We all experience conflict in our lives every single day. Much conflict is internal: What job do I want? Should I sacrifice my values for a paycheck? How can I make a difference and be happy at work? Should I start my own business? Other conflicts are external: My boss doesn’t understand me. My boss yells at me and others around me. The person in the next cubicle talks so loudly that I can’t focus on my work.
Conflict is neither a bad thing or a good thing. Conflict is simply two different perspectives that come into contact with each other. How we deal with determines whether it’s constructive or destructive. The four most common ways we deal with conflict are:
Force: Do it ‘or else’ which can include varying degrees of punishment or unhappy outcomes if we don’t get what we want. This may work in the short term for the person with the most power but the person at the weaker end may resent it and look to get around the forced solution.
Flee: Avoid it until it hopefully goes away. Although it often goes away for a short time, it rarely stays away.
Fifty-fifty: Or compromise. You take half and I’ll take the other half. It often feels fair in the moment, but since neither gets exactly what they want, neither is really happy with this. It feels better than losing, not as good as winning, firmly in a kind of ‘no man’s land.’
Fold: Letting the other person get what they want. This builds resentment over time as the other person thinks they can take advantage of you.
Most of our conflicts are not about what we think they are but about some other conflict that did not yet get resolved and it may have even been with a different person than whoever you’re currently in conflict. The memory of that old conflict may be triggering the current one.
In searching for a simple, practical and effective tool for resolving my own everyday conflicts and for my fellow members of the Young President’s Organization, I was introduced to my now co-author, Dr. Amir Kfir. He had a lot of practical experience bringing together people in the toughest of conflicts. I gave him a challenge: to develop a model we could use for every kind of conflict we have, while fitting on the back of a business card.
We took the best of coaching methodology, positive psychology, Imago marriage therapy, change management and active listening. Nonflict came out of that 18-month process – a 3-step process that anyone can follow. The experiential 4-hour workshop won the best leadership development program in the world for YPO. More importantly, with over 125,000 people trained around the world in the last three years, we’ve been able to empower people to change their lives by having the tools to do so.
The Nonflict way can be broken down into three steps with questions asked.
The ‘partner’ described below is the person with whom you are in conflict.
Step 1: Understand Yourself and Your Partner
- Share your view of the conflict.
- What is the conflict? How does it make me feel?
- What is important for me?
- Your partner mirrors the essence of what you have said and asks,
- “Did I understand you well? Is there anything else?”
- (You and your partner switch roles and repeat the questions above.)
Step 2: Understand Your Shared Reality
- You and your partner discuss together, asking yourselves:
- What is our real underlying conflict?
- What is working well for us?
- What is our worst-case scenario? (Visualize facts and feelings.)
Step 3: Co-Create
- You and your partner discuss together.
- What is our best-case scenario? (Visualize facts and feelings.)
- What are the obstacles to achieving our best-case scenario?
- What can we do to overcome controllable obstacles? Who will do what, when?
After experiencing the impact of the Nonflict way in my own life and of the first 700 we trained, Amir and I decided to start a non-profit organization, Million Peacemakers, with a vision of a million peacemakers co-creating a culture of peace in the world.
With an international team of wonderful leaders from numerous races and religions, we look towards other leaders and future Nonflict Coaches to help empower people to transform conflict to Nonflict.
Together we CAN change the world.