Productive Conflict: Separate Emotion from Fact

I’m going to start with a story from my assistant DeAnne’s family:

We enjoy having family nights on Friday nights.

Sometimes those are movie nights and sometimes they are game nights. On this particular evening, it was game night, and we were playing a card game, Skip-Bo. We try to pick games that even the youngest, age five, can play.

If you don’t know this game, it’s pretty easy. You basically stack cards from 1-12, and the object is to get rid of your side pile. Our second son had the number 7 on top of his side pile. After several rounds, he still had that same number 7 on top. Round and around we went, sevens were played, but always before it was his turn. He started to cry.

“No one’s letting me play my seven. Everybody hates me. You don’t want me to win!”

Obviously, no one hated him and no one was gunning for him. We were just playing the game.

I took him to the side and explained that while it may feel like everyone is against him, the truth was that everyone was trying to do the same thing he was—get rid of their side pile. Sometimes you don’t get the right cards at the right time. It happens to all of us, and it’s not personal.

Emotions are powerful things, and they often cloud out reality.

He let his emotions dictate his response. Sure, he’s only ten, but adults have the same responses too.

Strong emotions spark fire in our chests, and it becomes more difficult to see through the smoke to separate the burn from the facts.

Responses that involve strong emotions without facts leaves others confused and uneasy. But by stepping back and reframing your thoughts, you can blow away the smoke and see the situation for what it really is.

Separating emotion from fact may be more natural for those with the D style or C style, than for those with the S style or i style.

This is the 5th post in an 18-part series discussing positive conflict behaviors. Effective leaders encourage productive conflict and discourage unproductive conflict. Follow along as we explore the positive impact of these behaviors.

Part 1: Finding the Root of the Problem
Part 2: Apologize
Part 3: Listen to Differing Perspectives
Part 4: Bring in a Neutral Perspective

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