05/23/2009 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Tear Down the Walls: How to Find Your Internal Conflict

Knowledge of the self is the mother of all knowledge. So it is incumbent on me to know my self, to know it completely, to know its minutiae, its characteristics, its subtleties, and its very atoms. - Kahlil Gibran

When you have conflict with someone else, look for the conflict inside yourself.

For example, when you accuse the other person for not taking care of their responsibility for a project, you might be upset at yourself for choosing this project in the first place. You may have been deeply ambivalent about taking on the project, as you were caught between paying the bills and working with people you dislike. Nothing said here diminishes the other person's responsibility. Nothing here excuses what the other person has done or said.

Spot the internal conflict that mirrors the external conflict pushing your buttons. The internal conflict may be triggered by the person. If you are bothered by a boss or direct report, consider your history with authority figures and subordinates to better appreciate your current difficulties. Perhaps you are still working out a past situation where you and a former boss parted badly.

Ask whether your external discussion triggers an internal conflict. For example, if the issue is money and your emotions are skyrocketing, consider how you have related to past financial problems. Perhaps you chose a job based on dollars rather than passion and you still harbor regret. Find your internal conflict to separate out your own stuff. You gain internal clarity to then deal cleanly with the other person.

In my next post, I will take this one step further and focus on imagining the other person's internal conflict story.

To learn more about the importance of communication skills particularly in negotiation and conflict resolution, read about the solutions, results and publications Grande Lum has created at Accordence, Inc.
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