6 Steps to check your “Conflict Thoughts” at work

brendaWorkplace Harmony0 Comments

It’s 6:00am and as you reach over to shut off that annoying buzz of your alarm clock, your mind turns to thoughts such as “Oh great, another day of listening to Samantha drone on and on” or ” I don’t want to get up – I hate my job- Those people I work with are so annoying!”

Besides setting yourself up to feeling discouraged, depressed and having a bad day (before you even get out of bed!) you are also programming your mind and body to look for and re-inforce negative thoughts.

It is by nature and through evolution of natural selection that we have survived on this planet by looking for and reinforcing negative input.  So much so that we receive negative input 5 x’s more than positive input AND we receive it faster and it stays with us longer. This is what saved us from sabre tooth tigers way back then but as we evolved and sabre tooth tigers became extinct, we use this negative input to the detriment of our relationships.

Think of this negative input as digging a deep trench in your brain.  For every negative input it receives, the trench gets deeper.  For every positive input it receives, the trench gets shallower.  Since we receive negative input 5 x’s more, that trench of negative thinking is really difficult to climb out of.

So how does this create workplace conflict and what can you do to change the impact that negative input has on your relationships?

In any conversation you have with a person who you don’t particularly like or get along with, your whole “being” is acting like a big satellite dish picking up positive and negative signals from that person. You are unconsciously scanning the discussion and looking for positive and negative input through verbal and non verbal clues.  What you may not realize is that since 6:00am, you have been preparing and looking to find and reinforce these negative thoughts.  Then once your brain sees and recognizes what it has been looking for (negative input) BAMM, once again you have proven to yourself why you don’t like this person or why that person is so annoying.

It really boils down to one thing…

It’s not the person who is creating the conflict you are having with them, its your perception of that person that creates the conflict.  You have in essence, reinforced your negative input of them.

If at some point you decide you are tired of feeling doom and gloom going to work everyday and having to deal with these annoying coworkers, the first place to start is to decide you want to move beyond conflict.  And as you may have guessed by now, this begins with testing your reality of the thoughts and beliefs you have about your coworkers.

Here is a Conflict Management Coaching Exercise I give my clients. If you would like to see if Conflict Management Coaching is something for you to explore click on this link: Conflict Management 

The following exercise will help you:

  1. Increase your self awareness around conflict
  2. Develop your Emotional Intelligence (EQ)

(The above EQ link is a great read to learn more about Emotional Intelligence)

Step #1:

Put the name of a person you are having issues with at work as the heading on a sheet of paper. Then draw a vertical and horizontal line down the centre. Write a subheading on the top left quadrant as “Negative Input Feeling” and on the top right quadrant “Positive Input Feelings”. Write the subheading on the bottom left quadrant “Negative Input Examples” and on the bottom right quadrant “Positive Input Examples”

Step #2:

Under the subheading “Negative Input Feelings” list all the emotions you experience when you engage with this person.

To help you wiEmotional Guidance Scaleth this, I have included this excellent diagram I found of an an Emotion Scale. You can use this to help “name” the emotion you experience and associate the physical reaction you have when you experience the emotion.

There are numerous examples of psychological emotional diagrams that allow you to expand your emotional vocabulary. I encourage you to do a Google search and see if other diagrams resonate with you.



Step #3:

Under the subheading “Positive Input Feelings” list all the positive emotions you would like to experience when you have interactions with this person.

Step #4: 

Under the subheading “Positive Input Examples” list actions you can take while you are interacting with this person that will create positive emotions and feelings.

Step #5:

During your interaction with this person, draw on the Positive Input Emotions and Examples you listed on the right side of your page. After you have interacted with this person, reflect on your feelings and reactions and on the bottom left quadrant of your sheet of paper, list examples of what that person said or did that created any negative feelings you experienced.

At the same time, reflect on your feelings or actions you took to create positive input and write down what you did and how it helped you feel better about yourself and the other person.

Step #6: 

Finally, test your perception of the negative input you experienced by asking yourself the question to each item on your list “Is this true?” and for every response you write down, ask the question again “Is this true”.

Here is what this exercise looks like:   Screen Shot 2016-09-01 at 12.57.19 PM

By taking the time to go through these steps when you have interactions with people you know you have negative feelings about, you develop emotional intelligence by naming and expressing an emotion you are feeling and help you be more in tune to where you feel that emotion in your body.  You also increase your personal awareness of conflict and how you respond when you experience it.

More importantly, this exercise will help you develop choice in how you interact with your coworkers and what you can do to control the emotions you experience. By choosing and taking action to focus on the positive input, you will shift your conflict perspective.






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