The Cost of Conflict Avoidance


I received an email yesterday. The kind of email a facilitator like me hopes to get. It simply said…”Thank you, Joe. Six months ago I took your Crucial Conversations training. It took me a few months to finally step up to a conversation with my husband. That conversation likely saved my marriage. I had gone to silence with my husband on a challenging topic. The story I had been telling myself was so far from what actually was happening. In uncovering where he was and his newly articulated struggle, I was able to be the partner to him I had committed to 9 years ago. I was able to be of service and get him the help he needed. I regularly use the skills you taught at work as well. And as you promised, I’m getting better results in my relationships. Thank you!”

Over the past 8-years, I’ve spent many evenings mediating conflicts between partners separating and moving into new phases of there life. That is my way of saying, they are divorcing or separating. What I have learned is that most of these transitions are a direct result of people in relation not holding or not holding well high stakes, high emotions, and differing opinion conversations, CRUCIAL CONVERSATIONS. As a Crucial Conversations and Crucial Accountability facilitator, I have heard story after story confirming what many of us already know. Most of us are usually only a few skillful conversations away from achieving results we want for ourselves, for others and for our family/communities/employers. And yet few of us have the skills to have these conversations. And the cost is high. Children caught in the middle trying to navigate the change imposed on them. Learning from those they love unconditionally, how to dig in or give in during a conflict. Likely growing up to start the cycle all over again.

And not having these conversations are not just impacting our families, but our communities and organizations as well. According to a VitalSmarts study of more than 650 people, employees waste an average of $1500 and an eight-hour workday for every crucial conversation they avoid.

VitalSmarts research shows, ninety-five percent of a company’s workforce struggles to speak up to their colleagues about their concerns. As a result, they engage in resource-sapping avoidance tactics including ruminating excessively about crucial issues, complaining, getting angry, doing unnecessary work, and avoiding the other person altogether.

In extreme cases of avoidance, the organization’s bottom line is hit especially hard. A shocking eight percent of employees estimate their avoidance has cost their organization more than $10,000. And one in twenty estimates that over the course of a drawn-out silent conflict, they waste time ruminating about the problem for more than six months.

The research confirms people who are skilled at discussing crucial issues waste significantly less time complaining, feeling sorry for themselves, avoiding problems, and getting angry. The few who know how to speak up don’t waste time avoiding crucial issues because they have the confidence and skills to raise them in a way that leads to productive dialogue.


Confront the Right Problem. The biggest mistake people make is to confront the most painful or immediate issue and not the one that gets them the results they really need. Before speaking up, stop and ask yourself, “What do I really want here? What problem do I want to resolve?”

Rein in Emotions. We often tell ourselves a story about others’ real intent. These stories determine our emotional response. Master communicators manage their emotions by examining, questioning, and rewriting their story before speaking.

Master the First Thirty Seconds. Most people do everything wrong in the first “hazardous half- minute”—like diving into the content and attacking the other person. Instead, show you care about the other person and his or her interests to disarm defensiveness and open up dialogue.

Reveal Natural Consequences. The best way to get someone’s attention is to change their perspective. In a safe and non-threatening manner, give them a complete view of the consequences their behavior is creating.

Contact me or your VitalSmarts rep if you would like to learn more about how to build the skill to walk through challenging conversations. Our suite of products is designed to build the skill for you to leave the training with the necessary skills to get the results you hope for yourself, the people you are in relation, and your organization, family, and communities.

Have a blessed day!

Originally published at www.linkedin.com

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