Inside every conflict are 3Es – event, explanation and expectation. Conflict begins with some event or incident that was done or not done. This event is typically accompanied with surprise or shock. “I should not be treated this way,” or “This should not have happened.” With the first E, event, comes two choices, either:
1) expend energy to let it go, or
2) expend energy to engage
The second E, explanation, employs some organization of the facts, framed in such a way to identify the wrong-doing and its harmful result. Explanations are typically associated with some requested future behavior. “Don’t do that again;” “Please stop doing that;” “Next time do…” The second E builds nicely into the third E – expectation.
Explanations are often framed in a way to maximize easy acceptance of the requested future behavior. To the explainer the request makes perfect sense, given the facts of the situation; it is the most logical, if not the only logical choice. It is here where convincing begins and there are two possible outcomes:
1) the other person says “yes” to the requested future behavior, or
2) the other person says “no” to the request
If they say “yes,” the explanation worked and no further convincing is necessary, but what if they say “no?” “No” marks the beginning of Stage Two conflict. Communication dynamics take on the nature of more intense convincing. It is stage two conflict where I typically see 3 conflict communication dynamics:
1) the other Person Becomes the Problem,
2) one or both people drop into an Imbalanced Personal State, and
3) both people get locked into a Single Solution Mindset
Each dynamic is a result of more intense convincing. How do you convince someone to do something when this person has refused your request? Do you change your explanation and your facts when your explanation was not convincing?
Should the conflict manager explore the explanation and investigate the facts? Doesn’t this place the conflict manager in the convincing role and therefore a participant in the conflict? I am not convinced that better explanations and better facts will resolve a conflict once it has moved into stage two. More than good communication skills will be necessary if the conflict manager hopes to be effective.
Interested in this topic and learning more about the 3 E’s of Conflict? Register NOW for “3E’s of Conflict” with 1 hour CE for GODR happening September 15th @ 7:30 pm EST / 4:30 PST. (HURRY, Early Bird Registration ends soon!)