Knowing thyself reduces conflict

Oct 04 2007 by Peter Vajda Print This Article

Knowing thyself requires an in-depth understanding of "who I am." and "how I am." This understanding is the product of the formal and informal experiences of living life. But this understanding is not the result of simply "having" experiences, but is the result of deep, consistent and conscious reflection on one's experiences, i.e., lessons learned (the good, the bad and the ugly).

Self-awareness most often arises after experiencing an inner conflict which tugs on our sleeve and forces us to change. One of the results of such change is a revised value system reflecting new ways of thinking, be-ing and do-ing.

Examples of experiences that bring us to know thyself are mid-life crises (which now seem to begin at 30!), health issues, relationship issues, career issues, financial issues and mental, emotional or psychological issues such heart attacks, divorces and failed relationships, loss of job, bankruptcy, stress, rustout, burnout, depression and addictions to chemical and non-chemical substances (e.g., food, alcohol, exercise, blogging, etc).

In the workplace environment, organizational awareness is the totality of each employee's self-awareness. Where employees are more self-aware, workplace conflict can be minimal and constructive. But in a workplace environment, where the majority of employees are non-self-aware, workplace conflict can be insidious, toxic, all-pervasive and destructive.

The bottom line is that the way your organization, department or team handles interpersonal conflict can either be an experience of aliveness, vitality and camaraderie, or toxicity, demoralization, resentment and disrespect.

The major cause of "loss processes" in organizations is not due to processes but is more often caused by dysfunctional interpersonal dynamics. More and more in today's organizations, success and effectiveness are dependent on the synergies that are created when people are in alignment with one another.

When folks' attitudes, beliefs, and values are in alignment, their behaviors are consonant and supportive of departmental, team and organizational goals.

When one is driven by self-limiting and self-defeating personal biases, beliefs and assumptions - all of which are unspoken and often unconscious - discord most often rules.

This discord rules and ruins the day, ruins meetings, ruins processes and ruins relationships until folks agree to "out the elephants" in the room and consciously deal with the dysfunctional behaviors that underlie conflict.

When leaders and managers have the courage to understand that "soft skills" are really the "hard skills" of effective relationships at work (and do the work that's required to bring people to that level of awareness), turf and ego issues will begin to be metabolized in a manner that bring people to feel freer in their behaviors and in a way that fosters greater mutual respect of one another.

The process of knowing thyself begins when one consciously explores "how I am" and "who I am" when it comes to "the way I am" - the way I communicate, how I behave with others.

Self mastery consciously explores: one's verbal and non verbal behaviors; one's emotional behaviors - how one expresses one's feelings and emotions (and if one expresses one's feelings and emotions); and one's motives and intentions underneath one's behaviors, for example, one's hidden agendas, or one's disharmony where "what I do is out of alignment with what I say". Know thyself requires taking a conscious look at how we experience ourselves at work and how we interact with others. It also means exploring the disconnects that exist between what we say, think, feel and do, disconnects that lead to us being out of harmony, being unethical and being disrespectful. Know thyself requires taking a conscious look at why, for example, I need to lie, cheat, steal, bully, gossip, be disagreeable, disrespectful, resistant, non-trusting, sabotaging, discourteous, and insensitive.

Know thyself requires taking a conscious look at "where I'm coming from" and whether "where I'm coming from" is supportive or limiting to the team, department and organization.

The bottom line is this: conflict is rarely the result of "technical" issues. Most often, conflict is based on some underlying fear and is an interpersonal dynamics issue.

People choose to relate to one another on the basis of a "task orientation" or on the basis of a "relationship orientation." Task orientation focuses on functions, roles and strategies. Relationship orientation focuses on trust, openness, honesty and respect.

Effective conflict resolution must rest on the fulcrum of relationship orientation - on people, not processes. Organizational self-awareness occurs when the majority of employees are engaged, consciously, from the perspective of relationship orientation, i.e., "who I am" and "how I am" at work, and not solely on "what I do".

A self-aware person is one who examines the quality of his/her interpersonal relationships on a consistent basis. A self-aware organization is one that examines the quality of its interpersonal dynamic on a regular basis.

To be an ever effective leader or manager, this exploration that leads to supporting people to actively and consciously engage in personal growth would serve us well in an effort to reduce the negative effects of workplace conflict.

In other words, focusing on the "technical" alone won't do it - never has, never will.

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About The Author

Peter Vajda
Peter Vajda

Peter G. Vajda, Ph.D, C.P.C. is a seminar leader, workshop facilitator and speaker. He is the founding partner of True North Partnering, an Atlanta-based company that supports conscious living through coaching, counselling and facilitating.