When Things Slow Down

One of the underlying dynamics of conflict is to slow things down. That may be in the form of a “distraction” (like a lover’s quarrel) or a “shootout” (where there is blood on the floor) or even a “nuclear event” (where everyone gets hurt). But everything else has to adjust to a problem in making things happen.

On the one hand, this can be productive. Getting people to stop may be critical to identifying a problem that is not generally seen. And I think that Steve jobs (a master at creating conflict) was very focused on getting people to see things in a fresh light. So it is not surprising that he generated a lot of conflict.

On the other hand, it can be destructive. Going nuclear is the most obvious example. Getting into shootouts also has long term effects. Screamers take note! But more pernicious are frozen conflicts. These cause people to lose hope.

The weird thing is that it can be very difficult to tell if a conflict is about principles (that may be worth fighting about) or if the principles are used as an excuse just to throw sand in the machine. And high minded conflicts have a way of degenerating to the point where the original principles at issue are forgotten.

For that reason, conflict managers need to be very sensitive to how principles are employed during conflict. Are they really just a distraction? Is there something else going on that elevates their relative importance? There often is. .


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