04/10/2009 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

How to Seek Heroism in Demands

How to Seek Heroism in Demands

"Everyone is necessarily the hero of his own life story." - John Barth

Look for the hidden heroism behind a person's demands (yours and others), especially within intractable conflicts.

In conflict, heroism may be hidden. Recognize the noble goal that is holed up behind demands and defensiveness to find a constructive way out. Act in ways that live up to heroic ideals.

See yourself as a hero. Identify the courageous vision and idealism that you have that hides behind your demand. What part of you has been hurt? Is it your sense of pride and ego? Righteousness often derives from the sense that a deeply held principle or value has been violated. A deeply-held belief often dictates actions you may not initially see as positive.

Look for their heroism too. Identify how the other person is being brave and strong. Seeing the other person as heroic is more challenging than seeing oneself as heroic. Work from the supposition that actions have a positive intent. If the other party is angry, spend time imagining their world.

Let's look at the classic Felix-Oscar conflict from the Neil Simon play and television Series Odd Couple. Felix was a neat freak and his roommate Oscar a disorganized slob. Oscar left clothes and food around the house and was annoyed at Felix' obsession for perfection and cleaning compulsion. For Oscar, a spontaneous, free spirited adventurer, cleaning up was secondary.. On the other side, Felix saw himself as a provider, role model and leader, fostering a home environment that was clean and pleasant. If either one of them could have recognized the positive qualities about the other, they could have affirmed one another instead of attacking their identity. To do this, each would have to look deep to see his own underlying heroism.

When you affirm the idealism of you and the other person, you can separate those heroic aspects of each other's identity from the legitimate concerns of freedom and organization. When a person feels their deeply held values are not under attack, problem solving becomes easier.

In my next post, I will focus on how external conflict often masks the internal conflict within each of us. Understanding the tension within yourself will help you reduce your tension with others.

To learn more about the value of communication and relationship-building in negotiation and conflict resolution, read publications and case studies involving real world business scenarios developed by Grande Lum and his colleagues at Accordence, Inc.

For further discussion, contact Grande at