Starting Out Right: Conflict Pre-framing

Framing the situation for a win!

We’ve likely all had the experience before of meeting someone new who made a ‘bad first impression’, and that’s kind of a bummer because as you’ve probably heard ‘you don’t get a second chance at a first impression’. In a similar vein, the first impression or ‘pre-frame’ you create verbally when beginning a conflict resolution meeting is also pivotal. It will either set up both parties to perceive the process as worthwhile, or… it won’t. Creating a useful and shared expectation of a positive outcome is important in achieving this, as is framing how this current issue is only ONE PART of a bigger and important relationship. If it feels like the WHOLE relationship is damaged, its very intimidating to try and address that. If, on the other hand, you frame the current issue as just one part of an otherwise wonderful/positive/valued relationship, that validates the relationship and will serve to create a ‘we frame’, conducive to working things through together.

The problem in finding the right words to start is that we tend to go into meetings like these expecting it to be hard, and uncertain of a successful outcome. Now, if you as a 3rd party facilitator are already thinking that, imagine what the others actually involved might be thinking and how nervouse they might be? And if this is a conflict that YOU are part of and this is a conversation you initiated, then recognise that the other party is already likely ont he back foot, feeling nervous or possibly blamed, and are almost certainly conducting mind-reads on you. Mind reads are exactly what they sound like. Mind reads are when we think we know what the other person is experiencing/thinking and even wanting, even when we haven’t checked our assumptions. We truly think we KNOW. Often mind-reads in this context will be negative too: They indicate not only that you ‘know whats happening inside of the other person’ but also that what’s happening there is NOT good/fair or right! Mind reads can be good and helpful, but should always be tested (paced) and shared, to check their validity if they are in any way controversial, judgemental or involved in a conflict situation.

Of course we all do mind reads, its our mind’s way of helping us navigate the situation. And often we are abundantly aware in a conflict situation that their map is not the same as our own, so automatically ‘they’ are the ‘enemy/bad guy’ and we guessing their next response to prepare ourselves as we seek to protect our needs and values from their influence. Whew! That’s a lot of mental and emotional processing, best to check its accurate and get it right first time so we don’t find ourselves in a similar or worse conversation again soon. Thank goodness we can learn how to set this conversation up for a positive & successful start. Ready to learn that? Excellent! Let’s do it!