Conflicts come up when my normal competes with your normal. Sure on the surface, it’s about meeting a deadline or leaving the office coffee pot empty. Underneath are expectations that come from our understanding of normal.
Our personal culture—our perspectives, feelings, values, thoughts, beliefs, interpretations, actions—is our normal.
Our personal cultures are not right or wrong. Everyone brings different perspectives into the room and into every conversation.
And that is part of why conflicts bubble up. My culture competes with yours for dominance, rather than sharing a mission and goal. Reducing the frequency of this type of conflict, especially unnecessary conflict, is possible.
Here’s the big secret:
Do not assume everyone sees, feels, thinks, believes, or interprets information as you do.
It’s so simple to read that sentence, and yet it’s just as easy to forget and slip into a cycle of assumicide. Yep, assumicide…the spiral of assumptions that self-destructs a relationship.
Assumicide, always, always, always leads to unhelpful or incorrect information and interpretation. Blood boils, gossip follows, and soon a fire of conflict has spread before that coffee pot (you, OF COURSE, had to make again) has finished brewing.
Here’s how to pull yourself back from the brink of assumicide.
Pause and Breathe:
(It’s not quite the bend and snap, but it’s effective.)
When we feel awkward, uncomfortable, angry, sad, ashamed, offended—any kind of intense negative emotion—we frequently stop breathing. Your brain shuts down logical functions and goes into the lizard brain of fight or flight. Your brain stem is really good at keeping you alive, not so much with the self-control, emotional regulation, or logical thought.
So, take a breath: a literal, fill-your-lungs-with-air-and-get-oxygen-to-your-brain-so-you-are-in-control-of-yourself breath. With the oxygen, the other lobes of your brain reactivate, returning to the executive functions it’s designed to accomplish.
Am I assuming this person thinks or sees this situation as I do?
Usually, your answer will be, “Why yes, self, you are.” This is a nice way to help you realize you are centering yourself as the normal. The act of asking yourself the question reminds you of the big idea: Everyone sees, feels, thinks, believes, or interprets information differently.
Ask Some More:
It’s time to ask the other person questions. Asking clarifying questions is, perhaps, the most effective tool against assumicide. You are allowing the other person to communicate their thoughts and perspective instead of only using yourself as the only data point. When you understand each other’s goals, you can work toward a solution instead of spiraling into conflict.
Learning more about your personal culture, growing in self-awareness, jump starts this process. You are less likely to compete with another person’s normal when you are aware of your own.