaction with a co-worker, think about how do you react. So, for me, sometimes I’d blame the other person, “This is all their fault.” Or, I might blame myself, “What have I done wrong?” Or, I try to completely disengage and just shut down, “This isn’t worth my time,” and I’d dismiss it all.

All of those reactions are perfectly valid in that they’re probably not true but they’re perfectly valid in that they’re your thoughts and feelings. And I really learned this from a professor named Sigal Barsade. She was a professor at Wharton, and unfortunately passed away a few years ago. But she talks about emotions being data not noise. So, rather than trying to get rid of those emotions; pay attention to them and what are they telling you about what you care about.

And then another tool I would really say is try to re-appraise, and that’s really what I was describing what I did with my boss, was instead of saying, “This is a vexing situation I’m never going to get out of. Wow, this feels like a threat,” because, many times, these conflicts or difficult interactions with people can feel like a threat, “What’s the opportunity here? What can I learn from this situation?”

And I don’t mean to put on rose-colored glasses and be naïve while someone’s mistreating you over and over, but I do mean to think, “Maybe there’s an opportunity here for me while I work on improving this relationship. Maybe there’s an opportunity for me to learn something.” And learning might be interpersonal resilience, the development of the skill to bounce back from stressful situations when we’re in them, or bounce back more quickly when we have them, but also to feel less stressed when we’re in them.

Pete Mockaitis
You know what comes to mind here is as you’re talking about a set of skills, boy, any professional could benefit from them and I would like more of myself. And I’m thinking about Dr. David Burns who wrote Feeling Good, Feeling Great, and more, so I’m thinking of those books. And he had a phrase about becoming immune to criticism. That sounds like a nice thing to have going for you. And so, I’d like that, and it sounds like a nice positive, optimistic vibe, to say, “Ooh, this is cool. I have an opportunity to learn some resilience and maybe to become immune from criticism.”

Are there any other kind of facets or angles or slants you want to put on the learning growth development opportunity? I find, when I’m feeling cranky, which might happen in such a context, I’m not as jazzed about the idea of learning, it’s like, “Oh, Amy said I can do some learning to be more resilient,” or, “Pete said I can learn to become immune to criticism, so that’s pretty snazzy.” I don’t feel excited about the learning even though I love learning most of the time. So, any pro tips on maybe just getting a jolt to the system to steer into that happier place?

Amy Gallo
Absolutely. And I will tell you, I’m the same way. It took me months to change this relationship, or change my view of this relationship with my boss. It’s not as if you’re in the middle of being yelled at by a tormentor, or you just had credit for your project taken by a political operator, and you’re like, “What can I learn here?” Of course, you’re going to be angry, upset. That’s where those sort of observing those reactions comes in because you’re going to give yourself some space.

The other thing is you do need to make sure you allow yourself to feel those feelings, and maybe even find someone to vent them to, to sort of get that out a little bit. And just remember, the one thing I do try to remember in the moment when I am so mad, that our brains are mini-making machines. So, they’re going to try to make…create a story around what’s happening. And the story typically paints you as the hero and the other person as the villain. It’s usually not an entirely true story, so allow yourself to feel the feelings, observe what your brain is telling you, and then ask yourself.

One of my favorite things to do is to ask myself, “Okay, how do I know that’s true? Is that true? What if I’m wrong?” And just start to challenge yourself. And that’s going to bring down the threat response or what emotional intelligence experts call amygdala hijack, which is where, when you sense a threat, even if it’s just a threat to the harmony you experience with others in the workplace, we go into that stress response. The amygdala takes sort of precedence over the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for our rational thinking.

And so, most people know this as the fight or flight. So, of course, when you’re in fight or flight, there’s no opportunity to learn. Your brain is like, “Protect, protect, protect,” or, “Defend, defend, defend,” and so you have to figure out how to sort of bring that down. Challenging the story that you’re telling yourself, sometimes going and having food, or deciding, “I’m not going to think about this today. Like, I’ll give myself 15 minutes to think about how mad I am at my boss, or mad I am at my colleague, then I’m going to stop, and then I’ll say how I feel about it tomorrow.”

And I think that I can remember, thinking about being immune to criticism, I actually don’t know. I don’t know that book and I don’t know the author, but I don’t know if we want to be immune to it. I just think we want to be immune to the sort of shame or embarrassment that comes along with it, because we want to be able to hear criticism and learn from it.

Pete Mockaitis
Certainly, yeah. I think that’s a good way to put it. I think immune from the disease, symptoms, if you will, of that, is how I interpret it, as opposed to, “I am oblivious to all feedback always from here on out.” Okay.

Amy Gallo
That’s right. Exactly, “Don’t hear you. Thank you very much.” And I actually had this experience. I remember someone sent me a piece of criticism, actually ten pieces. I remember there’s a list of ten things sent via email.

Pete Mockaitis
“Amy, here’s all the things you’re doing wrong. I’ve done you the favor of consolidating them into a single document.”

Amy Gallo
Well, it’s actually even worse than it sounds because it was after I had done a very visible project. I was actually on video, this live video event, and it came into my inbox, I think, half an hour after the event ended, and it was like, “Great event. Here are ten things you should do differently next time.” And I was so mad, I was red in the face. I can remember, I was shaking, like as if I hadn’t eaten for a day.

I was like just feeling woozy from my emotional response, and I said, “Okay, just close it. I can’t process this in this mode, and so I’m just going to close it.” I went and had lunch. I cried. I’m pretty sure I cried, and then I came back to it, and I was like, “Huh, okay. Like, three of the ten are very valid. Another four probably have some truth to them, and then there’s three I don’t believe. And so, let me, with that frame of mind, actually react to what was said.” And you know what? It made the next one better. It really did.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. You’re bringing back memories of the time I…one my early days of speaking, I didn’t know what I was doing, I was like, “I want to be a speaker,” and follow your passion, right? And so, I did an all-school assembly, and it was my first one, and I learned the hard way that that’s a very different audience than the students at a leadership conference. It’s wildly different. And so, I just missed the mark, and the principal sent a note that was brutal. It’s like I heard nothing but negative things.

And so, I chatted over with a good mentor, Mawi, from Episode number 1. Great guy. Mawi Asgedom. And it was so, in that perspective, it’s perfect when he says, “Whenever you get feedback, it’s never completely true and it’s never completely false.

And I found that that’s been a really valuable perspective here on out is whenever you have feedback, some of it, just as you ran down with those ten points, some of it is dead-on, some of it is just bonkers, and some of it is, hmm, we have to dig in and investigate and see some nuance and context for how it applies.

Amy Gallo
Yeah. You know, it’s funny, I’m glad we’re talking about feedback because it is such a core part of interacting with people that we find difficult, which is that, oftentimes, they’re either giving us feedback, either verbally or in an email, like the two that we received, or it’s implicit, they’re not agreeing with the way we’re doing something, or we don’t agree with the way that they’re doing something. So, feedback is such a critical part of both how we deliver it and how we receive it, of navigating these tricky relationships.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, that’s great. Well, now, let’s dig into the eight archetypes. I bet, boy, we could talk forever, like, “Oh, I know someone like this.” But could you maybe give us the name of the archetype, a quick maybe sentence or two for “This is what that looks, sounds, feels like,” and then a quick sentence or two, “And if you’re seeing this, here’s what I recommend you do”?

Amy Gallo
Yeah, okay. So, let’s start with insecure manager, first one, insecure boss. This is someone, and my boss, actually, that I described earlier probably fit into this category, who isn’t entirely confident in their position, and, therefore, will micromanage, will maybe make it impossible for you to do your job by withholding information, or not letting you interact with people in another department, for example, someone who basically is defending their ego through their actions and behaviors.

So, one of the things to remember about the insecure manager is we all have some level of insecurity, it’s a normal thing. If you don’t, you’re in that nice tiny little group of people called psychopaths. So, we all have some self-doubt. What the research shows around insecure managers is that one of the things that works, and I don’t love giving this advice because it’s not fun to do, but is that you really have to help calm their ego.

And that may include giving them some genuine compliments, pointing out things that they do well, I imagine there’s something, because that helps to calm the ego and you help can form an alliance with them in terms of, “How do we actually do this work? How do we move forward? How do you get what you want?”

Okay, so then there’s the pessimist. I think that’s pretty clear that someone who’s just overly negative, shoots down ideas left and right. One of the things that you need to remember with the pessimist is, again, this is not necessarily malicious behavior. It often feels like they’re trying to take you down, and that’s possible. But, more often than not, it’s sort of a disposition, sort of how we view the world. There are people who just are what researchers call prevention-focused. They’re focused on preventing bad things from happening.

And one tip with them is to really make sure that they have a sense of agency, because pessimism isn’t necessarily bad if they’re pointing out important risks that we need to see. But what’s bad is if they feel like they can’t do anything about it. So, you might ask a question when they say, “Well, that will never work,” say, “Okay. Well, what would work?” or, “Okay, I hear you,” and you don’t want to polarize with a pessimist because they think optimists are idiots.

And so, if you’re like, “No, everything is good,” they’re like, “Oh,” they’re just rolling their eyes at you. So, you want to validate that their perspective is…you hear their perspective, and then ask them, “Okay. Well, what can we do to change that? Or, if you had all the resources in the world, what would you do?” Just sort of give them a sense of, “You have power in this situation.”

The victim is the third archetype, and that’s sort of a flavor of the pessimist. This is someone who also thinks things are going to go terribly wrong but they think they’re going to go wrong to them. They’re very focused on how they’re being mistreated. You have to watch out because sometimes people are, indeed, being mistreated, and are, indeed, a victim in the workplace. So, be careful in using this label, and any of these labels when you’re thinking about your colleague because you want to make sure you’re not blaming someone for a mistreatment that they’re on the receiving end of.

One of the main tactics with victim is similar to the pessimist which is to ask them to reframe. So, when they say, “I never get what I want.” Ask, “Well, what’s a time that you have gotten something you wanted?” because the chances are they may see these things as sweeping generalizations, the behavior or the treatment they feel like they’re receiving, but chances are, there’s a time in which they had the agency, had the ability to change something. You want to remind them that they have that in them, and that can really help.

Then there’s one of my favorites, the passive-aggressive peer, and this is someone who says one thing, does another. They don’t feel comfortable expressing their thoughts and feelings in a straightforward manner. This is the question I get asked all the time, “How do you deal with these people?” One of the things you can do is to really focus on the underlying message.

So, they may wrap their comment in a snarky message but they actually have an underlying thought or feeling. And if you can figure out what that is, either by asking some questions, or just by paying attention and focus on that, then you can sort of give them…you’re actually giving them permission to be a little bit more straightforward.

Passive-aggression is often motivated by fear of rejection, failure, an avoidance of conflict. So, if you can make it safe for them to actually say what they believe, then, hopefully, you can nudge them to be a little bit more direct, or, at least, you’re addressing the underlying business issue with them. Even if they’re going to continue to be passive-aggressive, you’ve gotten to the underlying message.

So the know-it-all is the one I identify most with because it’s the one I think I am more often than the others. Someone who confidently says what they believe sometimes without any data to back it up. And this also the mansplainer, the person who talks over you, maybe interrupts. And the know-it-all, I think one of the things that really works is asking for those facts and data.

So, if they’re saying, “This product will never succeed,” or, “Our customers don’t want that from us,” is just say, “Huh, that’s interesting. I don’t have the same understanding. What are you basing that on? What assumptions have you made? Here’s the data I’m working with. Can you share the data you’re working with?”

And what I like about that tactic is it can be confrontational. A lot of the tactics in the book are both subtle, and then there are some that are very subtle and some that are very direct. And this is one of the more direct ones because I think it also puts the know-it-all on notice, like, “We’re not just going to let you do this. We’re not just going to let you proclaim…” and while also engaging them in a conversation about the topic that they’re being a know-it-all about.

And then, sometimes, I think, also, you need a group of allies to help you combat that behavior, especially if it’s interrupting or if they’re targeting specific people. We often hear about, there’s lots of studies, actually, that show that men interrupt women more often than they interrupt other men, for example.

So, then forming a coalition with folks and who you work with to say, “Well, we’re going to call out that behavior when we see it.” And someone might say, “Amy didn’t finish her point. Can you please let her continue, and then we’d love to hear from you?” Something like that so that it’s not just on you to completely combat the know-it-all behavior.

Then you have the biased co-worker, and this is someone who commits microaggressions toward you, exhibits bias in their comments or behaviors. This is an incredibly difficult one to combat, although there’s lots and lots of books and articles and research about how best to handle this. And I will say that the one thing that I think works well with biased is assuming the person has done it unknowingly, which we know a lot of these microaggressions often people aren’t trying to exclude someone.

They aren’t trying to offend someone even if maybe they don’t care, or it may be that they just aren’t aware that what they’ve said is inappropriate or has the impact of being exclusive, or excluding rather, to the person who was on the receiving end, is to ask a question. When someone makes an inappropriate comment, to say, “What did you mean by that?” or even, “Oh, could you repeat that?” because sometimes even making them say it again helps them reflect on, “Oh, wait. How is this actually being heard?”

That’s not 100% successful tactic. And, in fact, none of the tactics, I would say, will be 100% successful all the time. But, oftentimes, that does encourage them to reflect on their own behavior and how it’s being received by others. And now we’ve got the tormentor, and that’s someone who you expect to be a mentor but then ends up trying to make your life miserable.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, clever. Tormentor.

Amy Gallo
Exactly. And I have to tell you, I didn’t know what to call this archetype for a while, even though I had heard tons of stories about this type of behavior. And I went to LinkedIn and asked someone in my network, Mike Gut, and I have to give him credit, he said, “That should be called the tormentor,” and it was perfect.

And that’s someone maybe who assigns you needless work, talks about all the sacrifices they’ve made, clearly think you should make the same kind of sacrifices. And research shows that we actually tend to have, this was very surprising research that we’ve published in Harvard Business Review, that when we see someone going through something difficult that we’ve been through ourselves, where we’re maybe working full time while raising kids or going through a divorce, we have less empathy for them.

And that’s because we either have a little bit of, well, I should say the researchers posit that it’s probably because we have a little bit amnesia about the situation, which is, “Oh, that’s in the past.” And, relatedly, we think, “Well, I got through it. What’s wrong with them? They can do it. Like, I knuckled my way through it. Why can’t they do that too?” And that really informs the tormentor’s behavior.

And, again, this is one that, oftentimes, and a lot of the people I talk to for the book who were working with a tormentor, chose to quit. And I don’t give that advice to leave your job lightly, but I think the tormentor can have a real impact on your psyche. If you’re interested in having a better relationship with them, and maybe you can’t leave your job, then you might think about how you can form an alliance with them.

Give them some sympathy for the sacrifices they went through. Giving someone empathy when they’re tormenting you is the last thing you want to do, but instead of seeing it as generous to them, see it as generous to yourself, which is that, “I’m trying…” this is a strategic move to try to transform the relationship.

The other thing is there’s really great research showing with abusive supervisors, which is what I put the tormentor, that’s the category I had put them in, is that if you can show that they need you, either you have a specific type of knowledge, or you play a critical role on the team. If you can make them aware that they will be dependent on you for something, you can switch the power dynamic a little bit, and that can really help to change the dynamic between you.

Pete Mockaitis
All right.

Amy Gallo
And then, lastly, we’ve got the political operator, and that is someone who…we all play office politics, but this is someone who plays that game really only to benefit themselves, and often at the detriment of others. So, they might take credit for your ideas, they, again, might be someone who interrupts. They’re constantly trying to sort of boost their visibility, their ego, often at the expense of others.

And one of my favorite tactics with these folks is to ask them for advice. It’s a bit of a strange tactic and sometimes can backfire, but to say to them, “You know, you’re really good at being visible or promoting yourself,” or you might even say playing office politics, “What could you teach me about doing that?” And what’s helpful about that tactic is it gets them to reflect on the way they do it, and no one, as far as I know, and when I’ve seen this tactic used, this has never happened. But as far as I know, no one is going to be like, “Oh, well, you have to step on others every moment.” They don’t give you the bad version.

Pete Mockaitis
“I’ve read this great book by Machiavelli, it’s called The Prince, it’s my operating manual. I think you’d love it.”

Amy Gallo
That’s right. They’d say, “Here’s a copy for you to follow as well.” Yeah, no, they don’t do that. Instead, they reflect on, “Hmm, okay. What do I do that’s positive?” And, again, it’s sort of a subtle way to show, “I’m paying attention to the way you’re behaving. You’re about to tell me the good way to do this. Let’s hope you continue to do that.”

The other thing about asking anyone advice, what several studies have shown, is that when you ask someone for advice and they give it to you, they’re much more invested in your success partly because of their own ego because they’re like, “I want to see my advice actually work.” And so, with any of the archetypes, any type of difficult person, sometimes asking for their advice gets them to be a little bit more invested in you and takes down the animosity a bit.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s beautiful. Well, Amy, this is a lovely rundown. Well, not so lovely to live it but very useful rundown.

Amy Gallo
A menu of monsters at work. Here you go.

Pete Mockaitis
Can you tell me, is there anything else you want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Amy Gallo
Sure. So, the one other thing I want to mention, there is a chapter in the book that’s principles to get along with anyone. Meaning, if someone fits into all the archetypes, I hope that’s not the case, or maybe defies categorization altogether. And one of the principles is one that I return to over and over myself, and I’ve seen really worked with my coaching clients and with the people I consult with, which is to treat any of this, the tactics I’ve just shared, for example, or any of the other tactics in the book, treat it as an experiment.

You’re not going to have ten steps to reforming a passive-aggressive peer. It’s never that simple and distrust anyone who tells you they’ve got the failsafe solution. Instead, choose the tactics you want to try out, try them out for a short period of time, two weeks, three weeks, take notes, see what works. Okay, tweak and try again.

You have to have that sort of scientist mindset both to sort of keep your spirits up while you’re doing this because it’s hard work but also just to figure out what will work for you and your unique situation because it’s always this is a big “It depends” kind of advice area. The advice that’s going to work for one person dealing with a know-it-all is not going to work with someone else dealing with a know-it-all.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, now, could you share with us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Amy Gallo
So, F. Scott Fitzgerald, this is a quote I’ve always found really interesting, and he says, “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time, and still keep the ability to function.” And I think what I really like about that is that it is hard to hold conflicting thoughts in your head, especially when you’re navigating difficult relationships because, at the same time, you’re like, “I want to be done with this person. I have no interest.” You might even think, “I hate them.”

And, at the same time, you need to remember, “Well, okay, wait. In order to do well at my job, or in order to survive this week, I need to get along with them.” And so, you’re going to need to hold conflicting thoughts in your head in order to actually survive and thrive in these relationships.

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

Amy Gallo
So, one of my favorite researchers is Julia Minson, who’s at Harvard Kennedy School, and she actually does a lot of work around conflict and difficult conversations with another professor at Harvard Business School named Francesca Gino. And they found, this is actually one of my favorites, they found that more than three quarters of people who were about to go into a debate with someone about a controversial issue, so just in a conversation, not a formal debate, but were going to have a conversation with someone about some contentious concept or idea.

Three quarters of those people predicted that they would win the conversation, which, of course, is mathematically impossible, which just shows you sort of the arrogance and confidence we go into these conversations where we really believe that our view will prevail. And I think it’s important to remember that’s really not the case. You’re going to…

Pete Mockaitis
Well, it’s funny, inand my brain goes to…I’m perhaps a collaborator, to a fault, “Now, let’s think win-win if we’re going to have a creative solution in which we can, as best as possible, meet as many of our respective needs as one can do by enlarging the pie and whatever.”

So, in a way, I don’t even think about so much as winning and losing. It’s like, “We’re going to go in there and we’re going to do our darndest, and I’m hoping I walk away with this really important deal point, or whatever, and we’ll see what we can do.”

Amy Gallo
Yeah, that is the right mindset.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, cool. Thank you.

Amy Gallo
Yeah, absolutely. Well done. Great. Because if you see it as win-lose, like if you go in with the goal of proving that you’re right and the other person is wrong, you have nowhere to go in that debate. Because if the other person shows up the same way, like, what are you going to learn? Where are you going to get to? It’s a simple concept sort of but you don’t want to treat these relationships or these conversations as win-lose. And it’s doesn’t have to necessarily be win-win, but I’d rather go in with, like, “Well, what can I learn?” Curiosity, “What’s going to happen at the end of this?”

Julia and Francesca also did this other study about conversational receptiveness, which I think you actually probably would rate very high on, and it’s the use of language to communicate one’s willingness to thoughtfully engage with opposing views. They studied this quite a bit. And one of the things I really like is that they actually have found in their research that women tend to naturally exhibit conversational receptiveness.

And the reason I like it is because, I’m a co-host of the podcast Women at Work, I look a lot at gender research, and most of it is very depressing and very negative on the experience of what the penalties we incur at work, the behavior we’re allowed to exhibit, but I love that this research shows that we’re just naturally better at this. And their conclusion is if you want to improve the way people at work interact, you don’t put women in charge of some of these difficult conversations. And if you want to train people to be better at conversational receptiveness, focus on men.

So, anyway, that’s one of my other favorite findings.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite book?

Amy Gallo
I’m a big fiction reader, and I have lots of favorite books over the year. But one of the ones I read recently was a collection of short stories by a woman named Danielle Evans, and it’s called The Office of Historical Corrections. And what I like about it, as someone who thinks about conflict and relationships all the time, is that every story, ultimately, and most stories have a point of conflict, but these really are about conflict over interpersonal issues but also how political issues play into those personal issues.

And I really read it with that lens of, “How do relationships fall apart?” and then “How do they come back together?” or, “How do they not come together because people can’t actually repair them?”

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

Amy Gallo
My Notes app on my phone. I used to have, like, a photographic memory when I was a kid.

Pete Mockaitis
No kidding.

Amy Gallo
Yeah, my Spanish teacher in high school, when we did vocab test for extra credit, I would write the page number that the vocab word was on because that’s how I remember that, and I would picture the page. My memory now is so terrible. I think it’s age, stress, there’s just too much that’s happened in my brain for it to recall those sorts of details.

So, my Notes app has become my memory. And it’s funny, I actually like it because it helps me capture ideas. I actually, sometimes, write the beginning of articles in there because I have a phone with me all the time, but it’s also just funny to look through. Like, I have over, I think, 1500 notes at this point. And sometimes it’s just like a random word, I’m like, “I don’t know what this means.” And so, it’s also entertaining to just go through and look at. So, it’s productive and entertaining.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And is there a particular nugget you share, something that really connects and resonates with folks, and they quote back to you often?

Amy Gallo
Yeah, I did a TEDx Talk, and at the end I shared this mantra about conflict. And it’s the thing when someone will say, “Oh, I saw your TED Talk,” and they’ll repeat it back to me, and it’s, “Sometimes people are going to be mad at you, and that’s okay.” And just sort of accepting that rupture in relationship is not only normal but sometimes it’s helpful. It helps you either repair that relationship and make it stronger, or you can learn something about yourself in that in those disagreements.

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

Amy Gallo
They should go to my website which is AmyEGallo.com. I actually have a monthly newsletter I send out with advice about relationships at work, conflict, communication. You can sign up for my newsletter there. And also, you can find my book Getting Along and my previous book as well, which is the HBR Guide to Dealing with Conflict.

And if people are interested in gender, women at work, I also co-host that podcast I mentioned, Women at Work, which is put out by Harvard Business Review which you can find wherever you listen to podcasts.

Pete Mockaitis

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

Amy Gallo
Yes. Remember that your relationships matter, and don’t shortchange them. And I mean that not just about repairing the relationships that are causing you grief, strife, but also be appreciative of the relationships that fill your cup. I think sometimes we take those relationships more for granted. Thank your friends at work. Send them a thank you note. Send them an email or a fax message, just saying that, “You know what, I’m so glad for our connection.”

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. Amy, this has been a treat. I wish you much luck and much getting along with different folks at work.

Amy Gallo
Thank you, Pete. Thanks for having me.

798: How to Have Difficult Conversations about Race with Kwame Christian

By | Podcasts | No Comments

 

 

Kwame Christian lays out his three-step framework for masterfully handling difficult conversations around race and other sensitive issues at work.

You’ll Learn:

  1. Why we struggle when discussing race 
  2. How discussing race enriches workplaces
  3. A powerful three-step framework for any difficult conversation 

About Kwame

Kwame Christian is a best-selling author, business lawyer and CEO of the American Negotiation Institute (ANI). Following the viral success of his TedxDayton talk, Kwame released his best-seller Finding Confidence in Conflict: How to Negotiate Anything and Live Your Best Life in 2018. He’s also a regular Contributor for Forbes and the host of the number one negotiation podcast in the world, Negotiate Anything – which currently has over 5 million downloads worldwide. Under Kwame’s leadership, ANI has coached and trained several Fortune 500 companies on applying the fundamentals of negotiation to corporate success. 

Kwame was the recipient of the John Glenn College of Public Affairs Young Alumni Achievement Award in 2020 and the Moritz College of Law Outstanding Recent Alumnus Award 2021. He is the only person in the history of The Ohio State University to win alumni awards in consecutive years from the law school and the masters of public affairs program. That said, Kwame’s proudest achievement is his family. He’s married to Dr. Whitney Christian, and they have two lovely sons, Kai and Dominic.

Resources Mentioned

Kwame Christian Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Kwame, welcome back to How to be Awesome at Your Job.

Kwame Christian
Hey, Pete, thanks for having me.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m excited to be chatting with you here in this forum, although we go way back with Podcast Movement and mastermind grouping, some hijinx. So, I normally ask guests for a fun fact about them, but I want to ask you for a fun fact about us.

Kwame Christian
Yes. Everybody, I’m going to share some dirty laundry on Pete Mockaitis. So, I remember back at Podcast Movement which is the greatest podcasting conference, or perhaps the greatest conference in the world, we roomed together and, for me, Pete is like my big brother in podcasting, and so I realized that there are a lot of things that we do similarly and I realized something really interesting when we’re together.

When it comes to making decisions, Pete will put more research into that decision than I would ever contemplate in doing. So, whenever I need to make a decision or I need to buy something, first, I’ll go and see if Pete has bought that thing or made that decision, and then I just do whatever he did. That’s my decision-making process because he will research things to a point that I would never consider researching, and I said, “You know what, if it’s good enough for Pete Mockaitis, it’s good enough for Kwame Christian.”

Pete Mockaitis
Well, yeah, I’m honored by that. It’s funny, as we’re talking, I believe we’re using the same chair and same microphone right now.

Kwame Christian
Yup, exactly.

Pete Mockaitis
So, I’m flattered and honored, and I do over-research things and I think you might even call it a hobby at this point. It’s just fun for me as opposed to stressful. So, all right. Well, you’ve done a boatload of research. How’s that for segue? You did a boatload of research in your book How to Have Difficult Conversations About Race: Practical Tools for Necessary Change in the Workplace and Beyond.

And, boy, you’ve been having some really powerful conversations that have been getting a lot of traction here on LinkedIn and elsewhere. So, could you tell us, as you’ve lived this experience recently, engaging more folks about this stuff, any interesting themes or discoveries or surprises been popping up for you?

Kwame Christian
Yeah, Pete, I think that’s one of the most interesting things because, as you know, I do the negotiation and conflict resolution type of work with the American Negotiation Institute, and for me this is just an offshoot of that because we need to understand each other in order to connect on a deeper level. And when I think about difficult conversations about race and other sensitive topics, these are some of the most difficult conversations and negotiations out there. So, I want to create that resource.

And so, one of the things that’s so fascinating to me about this is that people all around the country and all around the world are struggling with this conversation for different reasons that have very core similarities. So, for example, in different countries, you’ll have different race-related issues, but at the core, we have two things that come to mind which trigger high levels of emotionality.

So, first, we have issues of identity, who I am as a person, and what somebody like me is supposed to do in this situation or what I perceive is supposed to do in this situation. And then the other one is morality, what it means to be a good or bad person, what is the right or wrong thing to do. And whenever we have conversations that touch on those two issues, that’s what triggers deeper levels of emotionality.

So, no matter where you are in the world, these conversations come up and they are typified by high levels of emotionality. And so, for me, as a former mediator and a lawyer and somebody who has a background in civil rights, it was really fascinating to take those negotiation and conflict resolution skills that are really familiar to me and bring it to this new space so we can have conversations on the sensitive topic that are constructive not destructive.

Pete Mockaitis
And those are two powerful principles right there – identity and morality. When you start to venture into that territory, yeah, it’s getting really personal. Identity is like who I am, and morality, “Am I good and behaving well and properly? Or am I doing evil?” It doesn’t get much more potentially heated than that when you’ve got those dynamics in play.

Kwame Christian
Absolutely. And, Pete, when you think about it, we all want to feel included, we all want to feel as though we belong. And whenever conversations like this go awry, you feel excluded for a core reason. Like, I can’t change my race, and so the rejection feels a lot more personal. And then I look at the document that you sent and I understand the demographics of your audience, and I was really glad to see that none of the people in your audience are people who get up in the morning, and say, “I’m excited to be evil today.”

Pete Mockaitis
We didn’t ask that question in the survey but maybe for the next one, just to be sure.

Kwame Christian
Listen, that was something that was coming through the data, and so I saw that. And so, that’s the thing, when we have these conversations, that issue of morality is triggered because you want to immediately defend yourself, “I am a good person.” And then that level of defensiveness comes up and it just leads to even more emotionality. So, that helps us to understand why these conversations are just so tough.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, so your book is called How to Have Difficult Conversations About Race and so we’re going to dig into some of the how. But, first, I want to talk a little bit about the why because some folks might just put this category into the no-no zone right next to, “Hey, I don’t talk, especially at work, about money or sex or religion or politics. Let’s just go ahead and put race in there, too, because it feels too risky.”

So, can you comment a little bit on why to have those conversations and maybe when and where, sort of like the contextual landscape that makes this a great idea in time versus a, “Ooh, maybe a slightly different context would be a better time”?

Kwame Christian
Yeah, great question. And so, here’s the thing, you’d love this. I’ll give you a bit of a behind-the-scenes negotiation with my publisher.

Pete Mockaitis
All right.

Kwame Christian
In chapter one, I talk about why we should have these conversations. And chapter one was the only chapter in the book that I did not want to write. That was a specific request from my publisher. So, for me, as a practitioner, I wanted to essentially write the book like this, “Hi, I’m Kwame. Here are some tools and tactics and strategies,” and jump straight into it.

I want to go to where I feel comfortable but my publishers are saying, “Listen, we’re missing an important element. We need to discuss why it’s so important to have these conversations.” And, for me, and I think rooted in my own perception, it seemed obvious to me why we should have these conversations, but even though it seemed obvious, it was hard for me to articulate. And so, it took me a really long time to even begin writing that chapter, Pete, because I didn’t know what the answer was. I didn’t know what the words were. I had a feeling but I didn’t know how to articulate it.

And then I figured it out. It comes down to just one word, and it is the word care. We have these conversations because we care. We care about our colleagues. We care about society. We care about progress. We care about inclusion. We care about respect. That’s why we have these difficult conversations about race because we care at a deep level.

And now, when it comes to when we have these conversations, I’ll answer it in an unsatisfying way initially, like a typical lawyer – it depends. We need to have these conversations when it’s appropriate, when it’s a salient issue. And so, when I think about my legal background, one of the things that is critical for young lawyers to learn is how to issue-spot. What are the issues that are relevant in our problem-solving endeavor? And so, we need to figure out what’s relevant and what is irrelevant. So, let’s use something that’s a little bit more understood or appreciated or respected within the workplace.

So, within a workplace where we’re running a business, we understand that money is an issue. We have budgets, we have payroll, those types of things. And so, as people in the business world are making decisions, money is going to be an issue. It’s not always going to be an issue but it’s often going to be an issue, and sometimes it’s not the whole issue but it’s a partial issue. And sometimes, when it comes to race, race is often not the whole issue but race is a part of the issue.

Kwame Christian
And just like money, sometimes race is going to be an issue. It might not always be the whole issue, the conversation might not be completely about race, but it might be partially about race. And then, Pete, there are going to be some times where to one party in the conversation, race is an issue, and to another party in the conversation, race is not an issue. And then this becomes a difficult conversation about race because we have to talk about race in order to determine whether or not it is a relevant issue in this conversation.

And so, I think one of the things that happens in the business world is that race becomes a factor and people don’t see it coming, and it becomes a surprise. And if we’re not looking for it, we might not find it. And because of our lived experiences, we might not look for it, but somebody who’s a person of color, where that is a very salient part of their identity, it might be easier for them to see it because they are more primed to see it.

But, regardless, I think it’s important to have those conversations in order to make sure that everybody feels respected, and in order to make sure that we’re addressing the issues within the workplace to make sure that people feel respected and feel they are included and, again, just to solve problems and move the company forward.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. So, people feel respected, included – that’s huge. And I’m thinking about research associated with psychological safety and creativity and innovation, and so it’s not all about money. But, while we’re talking about the why, can you share with us some of the research or numbers or connection there is associated with organizations that are able to handle these sorts of conversations and diversity, equity, inclusion stuff well, and results, be they financially or retention or whatever numbers we got?

Kwame Christian
Absolutely. So, McKinsey did a study, I believe, in 2019, where they showed that companies that have greater levels of diversity are able to produce more revenue as it relates to research and development. And there are a number of studies that talk about how companies that foster strong levels of inclusion and belonging have higher retention rates for people of color and other diverse classes of citizens too.

And I think one element that’s often missing in those studies is the fact that this only works if there’s a high level of cultural intelligence associated with the company. And so, think about this, if you have a really diverse organization, and then the people in the organization aren’t trained on how to connect with each other, they don’t understand each other, then you’re going to have retention issues and you’re going to have poor performance. You might as well have a monolithic organization at that point because it would actually be more effective if we don’t invest in, like, the skills that are required to avail ourselves to the true benefits of diversity.

And I think that’s where a lot of organizations fail because they say, “All right. Hey, we have diversity issues, and I see the studies. Diversity is good. Cool. Let me put some brown people in my company,” and then they think that’s going to solve the problem. But if we still have challenges with the culture and inclusion and belonging, it’s going to be a struggle.

Pete Mockaitis
I had a podcast guest who mentioned that it seems like some organizations, his words, felt like they were going for the clipart in terms of they want the stock photos to look awesome but he sort of shocked them when he said, “Okay, you guys have the clipart in terms of everybody being represented but there’s actually not a lick of diversity in this room because every time we came up to an issue where we had a difference of opinion, you said, ‘Oh, let’s table it. Let’s take it offline. Let’s cover that later,’ and we’re never actually able to engage and hear these great diverse perspectives that you’ve all got to hear them hashed out, and then be able to mine the goodness that can come from it.”

Kwame Christian
Exactly. Exactly. And that’s when it becomes performative too, so we have to really embrace these conversations, and not just embrace the conversations, but embrace the diverse perspectives. And I think, again, this is clearly very well related to race and gender, ethnicity, those types of things, but I think, in general, in the business world too, we have to do a better job of managing these difficult conversations because if we don’t, then we’re not able to truly connect and learn from each other and make better decisions, too.

And, for me, as a lawyer and negotiation expert, like I said, I look at everything through the lens of negotiation. And I define a negotiation as any time you’re having a conversation, and somebody in the conversation wants something. And so, that’s why I think it’s really helpful to look at these conversations through that lens because if we do, now we can really elevate the dialogue.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Well, so I think we’ve built out the why. Let’s do it. Let’s talk about the how. Can you give us a feel for your overall approach or framework?

Kwame Christian
Absolutely. And do you hear the excitement, Pete? Now, we’re getting to where I love to be. And so, when I think about difficult conversations, in general, this is the overarching type of approach. With the American Negotiation Institute, we focus on Defuse, connect, persuade. Defuse, connect, persuade. So, first, in any conversation, there’s probably going to be an emotional element so we need to defuse that emotional challenge so we can have a more productive conversation.

Then we need to invest some time in connecting with the other person, building trust, building rapport, empathizing, those types of things. And then, last step is persuading. And if you handled the first two steps, diffusing the emotionality and connecting with the other person, sometimes persuasion happens organically by the increased level of mutual understanding, but sometimes it doesn’t. But even if it doesn’t, we make persuasion last because we want to avoid unnecessary barriers to success in these conversations. So, I think it’s important to sequence things effectively.

And when it comes to the actual process of how to defuse these conversations, we have the compassionate curiosity framework. And so, it is a three-step framework that’s designed to make your difficult conversations a little bit easier, and it’s all about emotional intelligence, managing those emotions and creating that connection.

So, step number one is, acknowledge and validate emotions. Step number two is get curious with compassion. And step number three is joint problem-solving. And it’s a flexible framework that allows you to know what to say and when to say it for maximum impact because sometimes emotions might not be an issue. Okay, then we’re going to go to number two, getting curious with compassion. I’m going to ask open-ended questions with a compassionate tone.

Then, after I gather that information, I transition to joint problem-solving. But then, during joint problem-solving, the other person might have an emotional response. Okay, I know exactly what to do. I’m going to acknowledge and validate the emotions. So, it’s a flexible approach to help you know what to do and what to say at what time.

Pete Mockaitis
And so, you said validate emotions, I love that stuff. I’m thinking about Michael Sorensen we had on the podcast. I Hear You: The Surprisingly Simple Skill Behind Extraordinary Relationships is his book, and I love it, and my wife is glad I read it. Can you tell us what validating emotions sounds like in practice?

Kwame Christian
Yes. Oh, and I’m glad you said sounds like. So, I like to keep it simple, Pete. I’m a simple man. I don’t want to overcomplicate things here because the reality is that during these difficult conversations, we’re probably going to be emotional too. And so, if I give you a 13-step program to apply during this conversation, you’re not going to be able to use it because you’re under emotional distress.

So, again, what I want to do is I’ll say, “It sounds like…” “It seems like…” or if it’s a really obvious emotional response, “I can tell that…” So, “It sounds like this was a really hurtful situation for you,” or, “It seems like this had a significant impact on you,” or, “I can tell that you really care about this,” and so I’m going to label that emotion and it’s going to help them to calm down, they’ll decompress, they’ll share.

And it’s important to understand that, at this point, when somebody’s emoting in some kind of way, this is not the time for us to try to force our beliefs on them. This is not the time to let them know that you’re right and they’re wrong because we have to understand that there’s a difference between facts and feelings, but in the moment, it might feel the same to the person.

And so, if we start contending with the facts at this time, their emotionality won’t allow them to fully appreciate what you’re trying to say.

So, in these conversations, sometimes we have to make a strategic choice between being right and being persuasive, the difference between being right and being persuasive.

So, they might be factually incorrect, and I might want to correct them because I have the appropriate fact for that situation, but that might not be the most persuasive choice to make in that conversation. And so, sticking to that framework helps us to be a little bit more disciplined during the conversation and steer the conversation in a more productive direction.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. So, when we label an emotion, I think this was a hang-up for me but I don’t think it actually matters. We don’t actually have to name the emotion perfectly in order for people to appreciate the attempted validation, I’ve learned. So, I’m just going to be a little whacky, like, “Well, it sounds like you were really enraged.” Like, “No, I mean, I was just kind of frustrated.” Even if you’re sort of way off, like enraged is much more intense than frustrated, people still seem to appreciate the attempt to understand where they’re coming from emotionally.

Kwame Christian
Absolutely. And that’s the thing, Pete, because people don’t like being mislabeled, and so they will correct you, thus labeling themselves. So, I’ll give a couple of examples, I’ll give a pretty benign example and then I’ll give a more dramatic example. So, I remember one time, I was in a negotiation when I was practicing law, and the person was really frustrated, it was two CEOs whose relationship devolved into sending aggressive emails to each other. It was really bad.

And so, I heard the person’s complaint, and I said, “Well, hey, correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems like you were pretty offended by what was in the email.” And he stopped and he looked up, and he’s like, “Nah, I wasn’t offended but I was more taken aback.” “Oh, okay, I wasn’t going to shoot my shot at taken aback. Never would’ve thought that one.” But he started to calm down once he labeled it himself and he started to explain.

And then there was another time, I like to use frustrated because it’s a safe guess. And I remember in a mediation one time, there was a woman who was very stoic. It was a really tough situation for her. Everybody knew it wasn’t her fault but she was still stuck with the legal liability, so it was just a really tough situation but she wasn’t giving me the information I needed to try to solve her problems.

And so, I said, “You know what, this is probably an emotional response. She’s stonewalling me. Let me try to break down those barriers by acknowledging and validating the emotion.” So, I said, “Hey, correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems like this situation was pretty frustrating for you.” And then she got quiet, and then she glared at me, and she said, “Oh, no, no, Kwame, I am not frustrated. I’m angry. And I’m angry for this reason, for that reason, and this reason.”

And I said, “Listen, I apologize. It makes sense that you’re angry. Can you tell me a bit more about what’s making you angry?” And then she went on, she decompressed, she gave me a lot more information, and I was able to use that information productively for the rest of the conversation.

And I think one of the things that’s really challenging about this is that when you’re in the face of high-level emotions, like very volatile or strong emotions, it’s scary, and we think we’re doing something wrong and we want to step back, but, really, what we have to do is we have to have the confidence in our skills and confidence in the framework to sit in that emotionality and trust that we have the skills to navigate through it.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Cool. So, we talked about defuse and compassionate curiosity. Can we hear about connect?

Kwame Christian
Yeah. And so, this is all about creating connection with the other side. We want to try to create a trusting connection. And one of the things that we need to understand is, “What are those things that destroy connection?” And so, one of the things I talk about in the book is the shame-based strategies. And so, when you think about Brene Brown and vulnerability, she has a lock on the vulnerability market. I have no intention of trying to encroach on her territory, Pete.

But one of the things that she talks about is shame and the impact of shame. It causes people to pull away. They recoil from the interaction. They say, “Listen, I try to be vulnerable and I was attacked. I don’t feel safe. I’m not going to engage.” And, remember, this is a free country. You don’t have to speak if you don’t want to but I can’t have a difficult conversation or a conversation of any sort if the other person is unwilling to engage.

And so, one of the things that we do that breaks connection is use shame-based strategy that vilify people for their beliefs or what they think. And so, my response always has to be using this framework, being curious to get a better understanding of where they’re coming from. And so, one of the things I like to do is try to not vilify other people if we disagree, but use it as an opportunity. I always say conflict is an opportunity. So, what’s the opportunity? We can learn from each other.

So, if somebody says something that I disagree with, or they believe something that I disagree with, I’ll say, “Oh, that’s really interesting. Now, I’m curious. I want to learn more.” And so, I want to give them the space to share, and then after they’ve shared, they’re more likely to reciprocate, and then that gives me an opportunity to share my knowledge with them or my perspective with them.

And so, I think connection really comes from that empathy, being willing to take the time to understand how the other person is seeing the situation, understanding how they feel about the situation, and understanding how they think about the situation, and not judging them for those beliefs.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And, tell me, are there any nonverbal indicators that we might be judging, that we should watch out for, or check ourselves out on the video camera?

Kwame Christian
Yes, eyerolls are not helpful, Pete. Keep your eyes locked in. No, I think, really, it is very important to realize those nonverbals, and I think it’s just a good exercise to pay attention to how your body responds under certain circumstances.

And so, we all have our little tells that we have from time to time. And when the conversation gets tough for me, one of the things that I like to do to kind of get a little bit more control of my responses so those tells don’t come through is take some notes. It’s one of the easiest things you can do.

Your vision is now fixed. Your hands are now focused. It controls a little bit more of your body. So, whenever I start to feel a response that might indicate some negative emotionality toward the person. I’d use that as an opportunity to take a few notes and it doesn’t come off as negative. So, that’s a really great question. Paying attention to those nonverbals, your own, that’s really important.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Now, let’s talk about persuade.

Kwame Christian
Yes. And so, this is where everybody wants to jump to. They want to start the conversation at persuade, and that is often problematic because, again, we are inviting resistance because the way that I see it, Pete, I feel like we have to earn the right to be able to disagree, and here’s what I mean. A lot of times early in the conversation, we are so quick to tell somebody that they’re wrong but it’s inappropriate because we don’t even have a full understanding of where they’re coming from.

Now, they might be wrong, they might be very wrong but I want to make sure that I have a holistic understanding of where they’re coming from before I try to change their perspective. And people are going to be resistant to your attempts to change their perspective if they don’t believe that you have a full understanding of their perspective because they’re going to say to themselves, “How can you say I’m wrong? You don’t even know what I believe. You haven’t heard me.”

And so, it’s important to sequence it this way and have persuasion as the last step. And I talk about the parable of the blind man and the elephant in the book, and it goes like this. There’s an elephant in the room – ha, ha, elephant in the room – and they have five blind men, and they say, “Hey, I want you to feel this elephant, and I want you to describe the elephant.”

And so, one man touches the tusk, and says, “An elephant is like a spear.” Another man touches the leg, and says, “The elephant must be like a big strong column.” Another person touches the elephant’s ear, and says, “The elephant is like a thin fan,” and then they start to argue who’s right, who’s wrong. Well, they’re all right and all wrong at the same time. And a lot of times when we have disagreements, it’s not necessarily that somebody is completely right or completely wrong. It’s that we’re looking at very different parts of the elephant.

And so, I think one of the best ways and most subtle ways to persuade is to help people to see the rest of the elephant. I want to take time to give them the space to describe what it is that they’re feeling, “What is it that they feel? What is it that they think? What do they believe? And where does that come from?” and be genuinely curious about that, not judgmental. And then I want to say, “Okay, now I can understand where you’re coming from. Let me share what I’m seeing. Let me share the piece of the elephant that I’m seeing that you might not see,” and then I share.

And so, we’re really helping each other learn and grow through the interaction. And a lot of times, that might be enough to persuade but, regardless, I think that’s an important first step.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Thank you. Well, let’s jump into some particulars when it comes to race. As I’ve listened to your stuff, a few things I found super useful, and one of them is you discussed that there are actually two totally different operational definitions or camps or schools of thought when it comes to the very definition of the word racism or racist, and it makes all the difference in terms of understanding where people are coming from. Can you unpack that for us?

Kwame Christian
Yeah. And, again, definitions are so important. I have a whole section in the book called semantic arguments, how people will get stuck on different terms and what they mean. And so, it’s not so much what the dictionary says a term means. It’s more so what the person understands it to mean in that particular interaction.

And one thing that I’ve realized is that the term racism is something that’s thrown around a lot, and a lot of times it’s accurate. And when I think about these conversations, I want to approach these conversations in the most persuasive way possible, and I want to always focus on my goal. What is the goal that I want to achieve and how best should I go about trying to achieve that?

And so, one of the things that we’re going to run into a lot of times in these difficult conversations about race is that people are going to be very defensive if they feel as though they’re being accused of something so terrible as racism because sometimes people say racism is acting with malicious intent. And sometimes, other people say racism is anything that leads to a negative impact that hurts people of color more so than whites, something like that, right?

And, really, what definition matters the most, the definition that the person is using in their mind in the conversation. And so, for me, I very rarely come to the point in a conversation where I accuse the person in front of me or the situation as being racist because I know what’s going to come next, Pete. I know exactly what’s going to come next, “No, I’m not racist,” “No, they’re not racist,” “No, this is not racist.” Now we’re having a semantic argument about what racist, what it means to be racist. I find that to be, a lot of times, unproductive in this conversation.

We might not agree that what it means to be racist, but if I stay very objective on the facts, we might be able to agree on the fact that the behavior, though well-intentioned, had a negative impact to a specific race or group. People could say, “Yes, I do agree with that,” and now we can move forward with solving the problem.

And so, I think just having a very specific and targeted approach with our language can help us to avoid a lot of these unproductive conversations where we get stuck, where somebody is being accused or feeling as though they’re being accused, and then the other person trying to accuse.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s so powerful because I think folks can just wildly misunderstand each other right there in terms of if folks say, “The SAT is racist.” If you have a different version of what that word means, you’re like, “Like, that sounds insane. What are you…? A standardized test is not a human being with emotions. What are you even saying?” So, that just will not connect.

And if you’re operating from the other sort of definition, in which malicious intent is not all necessary, to call someone racist is, in a way, not that severe – tell me if this feels accurate to you – not that severe of a charge in terms of it’s like, “Are you a sinner? Are you a person who makes mistakes? Yes, and yes?” It’s like, “Do you have somewhere in your brain a series of associations that lead you to have a touch of a bias on certain issues about certain groups?” I imagine that we all do even if they’re innocuous, like, “Lithuanian love their ice cubes.”

I’m Lithuanian. My buddy, Connor, always quotes that “Malcolm in the Middle” although I actually do have a portable ice cube machine that I got here for the office because my refrigerator is…it’s not that important but…So, would that be fair to say that if we’re using the broader definition of racist, then everybody is one? Is that fair?

Kwame Christian
One hundred percent. And so, I’ll refer to one of the most popular books out there in the field, and it’s How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram Kendi. And one of the things that he talks about is his definition of racist is pretty ubiquitous. And he says, like, “There was a time where I was racist and there are times where I act in a racist way.” He owns it, and he says and he defines racist as, like I said before, anything that could have a potential negative racist impact.

And I know listeners who are big fans of Kendi, they will say, “That is not precisely what he said,” and I am not citing him precisely. So, I want to be very, very clear on that. But I think the core of what he says is that the term racist for him is merely descriptive. I know I have that part right. He says it’s merely descriptive. It’s not a value judgment. It is just a simple observation.

And now let’s accept that as true. That doesn’t mean that it will not have a predictable emotional response in the minds of the other person, and that’s one of the things that we have to recognize. Emotions don’t play by our rules. And so, whether or not we believe that somebody is entitled to feel the way that they feel, does not change the way that they feel the way that they feel.

And the way that they feel will have an impact on the conversations that we’d try to have with them, so we have to wrestle with the reality of their emotional response. And, for me, as a negotiation expert, as a strategist, I want to be very intentional about the way I navigate through these conversations to avoid that rejection, that reflexive rejection that comes with these types of accusations because there are very few people in the world who would say, “You know what, you called me racist, you’re right. I’m racist,” because that will come with significant social consequences in today’s society.

Pete Mockaitis
Certainly. Although, if we clearly precisely defined the terms, I can imagine a group of heads nodding in a seminar, like, “Okay, yeah, fair enough. I guess, in a way, we are all somewhat, in some regards, racist. Okay.” So, in a way, it defangs it.

Pete Mockaitis
Before you till all that mental soil, such that everyone is ready to understand what we mean by those specific definitions, then, yeah, you’re going to get a strong response to that. I also loved what you had to say, is that sometimes that we should avoid unnecessary barriers, and sometimes semantics do just that.

So, if you use the term white allergies, white fragility, white privilege, systemic racism, there is a subset of the population that will hear those and just, like, shut down or they won’t take kindly to those terms because they have some association and baggage associated with it. Yet, when you explain, what you really mean by those things, they’d say, “Okay, yeah, I understand. That’s a thing that happens. Sure.”

Kwame Christian
Absolutely. And, Pete, in the book, I break that down to I have actual sample conversations. So, we actually talk about the tools or the tactics or the strategies, and then we have sample conversations. And we have sample conversations on each of those terms that you just addressed. And let me tell you a story.

So, I was in Brazil earlier this year, and I started texting some of my Brazilian friends, and I started to get some weird texts because a lot of them kept on sending me the text that said, “KKK.” I said, “Why are you sending me that because, to me, growing up in America, KKK means the Ku Klux Klan, which is one of the most horrendous terrorist organizations in American history, race related? Very racist.” But people kept on sending it to me, so I started Googling what is happening here. And so, for them, KKK is the equivalent of LOL, so it’s the laughing sound, like “KKK.”

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, I get it. “K, K, K.”

Kwame Christian
Yeah, exactly. So, when they’re laughing, they say, “KKK.” Now, I understand that. I definitely understand that but that does not change the fact that it will, essentially, always have a little bit of an abrasive response for me because that is not how I’ve known the word. For the last over three decades, it has been associated with something very bad. I can’t just instantly say, “Oh, now this is playful laughing.”

Pete Mockaitis
Now it’s just humorous.

Kwame Christian
Yeah, I can’t do that. Same thing with these words. There’s always going to be some baggage associated with these words, so that’s why it’s important for me to recognize whether or not there is resistance associated with specific terms. And if there’s specific terms where there’s resistance, then I’m going to use the definition rather than the term.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, the way I was trying to remember this tip from you, I’m making mnemonics for myself of other people’s material. It’s like, “Oh, so, if semantics are creating an unnecessary barrier, S, U, B, I can substitute it with a definition.” That’s how I remembered your tip.

Kwame Christian
Wow, second edition.

Pete Mockaitis
I’m going to use that but your stuff is probably way better than mine already, so it’s like, “Thanks, Pete. That was lame. I got way better stuff.”

Kwame Christian
No, that’s going in the second edition. I like that.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, I’m flattered. Okay. Well, I loved what you had to say about focus on the goal and how to best achieve that, and maybe you do need to substitute some semantics that are creating unnecessary barriers. And I’m thinking about two stories in which I think, so some groups were trying to have some conversations about race, and I’m pretty sure they failed to meet their desired goals based on how they’re being received.

And I’m going to throw some scenarios at you, and you don’t know what went down. But I’m going to ask for you to do your best to speculate as, “When I see that kind of thing, it’s usually because they failed to do this, or they should’ve done that, most likely.” So, here we go.

Scenario one. A buddy of mine said he was at church and they were having a series of dialogues about some race issues to learn how to do better on these matters, pick up some skills, hear about perspectives. And then there was a white girl in her 20s who was chatting with my buddy, and she said, “Boy, after hearing all this stuff, I guess I just realized how bad and racist I am, and how I just totally don’t understand what people from the other side are saying, and I really have no right to discuss it. So, I guess I have nothing to offer and I should just keep my mouth shut.” And she proceeded to not come to any of the other meetings.

And so, my buddy is also a speaker-author dude, and he said, “Wow, never in any of my programming has the goal been to have someone feel totally disempowered and to feel the need to withdraw.” So, that’s a thing that can happen sometimes during the course of engaging in these conversations. Any pro tips on having that not happen for people?

Kwame Christian
Yeah, so let’s approach it from two different perspectives. So, let’s first approach it from the person’s perspective who said, “You know what, I’m out. This is too much.” And so, fear can masquerade in different forms, and oftentimes, it will take the form that is most persuasive to you. And so, I was talking to somebody earlier today, and she was saying, “Listen, I feel overwhelmed, I feel ill-equipped to have these conversations so I’m just not having to have these conversations.”

And I said, “See, you’re an intelligent person, and what you’re doing is you’re overintellectualizing the situation and saying, ‘I need to study more. I need to study more,’ and you keep on moving the goalpost just in order to make sure that you never put yourself in a position where you’re obligated to have the conversation, or you feel worthy of having the conversation.” And so, what this person is probably doing is saying, “Wow, I’m seeing the risks. This is scary. I am going to back out.” And backing out does nothing but protect her from her own emotional discomfort. And so, we have to look into it and see how fear will operate in these situations.

And then for the person who might see this happening, we use compassionate curiosity, and so we might say, “Hey, I noticed you stopped coming to the meetings. What happened?” “Well, I didn’t feel comfortable coming to the meetings.” “Okay, so it sounds like you were a little bit uncomfortable and maybe a little bit afraid of making a mistake?” “Yeah, that’s how I’m feeling,” and then they explain.

And then we move to getting curious with compassion, “Well, what is making you so afraid?” “Well, I’m afraid of making a mistake.” “Okay, tell me more.” “Well, I also feel a little bit overwhelmed because I should’ve been doing more but I haven’t been doing more.” Okay. Now, let’s get joint problem-solving, So, it seems like, based on what you said, you want to do more. Well, what are the things you can do that can make you feel as though you’re doing more?” “Well, I could start coming back to these meetings.”

Right. That’s it. Simple. Exactly how the conversation could go. But I wanted to kind of flow through how the compassionate-curiosity framework could work in that situation.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Cool. Thank you. And I guess I’m thinking, so that’s from her perspective. I guess, also, the people coordinating the thing could share some of the comforting words that you’ve been sharing, like, “Hey, this is tricky for people. It’s challenging. There are some risks. It’s going to feel uncomfortable, and that’s just how it’s going to be. We have different associations. There are some complexities.” And they’ll go, “Oh, okay. Huh, this is hard for everybody, and that’s okay.”

Kwame Christian
Exactly.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool. Okay. Well, here’s another scenario. This was at a Fortune 500 company, and they had a huge meeting in which they announced, “Henceforth, the goal is by…” I don’t know, 2027 or some couple years away date, “….X percent of the positions above level five…” I don’t know in their system, like direct duration above, they had sort of a numbering system for sort of executive seniority power. You know what I’m saying?

So, “X percent of these positions will be filled by black people.” And so then, on the chat, there’s a whole lot of muttering going on, and everyone’s saying, “Oh, I see. Well, what percent is going to be Asians, and women, and disabilities, and elderly folks, and LatinX?” “Oh, okay.” So, they’re kind of miffed about this and maybe they didn’t feel included.

There’s just sort of like they felt like this is just being thrown upon them or they don’t understand what’s at it, or they think maybe there’s not, I don’t know, structural fairness. I don’t know precisely what their beef is but that is a response that can happen when there is a fiat, and saying, “This is how it is with regard to race, everybody,” and then the murmuring begins. Any pro tips on dealing with that better?

Kwame Christian
Yeah. So, it’s funny, Pete, when you said that, I had the immediate response, I said, “Oh, okay. Well, we’re opening up Pandora’s box here because there are many other races that are underrepresented there too, right?” And I think this is a really great example of the ubiquitous nature of these conversations because we can talk about the book title in terms of how to have difficult conversations about race, but, really, we could substitute any sensitive topic.

And so, we think about age discrimination, racial discrimination, gender discrimination, all of that type of stuff. The same underlying frameworks can apply to those situations. And so, I think it really comes down to having a conversation about, first of all, “What’s the problem that we want to solve?” And then figuring out, “What other problems do we want to solve at the same time?” because the choice did cause some murmuring. We cannot ignore that murmuring and pretend it doesn’t exist.

And so, it’s important for us to lean into that conversation and have it at a high level and be open and transparent about it just to make sure that everybody feels seen and appreciated.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Understood. Well, Kwame, tell me, anything else you really want to make sure to mention before we hear about a few more of your favorite things?

Kwame Christian
At the end of the day, really, what we have to do is we have to have these conversations. If there’s anything that I want your listeners to take from this is that we have to keep this simple. Have the conversations and use the framework, and that’s better than the alternative.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Thank you. Now, could you share a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Kwame Christian
“The best things in life are on the other side of difficult conversations.” That’s the motto of the American Negotiation Institute, and that’s really the ethos that I tried to bring into each of the books, the podcast, and the trainings that we do.

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

Kwame Christian
One of the things that a lot of communication experts like to talk about is the importance of empathy, and I’m not different. I talk about it, too, but I think one thing that people have to appreciate is the fact that empathy is very, very difficult for some specific reasons.

When you look at the studies related to in-group versus out-group bias, it is much easier for us to empathize with people who are like us. So, think about a non-race-related example. Imagine you’re watching a football game, and somebody gets hurt from your team. Let’s say they hurt their knee. You will reflexively reach down and, like, almost grab your knee. You’ll wince. You’ll feel their pain. That happens automatically.

But if somebody else from the other team gets hurt, you don’t have that type of sympathetic response. You might actually cheer. That’s the tribal nature of humanity. But on a deep subconscious psychological level, it’s easier for us to empathize with people who see us as one of them, as part of their tribe, as part of the group.

And so, I think a couple of things that we need to realize is, number one, empathy takes effort especially when the other person is different from you. And, number two, we can trigger a little bit more automatic empathy in our direction by being mindful of how we can mobilize biases in our favor. So, an example of that is affinity bias, “I like people who are like me.”

So, at the beginning of every conversation, my goal is to approach this rapport-building stage from the perspective of getting the other person to see me as one of them. We are on the same team. We might look different, we might have different perspectives, but when it all comes down to it, we’re on the same team. And just taking the time to really pull that together, helps us to trigger more of that automatic empathy and makes the conversations a lot easier.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And a favorite book?

Kwame Christian
Well, my favorite book used to be “Finding Confidence in Conflict” and now my favorite book is “How to Have Difficult Conversations About Race.” Is that too self-serving, Pete?

Kwame Christian
But I will say, I did find particular joy in reading “How to Not Lose Your…” stuff, I’ll edit it, How to Not Lose Stuff with Your Kids. So, talking about emotional regulation for parents. And so, it’s hard for me to pick a favorite book because I try to read a book a week, and so, usually, it’s the one that is closer, like most recent to me that registers the most, like recency bias, ha, ha, bias is everywhere. So, I’ll give a shoutout to that book as a recommendation for all the parents out there.

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

Kwame Christian
LinkedIn. It has to be LinkedIn. I am addicted to LinkedIn. I post every day, and it’s been really rewarding connecting with people on LinkedIn. So, if you use LinkedIn, make sure to connect with me, follow me. I always try to be really generous with content on that platform.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite habit?

Kwame Christian
Going to the gym in the morning, I’d say. I’m realizing more and more that this is, I guess, what Charles Duhigg would call a keystone habit because a lot of good habits come from that because it’s tied to my meditation routine, it’s tied to my gratitude journal in the morning. So, working out in the morning is happening, then I know a lot of other good things are happening too.

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

Kwame Christian
So, check out the podcast Negotiate Anything, and also our other podcast Negotiate Real Change, which is about diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace, but using negotiation and conflict resolution as a tool to promote it. But for general leadership, conflict resolution, negotiation, sales, that type of interpersonal communication, check out Negotiate Anything. And then, also, reach out to me on our website the AmericanNegotiationInstitute.com. And if you’re interested in trainings, workshops, coaching, all of that type of stuff, you can reach out to us there.

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

Kwame Christian
Yes, everybody, the challenge is this. Use the framework. Use compassionate curiosity. If you have the opportunity to interact with a human being within the next 24 hours, I guarantee you, you’ll have an opportunity to put these skills into action. So, whenever you have that opportunity, remember, acknowledge and validate emotions, get curious with compassion, and use joint problem-solving, and just get into the habit of using that and it’ll be your best friend in those dark times when you’re having those tough conversations.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Kwame, this has been a treat. I wish you much good things on the other side of difficult conversations.

Kwame Christian
I appreciate it, my friend. Thanks for having me on.

768: How to Embrace Generational Differences and Resolve Conflict with Chris De Santis

By | Podcasts | No Comments

 

 

Chris De Santis shares helpful insights about each generation and how to work more effectively across ages.

You’ll Learn:

  1. How to turn generational friction into an opportunity 
  2. How to give feedback that works for every generation
  3. How to motivate people from every generation 

About Chris

Chris De Santis is a speaker, author, consultant, and most recently podcaster specializing in Management and Organizational Development issues and interventions. He specializes in assisting individuals or groups in identifying and overcoming obstacles to effectiveness. He brings with him thirty-eight years of experience in training and development. He has an undergraduate degree in business from the University of Notre Dame, a graduate degree in Organizational Development from Loyola University in Chicago, an MBA from the University of Denver, and previous work experience in manufacturing, professional services, and not-for-profit environments.  

His book, Why I Find you Irritating: Navigating Generational Friction at Work, will be available in May 2022 but until then you can listen to his advice podcast, “Cubicle Confidential” along with his co-host, Mary Abbajay. He resides in a quiet corner of Lincoln Park in Chicago. 

Resources Mentioned

Chris De Santis Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Chris, welcome to How to be Awesome at Your Job.

Chris De Santis
Thanks, Pete. Thanks for having me.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, first, I think we need to understand you and your history with improv classes. What’s the story here?

Chris De Santis
Yes, yes, yes. I moved to Chicago probably…I live in Chicago, if anybody’s interested, and I moved into an area called Old Town about, oh, 30 some years ago, and I had some friends in the city. And Old Town is the heartland of Second City, and so I was told, actually, a good way to make friends was to take improv classes.

And the other reason was I’m a little bit of a…I have a bit of stage fright issue, and so I was told this might help me with that. I ended up taking improv classes from Paul Sills. And if anybody’s listening, Paul Sills is the son of Viola Spolin. And if anybody knows who that is, Viola Spolin wrote improv in the theater, and that’s sort of the basis for Second City.

So, I had access to one of the gurus of the time, although I never quite leveraged it to the degree he did, but I ended up teaching a while at a local theater here, too, so it was a very fun experience. I recommend it to anyone who’s introverted.

Pete Mockaitis
That is fun. I did a Second City five-day intensive improv class once, and it was a lot of fun. And I remember saying, telling my friends, “Oh, it’s nice. I feel like it loosened me up.” And my friends said, “Did you need to be loosened?” Well, compared to my…

Chris De Santis
Did you do a show? Did you do a show afterwards?

Pete Mockaitis
You know, well, not like with a big old audience but it was just sort of I think, the dozen of us doing our thing.

Chris De Santis
The games.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah.

Chris De Santis
I love the games. Really fun.

Pete Mockaitis
So, that’s fun. Well, now, I want to hear a bit about your book Why I Find You Irritating: Navigating Generational Friction at Work. What’s the big idea here?

Chris De Santis
Well, the whole point of this book is really to understand the differences between us. And so, in that sense, in fact, the title’s curious because I had submitted 37 titles to the publisher.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, wow. I love it. That’s what we do.

Chris De Santis
And this is the one they liked.

Pete Mockaitis
We get tons of title options and they choose the best one every time. Thank you.

Chris De Santis
And so, they liked this because I think it really makes the point that we are, in some way, irritated with others across one difference that we recognize, this is one of those difference that we readily recognize, and we ascribe it to them as if they’re at fault and we, of course, are not, meaning that we’re the objective view of reality. And so, what my book goes on to talk about where this comes from and the repercussions of this, and then what to do about it in the workplace.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Excellent. Well, so we’re talking about generational friction, and this is always a delicate matter because I think, Chris, there’s probably no way around it. We’re going to be making some generalizations here. Is that fair to say?

Chris De Santis
Yes. Well, that’s part of what I talk about in the book, but humans do that, humans generalize.

Pete Mockaitis
So, I guess, first of all, how do we define the generations? And are we coming at it from a US-centric base here or is it kind of global in applicability?

Chris De Santis
Now, you’re making some very good points because when I speak to this topic, I have to go through a whole series of caveats, to your point. The first one being you generalize or I generalize, and I’m not describing humanity. I’m describing some actions of a normative group in the middle class in the United States of America who conform to certain experiences at certain times that sort of shape a perception.

So, in that sense, it is a smaller subset. It is not global even though, it’s interesting, I’ve spoken around the world on this, oddly enough. I’m always amazed I’m invited anywhere but I had talked about it. And so, when you talk about it globally, you have to say some of these things but, still, even having done that, they still see differences that correspond to the American experience, which I think is interesting.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, Chris, so we’re going to do some generalizing. First, we need to define some terms. Generations, how do we name them these days and what is roughly the median age of a person representing each generation, say, in summer 2022 as we record this?

Chris De Santis
Yes. So, if we go with Boomers, you know where that came from “baby boom,” so everyone knows that one. There was a great number of us born in that window of time after the war, and that would be that 65 or 67-year-old today in the median group, and we’re retiring out, about half of us are retired. Gen X got its name from the book. There was simply just one book written about them. They fly below the radar quite a bit, and, of course, their median age, according to what we’re playing here, is around 45 to 47.

Then the next crowd, Millennials, had a different name. They were originally in the literature for a while. They were Gen Y because Gen X, Gen Y but that never caught on. And I think that they responded much better to, or it was foisted upon them, the idea of a Millennial simply because of the turning of the century, the millennium.

And now, we have Gen Z, which were called Zoomers or the Zoom generation, but I think that fizzled as well by virtue of the fact of Zoom. And so now they’ve gotten the Gen Z moniker, again, because they’re going in sequence. And the next generation, interestingly, these new kids, they’re calling Gen Alpha because they’re starting it again, but I don’t think they’ll have a name until they define who they are, and then we’ll lay a label on them.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And so, Gen Z would be about 18-ish to 22.

Chris De Santis
18-ish, right.

Pete Mockaitis
Your fresh recruits.

Chris De Santis
Exactly right. They are in the workplace right now. They’ve just entered.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. So, there we go, four generations. And so, you say…well, I guess, we’ll go into particulars in terms of frictions but maybe just to cue us up with some intrigue, is there a particularly surprising and fascinating discovery you’ve made as you dug into all this stuff associated with generational friction?

Chris De Santis
Well, what I came to, not necessarily conclusion, but one of the things I did notice that I thought was really a shaping aspect of this is, it’s not just the flashbulb memories that you have that sort of shape you, it’s also the parenting model. It’s how you were parented affects how you interact with others. So, I’m a product, as a Boomer, I’m a product of sort of a permissive authoritarian parent so I sort of had to get in line with things.

And so, if we think about of a Gen Xer, these are those latchkey kids. And so, they had more of a permissive sort of a sensibility about how they interacted because they basically are far more independent on their own. Millennials are part of what would be concerted cultivation in terms of how they were raised, and I will call that an engaged-discuss model. They’re always engaged in discussions as to what they should or need to do.

Gen Z has a variation of that model called co-piloting. The point being here is that those needs or the expectation of dialogue is what they bring into the office. Yet, in the office, they are not necessarily expected to engage in dialogue but, rather, to be subject to the authority of the people that are in charge. And the people in charge often view this as a challenge when they say, “Well, what about this?” and you’re going, “Whoa, I just told you what to do.”

Pete Mockaitis
Intriguing. So, there we go, we’re getting into the meat of it – an expectation of dialogue. Sometimes the younger generations may expect some more and the older generations think that’s not necessary, “I’ve already told you that,” and so that can create some friction on both sides.

Chris De Santis
That’s exactly right because the other thing about the young is interesting, to a great degree, and if you’re around parents, and I try to observe parents sort of surreptitiously when I’m with people, is that they negotiate more with their children as opposed to demand they do something. So, there’s a discussion, of course, that’s inherent in the negotiation.

And I think the young now are excellent negotiators and they bring that to any conversation they have, and we, in management, or if you’re in a management position, you’re not open to a negotiation when you’re telling somebody to do something but it comes off very strangely in terms of my expectation. If I’m a young person, my expectation, “Why wouldn’t I have this dialogue?” Conversely, “Why are we having a dialogue?”

Pete Mockaitis
Right. And that’s so funny, I think, because I’ve got a three-year-old and a four-year-old right now…

Chris De Santis
You have young children, yes?

Pete Mockaitis
And so, I really go…I guess I go both ways in terms of like I don’t like to yell.

Chris De Santis
No, and you won’t.

Pete Mockaitis
Because they get sensitive and really sad really fast, I was like, “Oh, I was just trying to make myself heard because you seem to be sort of in your own world over there. Now, I feel like I’ve overdone it because you’re getting all sniffly.” So, yeah, but at the time it’s sort of like, “There’s no need for us to be discussing. You do what I say.” And other times, at the same time, I want them to be kind of creative and free and expressive.

So, it’s funny, here I am, I guess a Millennial, in this schema, and I am in the midst of it right there in terms of when I say, “Get in the car right now, Johnny,” versus like, “Well, hey, it’s getting to be about that time, you know.”

Chris De Santis
Yes, you are biased towards suggestion than demand. And I’ll tell you another thing that you probably do quite a bit, Pete, that you may not notice that you do is you explain why you do what you do. You explain why you’re doing this. You don’t assume that they’re going to understand that this is a command but rather, “This is why I have to say this to you to do this.” And that’s part and parcel to the expectation that they have in the workplace, too, this whole idea of, what’s his name, Sinek’s book, Start with Why. That’s really what they’re asking, to a great degree, is why.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay.

Chris De Santis
You did this, Pete.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. So, that’s one point of friction is expectation of dialogue. How about another one?

Chris De Santis
Well, again, a lot of this just depends on with whom we are talking about. For instance, this notion of loyalty, which is very interesting. The accusation that we, a Boomer, is far more loyal in our disposition than those who follow. That, of course, I outline in the book, is really about the movement from the company-man experience to a transactional workplace.

And the company-man experience was really one of the assumptions that, “You will work here for the duration. And as a consequence, I will reward you, deferred reward, and that will be rewarded as a pension to some degree.” So, the inference is, “You have this job for life if you do what I want and the way I need it.” Now, what we have done is we’ve moved transactionally, and now it’s a negotiation a minute.

For instance, one of the things that most annoys some Boomers is that when they interview, the young will ask, “Well, what are the benefits? What’s the vacation time here? So, what do I get for this?” And, in my day, that would’ve been seen as “What? Why? I’m offering you a job and you deign to ask me all of these things about the benefits? You’re getting a job.” But they’re saying, “This is a transaction. I’m going to be doing something for you. I expect something in return.” So, it becomes more marketplace-driven.

Pete Mockaitis
It’s funny because, in some ways, I resist being generalized.

Chris De Santis
No, no, I understand.

Pete Mockaitis
And yet I completely…I, 100%, am down with the transactional vibe. It’s just like, “No, the wealth structures and pensions do not exist, and it is a competitive marketplace, and it’s just economic fact that I have many opportunities available to me, and you have many opportunities of people you can hire. And so, we’re going to see if we have something that works for both of us in terms of this is a role that I think is swell and meaningful and a compensation package that works, and you think I’ve got the skills and knowledge, skills, abilities to deliver the value that you need delivered, and either one of us will walk.”

And so, it’s sort of like, “I don’t think you owe me anything and you don’t seem to…” you being the employer here in this dialogue. I think it’s just a reality we know that an employer will cut us loose at any moment that they feel that it would be more profitable for them to do so and, thusly, I have no…I’ve been self-employed for a long time but I guess that’s sort of…

Chris De Santis
By the way, that’s interesting. I can talk to that as well in a moment, but you’ve said the key here is that this is the new reality. It wasn’t the old reality.

Pete Mockaitis
Right.

Chris De Santis
Exactly right. So, the new reality has shifted in terms of what you expect in this transaction.

Pete Mockaitis
And so, I guess, so my thought is like, I don’t know, when people talk about what’s right or wrong, or sometimes they say, “Oh, we know nothing is right or wrong. It’s just different expectations and generations and how we were brought up.” And I’m thinking, “Well, no, it would be foolish, it would be unwise to operate in a false reality. It’s like one thing doesn’t exists to you so don’t make decisions as though it does or you may get the rug pulled out from under you.”

And I guess I’m a little paranoid about this, Chris, I don’t know. That’s why I went into strategy consulting, I was like, “Develop an amazing skillset so that you can do anything.” And then How to be Awesome at Your Job, it’s like, “Okay, all the listeners, develop an incredible universal skillset so that you’re fine. No matter what the robots do, no matter what your jerk boss does, you are bulletproof because you’re like Liam Neeson with a particular set of skills that make you extremely valuable in any work environment.” You got me on a hot soapbox, Chris.

Chris De Santis
Well, this is the point, one of the points you’re making, the new reality, to your point, Pete, supports this idea of employability, “Look, I have to be employable.” The key. And in defense of the notion of loyalty in the young, they are more likely to be loyal to you, “If you treat me in a way that recognizes how I make the contributions I make, and what I do on your behalf,” and they’re less loyal to the organization which is an abstraction.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. Okay, cool. So, there’s expectation of dialogue, loyalty. Maybe give us one more thing where people differ significantly.

Chris De Santis
Another. Oh, well, I think, actually, as a consequence of the pandemic, one obvious thing where we are differing or we’re furthering apart is where senior management believes everyone should come back, and everyone else believes, “I think I like it at home,” and so we have a huge rift. It’s almost the opposites of each other. When you have senior management, 77% say, “We want them all back,” and the people, basically, young employees in particular who have now experienced this freedom, want to stay free relative to that.

Pete Mockaitis
Certainly.

Chris De Santis
You also had said something interesting, Pete, because it’s been bubbling up in each generation, it’s doing a little bit more of this, is that each one is more entrepreneurial than the generation that preceded it. You are creating in your own children the desire to have an independent life. And part of the messaging, you will never say that out loud, you don’t have to say that, but you behave in a way that says, “You can create your own destiny.” And we are really pushing the envelope on individualism and the creation of these independent people. I think we’ll, eventually, all be freelancers.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, so here we are, we’ve got some points of friction and that show up across generations. What do we do? What’s the best way to navigate them and work peacefully and effectively across generations then?

Chris De Santis
Yeah. Well, it’s interesting, part of it has to do is be very clear on your expectations. I think that’s one of the things we don’t do. You see, I’m used to a world of ambiguity. I was raised with guessing right. And if you guess right, you move forward. Nobody actually told me the whys and the whats of things, but rather I’ll know it when I see it, which was a common refrain in management at one point in time.

And so, the young, to a great degree, want to know, really, what the rules are to achieve, “How do I navigate this environment?” I think I kind of use the analogy of video games. They want to know how to get to the next level, “How do you get to next level? How do you do this? How do you play the game?” So, I think it’s very important to share the expectations of how you operate with the people who are making you successful.

So, if I’m a manager, I should be telling you, “This is how I manage. This is what I would expect from you. What do you need from me to achieve here? How do we stay in touch?” those kinds of things. If I may give you a point of contention that’s very trivial but it’s one that comes up is that, “How do we stay in touch?”

I have a person I work with who I’ve used to make videos, and he will only contact me through a text. He will never pick up his phone, and I like it when people talk to me. In fact, I like it when they sort of see me. But, in this case, his mode of connection is a text. It’s not that he’s not willing to talk to me. It’s just how he’s more comfortable connecting with me. So, I think part of this is we have to get aligned who we are to each other, and how do we stay connected.

Pete Mockaitis
Let’s say we’ve got a younger person, say a Millennial, who is the manager of a Boomer. So, that happens. Any pro tips when it’s sort of moving in a direction which might be different than what we’re imagining?

Chris De Santis
I think one of the challenges with that is it’s not just the Millennial-Boomer difference, it’s a stage of life difference, meaning that, “Look, I have 35 years of experience under my belt,” let’s say. “You, young whipper-snapper, have only been doing this for three years, and you’re managing me.” I think there’s an ego that steps in here that says, “Oh, my gosh, is this affecting my ego?” through the lens of the Boomer.

I think it’s prudent for the Millennial to draw from the more experienced person’s experiences as much as they can to say, “Here’s what I’d like to do. What do you think on how to do that?” It doesn’t mean that they’re foregoing the decision that they own, but rather they’re drawing from the other person some level of commitment by allowing them to tell them what they do know about this area that could be useful, and then I will fold that in. You see, it’s almost being some kind of combination between deferential and respectful.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, gotcha. Okay. Well, bring it on some more, Chris. Any more tips and tricks, do’s and don’ts in this new generational world? Yeah, we’re collaborating, like watchouts and best practices, I dig it, being clear on expectations. What else?

Chris De Santis
Well, this idea of how we connect. Our methodology of connection, I think, is interesting. One of those is, I’m a Boomer so my methodology of connection is I like seeing you, I’d like to meet you, we’ll meet. This is our idea of networking. Let’s go meet people. Let’s join things. Now, we know that from bowling alone that people aren’t joining anymore. So, in that sense, the methodology of connection for a Gen Xer is not so much that I know you as the person, but I know that you are competent in what you do.

You see, when you’re dealing with somebody in that category, who is I will call a little more private in their revealing of who they are, they reveal more slowly over time. They’re sort of like unfold over time, and they will reveal themselves as the competency of the relationship becomes more solidified, meaning that, “You show me you’re good at something, I’ll show who I am.”

And so, as it relates to that, the young are more open again. The Millennial is, you’ve heard this expression, they share too much?

Pete Mockaitis
Uh-huh, I’ve heard this.

Chris De Santis
Well, I don’t know if they do share too much. I think what we often hear from them is that…or, actually, so there’s commenting about them, saying they share too much. When, in fact, they’re not oversharing; they’re just in the habit of sharing who they are with others, and their methodology of connection is to self-reveal. For instance, you talk to your kids on a daily basis, I would imagine, right?

Pete Mockaitis
That’s right, yeah.

Chris De Santis
Right?

Pete Mockaitis
Yes.

Chris De Santis
So, if you do, when you talk to your kids on a daily basis, you probably ask them each day, “What did you do today? What did you today?” Do they share that?

Pete Mockaitis
You know, it’s hit or miss.

Chris De Santis
Well, that’s interesting because, normally, and a lot of times, because I overhear…again, remember I talked about I observe these parents, is that they’ll tell what they did today. And I think that gets in the habit of how they reveal who they are to others, and so they’re not necessarily oversharing. They’re finding a way to connect with another, and then their expectation is implicit reciprocity, “I’ve told you who I am. Tell me a little bit about more of you.” So, they’re open to the discourse between us.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. Okay. Cool. What else in terms of do’s and don’ts here?

Chris De Santis
Okay. I was thinking, “Should I go uphill or downhill with this?” It’s so interesting. I do think that, again, going back to some of this, how we are different, I think one of the things that’s going to be very important going forward is how we decide to mentor. The young want to be mentored in a more deliberate capacity where it used to be more of an organic experience, meaning that I just discover you, and I say, “Oh, you seem to be a young version of me.”

And if we’re going to live in a world that embraces greater diversity, we have to be more deliberate in how we mentor people. But my problem with that is, and here’s where the friction lies, when you use a term like, “I’m assigning you to be my mentee,” Pete, it infers intimacy that we don’t have. And so, in that sense, we should start more from the backend here, just have an advisor to each other that allows us to open up more slowly because I think intimacy is something that is earned as opposed to assumed.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. Okay. I hear you. That checks out, like, “This is your protégé, this is your mentor.” It’s like, “Oh, really?” They do tend to, in my experience….

Chris De Santis
And then, again, the other problem I have with that is that they tend to assume that, “Now that you’re my mentor, you are also my sponsor.” And, again, we don’t define these things very well. And a sponsor is different than a mentor. A sponsor, of course, is somebody who’s going to look out for you and get you promoted. A mentor is really someone who’s going to give you advice on what they’ve learned in certain areas where you might seem to have some issues that you want to share in terms of solving problems.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that’s good. That’s good. And, tell me, if we do find ourselves in maybe a heated exchange, like we got some real tension, intergenerationally, do you have some tips on how we might navigate that smoothly or cool things down a bit?

Chris De Santis
Yeah, because I think a heated exchange is typically in the area, in my view, because one of the myths about the young is, in general, that they’re very sensitive to feedback. I think that people will say, “I’m not convinced that they are sensitive to feedback. I’m convinced that all people are sensitive to feedback.” And so, in that sense, I think sometimes we give feedback as a conclusion as opposed to the behaviors.

And so, I have no problem with somebody saying, “Okay, Pete, hey, you’re not really doing a great job being a team player.” That’s the headline but you can’t stop there. You can’t just expect the young person say, “Okay, I’ll be a better team player.” Well, what does that mean? So, I think what we have to do is we have to be more explanatory. We have to say what are the behaviors.

And then, because, again, these are children of dialogue, as it were, we should be willing to have a discussion about, “Well, what does that look like? And what are the ways to shape that behavior, or change that behavior? And how do I support that effort? And how do I know it happened?” So, again, we have to move away from just a pure tell model to more of a dialogue model because that’s an expectation, and, quite frankly, it has greater stickiness when you’re in dialogue with somebody.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And then I’d also like to get your view when it comes to just sort of motivation, in terms of we hear listeners say, “Oh, you know what, my peers,” or direct reports, or others, “are just not motivated. They’re kind of phoning it in.” Do you have any pro tips, in terms of are there different carrots and/or sticks or drivers that tend to be more compelling for each of the generations?

Chris De Santis
Well, I think part of the key here is that this is where we’re moving beyond the generational differences into more the stage of life, “Where are you in your life? And what might you want then?” And so, for instance, the young are still probably, to some degree, deciding, “Who I will become?” And so, what motivates me is, “What do I want to develop in terms of my skillsets? So, where are my skills? And where do I want to hone those skills?”

So, part of the motivation is, again, this goes back to engaging people, is to find out, well, what they’re interested in doing better, or more of, and trying to find circumstances that you can supply that. That becomes the carrot, as it were. So, I think that works very well. Now, some people want promotions, which I am not convinced everyone wants promotions anymore.

I think, going to your point, Pete, they want to be employable, and they want to develop their skills. The only problem with that is, “When I make you more employable and develop your skills,” people fear that, “Oh, then I’ll lose them to the marketplace.” Well, wasn’t that Ford who said, “Well, the only thing worse than not training your people,” or, “training your people and they leave, is not training your people and they stay”? So, I think we have an obligation.

Now, the other thing interesting about in my generation, motivating us, is to say, to some degree, is, “What experiences do we want to have?” because I don’t know if promotions are part of the package anymore at this stage, but rather also I think we’re in a legacy phase, “What can we give back to others?” We should create circumstances where we can teach those who follow.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, thank you. Well, tell me, Chris, anything else you want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Chris De Santis
At this point, no. I think we’ve covered this. I like what you’re asking about some of these, the differences between us, and I like your point earlier that, look, you cannot generalize about a whole group. You have to say what group we are alluding to. And this notion of, “What are the norms within that group?” What are the norms we observed?

I think part of the trouble with being young is that the headlines about Millennials are negative. They are the Florida Man of generations because anytime you see Florida Man in a headline, it’s some tragedy that, you know, “Florida Man found starving to death in his own refrigerator.” So, you have these tragedies, and then we start to see these Millennial headlines, and we start to associate that with them, and that becomes self-fulfilling in our perception of them, which is not an accurate reflection of who they are.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, I think that resonates in that, I guess, I don’t even like being called a Millennial.

Chris De Santis
No, it’s unfair.

Pete Mockaitis
Even though I guess, technically, that’s where I’d land, and that’s like I don’t care for that.

Chris De Santis
Well, because, again, how they have labeled you. This is interesting, too, because one of the things about each generation, we’re all a disappointment. We’re not just a disappointment at the same time. Gen Xers were slackers, we were hippies, so in that sense, everyone is a disappointment, and then we outgrow it. The only problem that Millennials have is Gen Z hasn’t stepped in to be a disappointment yet so that you can get some space.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, yeah, got that to look forward to.

Chris De Santis
Exactly.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Now, could you share a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Chris De Santis
Yeah, one of my favorites is “We don’t see things as they are. We see things as we are,” and that’s why this is such a perceptual issue. This was, I think, I can’t think of…how do you pronounce her name? Anais Nin, she wrote the Delta of Venus. Lovely book, by the way.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And how about a favorite study or experiment or bit of research?

Chris De Santis
My favorite bit of research is a book by a man named Hofstede, and he wrote Cultures and Organizations. And what he did, it was from an IBM study, I think, originally in the ‘70s, and he extrapolated that or expanded that into the different dimensions across national cultures. That was super enlightening because now I see why the French are the French, or Mexico is Mexico, and US is US. Very enlightening.

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

Chris De Santis
I like it when I get free notebooks, you know, those ones you can write in, like that swag. They give you a gift. Because I use those, sort of, to take notes and then I just have a stack of these things.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool. All right. And a favorite habit?

Chris De Santis
Habit is reading. I’m a reader. I would have to believe you are as well, to some degree, to do so many of these episodes, but I do try to read a book a week.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, cool. And how do you manage that volume? Do you listen? Do you read while doing other things, like exercise? Or how do you…?

Chris De Santis
Well, exercising, actually, I do that while I’m on the bike, but, typically, though I dedicate at least two to three hours a day to read something.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, cool.

Chris De Santis
I’m okay with that.

Pete Mockaitis
All right.

Chris De Santis
You have little kids. You can’t do that.

Pete Mockaitis
And is there a key nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with folks; they quote it back to you often?

Chris De Santis
Yeah. When I talk about this, because you said it right at the beginning, is, look, when you generalize, the only real truth in what I say, and in my book, is that what is true about…you said it yourself. The thing that is true about you, personally, is what’s true. Everything else I say is really fodder for the conversation or the discussion or the discovery you can make in an exchange with another.

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

Chris De Santis
They can get in touch with me at my website at CPDeSantis.com.

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

Chris De Santis
Yeah, I think I would say this, that, look, next time you see somebody acting strangely, in a way that you will judge them, imagine for a moment that this person is as rational as you are, and what might they be doing that is rational to them. And so, I would just simply say give people the benefit of the doubt.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Chris, thank you. This has been a treat. I wish you much fun and peace as you’re navigating generational frictions.

Chris De Santis
Thank you, Pete. And good luck with the kids there.

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

By | Podcasts | No Comments

 

 

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

Thank you Sponsors!

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.