What we don’t know can hurt us…and our relationships.

Have you ever felt trapped in a conflict? You probably have encountered friends or loved ones that were involved in a conflict that seemed to spiral out of control; the conflict seemingly having a life of its own. The well-known idiom “it takes two to Tango” is only true when one or both parties are able or willing to stop.  Backing off an escalating conflict is difficult at times. Even when that conflict is objectively destructive to both parties.

There are many reasons for this phenomenon; for the utility of this short piece I will describe three of the most influential variables and a tool to manage and mitigate the damage that these influences can have on a conflict:

1) Nature of the situation
2) The way adversaries interpret the situation
3) Differences inherent in the human experience (group dynamics, personal psyches, motivation and culture to name a few)

Notice that conflict has a lot to do with the individual and individual experience. The first and most important step in getting “un-trapped” is reflection and understanding one’s own perspective and motivation.

The Johari window is a tool used for self-understanding and personal awareness. The Johari window tool can help us identify personal blind spots.  For example, if one person suggests that you are avoidant you might believe them to be wrong or have some other motivation to say that to you.  If two people tell you that you are avoidant perhaps both have come to the same faulty conclusion or they are conspiring against you.  If five people suggest that you are avoidant you are more likely to consider it as a possibility and dig a little deeper.  The goal of applying the Johari window tool is to widen the Arena or "open area" quadrant and shrink the other three quadrants. We grow the “open area” quadrant through a combination of self-disclosure, self-reflection and inviting feedback from trusted sources. Note that one’s ability to engage in this process requires a certain amount of readiness.  Use of Johari’s can be very useful in a safe environment that is protective of the person receiving feedback.

The Johari window is one of many tools to increase awareness; there are many others that answer the questions:

What if I was more aware of my blind spots?
Would it change the conflict?
Could it help me with conflicts in the future?
Ask someone that you believe to be self-aware and the answer will be a resounding YES.

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