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8 Simple Steps to Resolve Any Conflict Like a Zen Master

8 Simple Steps to Resolve Any Conflict Like a Zen Master

If you’re like most people, you dread conflict. Your ears burn and you start to sweat just thinking about it. It’s a combat zone, where somebody wins and somebody loses. Somebody’s right, and somebody’s wrong. Maybe you avoid conflict, fearing hurt feelings, bruised egos and lost tempers. Or do you go at it like a blood sport, so focused on winning that you take out anyone in your path?

But you may have seen a few people who are able to handle conflict differently. They stay cool without stonewalling, With their guidance, hidden problems come to light. Innovative solutions develop to resolve issues that festered for years. These Conflict Masters even manage to turn a conflict into a pleasurable experience.

How do they do it?

They use the following 7 simple steps, and so can you.

1. Assume that others aren’t hell-bent on destroying all you hold dear.

Whenever you find yourself in a conflict, remind yourself that a logical reason must be driving the other person.

All human beings are trying to do one thing: meet their inborn needs. We must meet our needs to survive, and we will do anything to get these needs met, even violate our morals or cause harm. (Explains why people can do incredibly dumb or destructive things.)

The intent behind every action, then, is a positive: to get their needs met. It’s the exact thing you are trying to do, so how can you be upset about that?

This is not to say that what they are doing is right.  By starting with the assumption of positive intent, though, you give yourself a place of commonality and decency to start from, no matter how bad things seem.

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2. Respectfully, shut your pie hole

Most of us spend our time in conflict trying to prove why we are right and trying to anticipate what the other person will say so we can refute it. This means we rarely listen, therefore we rarely understand what is really going on. So we rarely find long-term, empowering solutions.

We rehash the same conflicts over and over because they never get down to the core issue.

Save countless hours and reduce your stress by investing the time to seek understanding first.

3. Bust out your Sherlock hat.

Imagine that you are a detective.

What’s it like to be in their shoes? How has this issue affected their life? What makes things better or worse? What do they think started the problem? How would they want it resolved? How might their life improve if you could see things from their perspective?

Engage your thoughtful curiosity with one goal: to understand the other person’s world.

4. Get Zen-like.

It took me a while to understand what people meant by “your Center”, but I get it now. Your Center is a spot about two inches above your belly button. It is a source of great power, both physically and psychically.

When you listen from your head, your brain starts commenting and analyzing the correctness of the information. You don’t fully listen. When you listen from your heart, your emotions can get triggered, making you defensive so that you can’t fully understand the other person. And you don’t fully listen.

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But when you listen from your Center, it allows you to simply absorb information without taking it personally, so you can fully listen.

Imagine that you are literally taking in the sound through your Center into your stomach so that you can digest them before you respond.

It’s an entirely new experience.

5. Like a good math student, go back and check your work.

Check to see if you understand them correctly, and use their words.

If they say, “I’m pissed that you ate all the donuts and left nothing for anyone else like you always do,” don’t tell them, “It sounds like you’re mad.”

No, “pissed” and “mad” aren’t the same thing.

Say, “So what I think I understand now is that you are pissed that I ate the donuts, and you feel that I always do things like that.” Then take that into your Center again. Don’t judge it; just absorb it. Something strange just might happen. You might begin to accept that this is how they feel, whether it’s right or not. It’s hard to fight against other people’s feelings or perceptions of the world.

What are you going to say? “You shouldn’t feel that way.” Who are you to tell me how I should feel about anything?

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All that’s left to say is, “Ok, I understand that’s how you feel. If you’re open to it, I could share with you how I experienced this.”

6. Invite them to walk in your shoes (or stilettos).

Don’t try to tell them why you are justified — you are justified in feeling whatever you feel. That is not something anyone needs to defend. Instead, simply explain what you have experienced. You want to offer them the opportunity to see your world too. Use descriptive “I” statements, not accusatory “you” statements.

To continue the donut example, you could say, “I hear that you’re pissed I ate all the donuts. After working for eight hours and not eating, I ate all three of them without even thinking. I didn’t do it with malicious intent. It hurts to hear that you think I’m selfish. Is that what you really think of me?”

Isn’t that much better than, “Well, you didn’t make me anything to eat, and I was starving, so, yeah, I ate them. If you had thought of me for a change, I wouldn’t have eaten your three precious donuts.”

7. VOMP it out

VOMP is an acronym for a formula to help deal productively with conflict.

  • Voice your concerns/experience: “I ate all three donuts after working without eating anything else.”
  • Own your responsibility in the issue: “I didn’t clean up or leave any donuts for you.”
  • eMpathize with the other person: “I understand that you were looking forward to one of those donuts, and it made you feel like I don’t think about you.”
  • Plan for what will change in the future: “I want to find ways to make sure you know how much I love and appreciate you. Even if I eat everything in the house, I want you to know I think of you, would do anything for you, and that I am grateful for all you do for me. What could I do differently to make that real for you?”  Then negotiate a specific, actionable plan that will work for both parties.

8. Remember you aren’t Chicken Little and the sky is not falling

I want the lights on, and you want the lights off. If we both really want it our way, a conflict will arise.

What does that mean? Does it mean we hate each other, that we have a bad relationship, that you have commitment issues, that I am selfish, that secretly everyone’s been wanting the lights off my entire life and that’s why previous relationships haven’t worked out?

No, it means we want different things at the same time. That’s all conflict means.

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Be very careful not to make disempowering and destructive meanings that will lead to more pain and create more conflict later.

Why The Zen Master Smiles Through The Storm

You need not fear the storm. It is what brings the rainbow.

For so long, you have been confused, thinking conflict is to be feared, a sign that something has gone wrong. The Master smiles knowing that here lies the remedy to the illness.

Conflict is a cleansing, allowing the misunderstandings and hurt to come to light. So now you can smile too, knowing that conflict offers an opportunity for healing to unfold. Don’t worry that you may not do all these steps right. You will have many chances to practice. Like any practice, you will see the transformation little by little until one day you will smile.

What is a conflict you have been avoiding? Will your life get any better by letting it fester? How good will it feel to clean out the wound? Your ascension to mastery starts with one conversation.

Try these words: “Do you have some time to talk?”

Featured photo credit: zenonline via flickr.com

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Last Updated on March 14, 2019

7 Questions to Ask in a Job Interview That Will Impress the Interviewer

7 Questions to Ask in a Job Interview That Will Impress the Interviewer

Recruiters might hold thousands of interviews in their careers and a lot of them are reporting the same thing—that most candidates play it safe with the questions they ask, or have no questions to ask in a job interview at all.

For job applicants, this approach is crazy! This is a job that you’re going to dedicate a lot of hours to and that might have a huge impact on your future career. Don’t throw away the chance to figure out if the position is perfect for you.

Here are 7 killer questions to ask in a job interview that will both impress your counterpart and give you some really useful insights into whether this job will be a dream … or a nightmare.

1. What are some challenges I might come up against this role?

A lesser candidate might ask, “what does a typical day look like in this role?” While this is a perfectly reasonable question to ask in an interview, focusing on potential challenges takes you much further because it indicates that you already are visualizing yourself in the role.

It’s impressive because it shows that you are not afraid of challenges, and you are prepared to strategize a game plan upfront to make sure you succeed if you get the job.

It can also open up a conversation about how you’ve solved problems in the past which can be a reassuring exercise for both you and the hiring manager.

How it helps you:

If you ask the interviewer to describe a typical day, you may get a vibrant picture of all the lovely things you’ll get to do in this job and all the lovely people you’ll get to do them with.

Asking about potential roadblocks means you hear the other side of the story—dysfunctional teams, internal politics, difficult clients, bootstrap budgets and so on. This can help you decide if you’re up for the challenge or whether, for the sake of your sanity, you should respectfully decline the job offer.

2. What are the qualities of really successful people in this role?

Employers don’t want to hire someone who goes through the motions; they want to hire someone who will excel.

Asking this question shows that you care about success, too. How could they not hire you with a dragon-slayer attitude like that?

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How it helps you:

Interviewers hire people who are great people to work with, but the definition of “great people” differs from person to person.

Does this company hire and promote people with a specific attitude, approach, worth ethic or communication style? Are the most successful people in this role strong extroverts who love to talk and socialize when you are studious and reserved? Does the company reward those who work insane hours when you’re happiest in a more relaxed environment?

If so, then this may not be the right match for you.

Whatever the answer is, you can decide whether you have what it takes for the manager to be happy with your performance in this role. And if the interviewer has no idea what success looks like for this position, this is a sign to proceed with extreme caution.

3. From the research I did on your company, I noticed the culture really supports XYZ. Can you tell me more about that element of the culture and how it impacts this job role?

Of course, you could just ask “what is the culture like here? ” but then you would miss a great opportunity to show that you’ve done your research!

Interviewers give BIG bonus point to those who read up and pay attention, and you’ve just pointed out that (a) you’re diligent in your research (b) you care about the company culture and (c) you’re committed to finding a great cultural fit.

How it helps you:

This question is so useful because it lets you pick an element of the culture that you really care about and that will have the most impact on whether you are happy with the organization.

For example, if training and development is important to you, then you need to know what’s on offer so you don’t end up in a dead-end job with no learning opportunities.

Companies often talk a good talk, and their press releases may be full of shiny CSR initiatives and all the headline-grabbing diversity programs they’re putting in place. This is your opportunity to look under the hood and see if the company lives its values on the ground.

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A company that says it is committed to doing the right thing by customers should not judge success by the number of up-sells an employee makes, for instance. Look for consistency, so you aren’t in for a culture shock after you start.

4. What is the promotion path for this role, and how would my performance on that path be measured?

To be clear, you are not asking when you will get promoted. Don’t go there—it’s presumptuous, and it indicates that you think you are better than the role you have applied for.

A career-minded candidate, on the other hand, usually has a plan that she’s working towards. This question shows you have a great drive toward growth and advancement and an intention to stick with the company beyond your current state.

How it helps you:

One word: hierarchy.

All organizations have levels of work and authority—executives, upper managers, line managers, the workforce, and so on. Understanding the hierarchical structure gives you power, because you can decide if you can work within it and are capable of climbing through its ranks, or whether it will be endlessly frustrating to you.

In a traditional pyramid hierarchy, for example, the people at the bottom tend to have very little autonomy to make decisions. This gets better as you rise up through the pyramid, but even middle managers have little power to create policy; they are more concerned with enforcing the rules the top leaders make.

If having a high degree of autonomy and accountability is important to you, you may do better in a flat hierarchy where work teams can design their own way of achieving the corporate goals.

5. What’s the most important thing the successful candidate could accomplish in their first 3 months/6 months/year?

Of all the questions to ask in a job interview, this one is impressive because it shows that you identify with and want to be a successful performer, and not just an average one.

Here, you’re drilling down into what the company needs, and needs quite urgently, proving that you’re all about adding value to the organization and not just about what’s in it for you.

How it helps you:

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Most job descriptions come with 8, 10 or 12 different job responsibilities and a lot of them with be boilerplate or responsibilities that someone in HR thinks are associated with this role. This question gives you a better sense of which responsibilities are the most important—and they may not be what initially attracted you to the role.

If you like the idea of training juniors, for example, but success is judged purely on your sales figures, then is this really the job you thought you were applying for?

This question will also give you an idea of what kind of learning curve you’re expected to have and whether you’ll get any ramp-up time before getting down to business. If you’re the type of person who likes to jump right in and get things done, for instance, you may not be thrilled to hear that you’re going to spend the first three months shadowing a peer.

6. What do you like about working here?

This simple question is all about building rapport with the interviewer. People like to talk about themselves, and the interviewer will be flattered that you’re interested in her opinions.

Hopefully, you’ll find some great connection points that the two of you share. What similar things drive you head into the office each day? How will you fit into the culture?

How it helps you:

You can learn a lot from this question. Someone who genuinely enjoys his job will be able to list several things they like, and their answers will sound passionate and sincere. If not….well, you might consider that a red flag.

Since you potentially can learn a lot about the company culture from this question, it’s a good idea to figure out upfront what’s important to you. Maybe you’re looking for a hands-off boss who values independent thought and creativity? Maybe you work better in environments that move at a rapid, exciting pace?

Whatever’s important to you, listen carefully and see if you can find any common ground.

7. Based on this interview, do you have any questions or concerns about my qualifications for the role?

What a great closing question to ask in a job interview! It shows that you’re not afraid of feedback—in fact, you are inviting it. Not being able to take criticism is a red flag for employers, who need to know that you’ll act on any “coaching moments” with a good heart.

As a bonus, asking this question shows that you are really interested in the position and wish to clear up anything that may be holding the company back from hiring you.

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How it helps you:

What a devious beast this question is! On the surface, it looks straightforward, but it’s actually giving you four key pieces of information.

First, is the manager capable of giving you feedback when put on the spot like this? Some managers are scared of giving feedback, or don’t think it’s important enough to bother outside of a formal performance appraisal. Do you want to work for a boss like that? How will you improve if no one is telling you what you did wrong?

Second, can the manager give feedback in a constructive way without being too pillowy or too confrontational? It’s unfair to expect the interviewer to have figured out your preferred way of receiving feedback in the space of an interview, but if she come back with a machine-gun fire of shortcomings or one of those corporate feedback “sandwiches” (the doozy slipped between two slices of compliment), then you need to ask yourself, can you work with someone who gives feedback like that?

Third, you get to learn the things the hiring manager is concerned about before you leave the interview. This gives you the chance to make a final, tailored sales pitch so you can convince the interviewer that she should not be worried about those things.

Fourth, you get to learn the things the hiring manager is concerned about period. If turnover is keeping him up at night, then your frequent job hopping might get a lot of additional scrutiny. If he’s facing some issues with conflict or communication, then he might raise concerns regarding your performance in this area.

Listen carefully: the concerns that are being raised about you might actually be a proxy for problems in the wider organization.

Making Your Interview Work for You

Interviews are a two-way street. While it is important to differentiate yourself from every other candidate, understand that convincing the interviewer you’re the right person for the role goes hand-in-hand with figuring out if the job is the right fit for you.

Would you feel happy in a work environment where the people, priorities, culture and management style were completely at odds with the way you work? Didn’t think so!

More Resources About Job Interviews

Featured photo credit: Amy Hirschi via unsplash.com

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