People often ask me if I use my own tools. I do. That is why I wrote DIY Conflict Resolution. I know firsthand that the tools work. When I feel myself getting twisted up about a relationship or issue, I frequently review the Seven Choices and take the Five Actions. For example, I have long had a love-hate relationship with the entertainment industry, and I used the Third Ear Conflict Resolution process to work through it. Here’s how I did it and how the process can work for you.
Background of the Conflict
My love-hate relationship with the sports and entertainment industry began at a young age. I started playing organized sports when I was six years old and not knowing about the All-American Girls Baseball League, I dreamed of being the first woman to play Major League Baseball. The closest I got was dating a man whose mom played in the AAGBL.
The Youth Performing Arts School (YPAS) in my hometown was part of the middle and high schools I attended, but my family was too poor for me to take the lessons necessary to audition of the programs at YPAS. I often felt like an outsider, yet I bridged the economic gap with academic success and managed to make several friends who continue to work in the arts. Still on the outside, I’ve found several ways to support them and our athletic classmates. I even worked as a minor league hockey executive and agent for several years.
Admittedly, when I entered those roles, I had unrealistic views of the glamour I might experience. Unclogging toilets at the stadium and tracking down drunk parents who forgot their children were not on my list of desired duties. Neither was wearing a smelly bird costume when our regular mascot was unavailable, especially not for lower hourly wages than my friend’s little sister was making at McDonald’s restaurants without a degree.
By the time I sued an employer in the sports industry, my eyes were wide open to the privilege, elitism, discrimination, and sexual harassment that was still rampant at the time. I was miserable, and it was somewhat of a relief to see that work end. Yet I met some of my most loyal friends while working in hockey. Fortunately, I did not let one experience stop me from developing collaborations and friendships with new actors, administrators, artists, athletes, athletic trainers, coaches, musicians, and more. It didn’t mean I never got burned again, but it wasn’t the industry that burned me.
Take a deep breath and look beyond what seems like the obvious cause of your conflict.
Set the Stage for Effective Improvisation
The Seven Choices help you remove self-imposed obstacles so you can narrow the issues you need to address with other people:
- Forgive yourself for feeling conflicted
- Acknowledge yourself for having the courage to confront this
- Forgive the world for having and creating conflicts
- Free the emotions safely, whether they be sadness, anger, or something else
- Clear your mind of the fears and negative stories you tell yourself
- Assume you know nothing about anything
- Listen with compassion, including to yourself
The improvisation comes once you are open to it. Below are the prompts the Third Ear Conflict Resolution process uses.
Action One: Define the Conflict Succinctly
It is often most effective to use this framework: I disagree with [who] about [what]. In this example, I disagree with pretty much anyone about my value when they believe it is less than theirs.
Action Two: Identify the Personal Interests Driving the Conflict
Go back to when you entered the relationship(s) that brought you the conflict(s). Remember what you wanted and expected.
When I got into the difficult relationships I had with people in the sport and entertainment industries, I expected mutual respect. Ambitious and a little naive, I wanted opportunities to advance. I hadn’t given great thought to what I would create at each stage to get those opportunities. Perhaps I was expecting more from my employers and clients than I was giving. Ouch. Fortunately, that’s all fixable.
Action Three: Play with the Possibilities for Resolution
Decades later, I can see that I have no current conflicts with the entertainment or sport industry. In a perfect world, I would not have to ask for mutuality and partnership. I hate having to ask people to consider me, my schedule, my wants, or my needs. Yet it’s all within my control. When I am working in cutthroat industries, I can still communicate my boundaries clearly and maintain them–actions I wasn’t as skilled in when I was starting out. Also, I can choose to walk away from what isn’t serving me. There is great power in saying no, and you can use the power of a positive no, rather than blowing up the bridge like I did in my 20s.
I recommend you look for more productive actions, too. Let me know if you need help determining what those might be.
Action Four: Create the Future with a Specific Plan
Going forward, the Third Ear Conflict Resolution process helped me identify specific actions I can take to ensure I am working with compatible clients and collaborators in any industry:
- Establish clearer boundaries and openly discuss our joint expectations.
- Resist the urge to immediately return a call when there’s no emergency requiring my immediate attention.
- Speak up when boundaries have been violated or agreements broken.
An estimated 80% of conflicts can be resolved quickly and completely with focused communication.