[MUSIC] So when I mention conflict, you might have a negative association with the word. You might remember a particularly painful conflict that you've experienced, a conversation, a quarrel with somebody else, that left you dissatisfied, or that made you feel uncomfortable. And these negative associations that we have with conflict are essentially anticipated negative consequences of conflict. There could be tension between people, that could be a breakdown of communication and of collaboration, it could be stress and the stress could even snow ball into having to take time off work having to take sick days. So organizationally speaking there can be a number of negative consequences and this can, sometimes even spill over outside of the boundaries of the organization into the relationships with partners or with customers. So as a result, the behavioral default for most people is actually to try to avoid conflict, or to deny that conflict even exists which is another form of avoidance. And evolutionarily speaking that actually makes a whole lot of sense to have that behavioral default, because for most of human history getting into conflict carried the danger of getting you killed. Especially if you are getting into quarrel with somebody from another tribe or another clan or another fiefdom. Or if the person that you are quarreling with is somebody in a higher position of power. So people were conditioned over millennia to think twice before they get into conflict, be it a bar brawl or be it a disagreement with their local potentate. Even today where the danger of getting killed because you're in a conflict is actually quite low, the instinct, this behavioral default of avoiding conflict, of avoiding tensions and clashes of ideas and interests, still persists. So that impulse to avoid conflict comes from the other behavioral response that is very common when we encounter conflict, and that is aggression. And aggression can take two forms. It can be aggressive aggression if you will, so direct open hostility that we display against somebody who seems to be infringing on our interests or is in conflict with us. Or could be actually passive aggressive behavior which is indirect hostility, which can articulate itself through a procrastination or refusal to do a particular tasks, using a lot of sarcasm and clearly those behaviors are not a great basis for a productive relationship. I still remember one of my first consulting projects was actually one where conflict was a near constant situation, but it wasn't conflict with a client. The unique situation there was that I was in the engagement with another consulting firm and, if you ever worked in consulting, you know that that is a difficult situation, because both firms basically want to prove to the client that they should be the one handling the engagement all by themselves so they look better than the other party, and that usually means trying to make the other firm look bad. So in that situation, that's where I was, myself and the engagement leader from the other firm, we were happily alternating between aggressive, being at each other's throats, and pointing out the weaknesses and failures in the other's work. And passive aggressive behavior where we try to sabotage each other's work because we're kind of codependent in how we approach that engagement. So as I was young and stupid at the time, didn't know how to moderate our impulses, but it shows how that our natural impulses sometimes can lead to really bad outcomes when we react naturally to situations of conflict. Now whether it's aggressive or passive aggressive behavior, the engine of escalation in these situations often is reciprocity. And we talked about reciprocity before as a good thing, right? So you do me a favor, I do you a favor in return, but it can work the other way around as well. You make me look bad or I'm gonna make you look bad, you mess with my work, I'm gonna screw with your work. You insult my mother, oh boy I'm gonna, you get the idea. So that is often the engine, right? That leads to escalation of conflict situations and that clearly leads to negative outcome. So both of these behaviors, both our tendency to try to avoid conflict as we can and once conflict breaks out to have this direct and indirect hostility towards the other parties or party, both of these actually come back to some simple assumptions about conflict. And the first assumption is that conflicts necessarily are zero sum game. That there is a win lose situation always. Psychologists call this the fixed pie bias. If you win something due to the conflict, I stand to lose something. If I win something, you lose something. There's no way that there is an integrated solution where both parties gain. The second assumption is that conflicts bring out the worst in people, because they fight with all their might for their interests, for that they're interested in. That also means for me that I have to be on my guard. I also have to try very hard to defend my ground, or to counter aggress. As a result, the third assumption is that conflict is necessarily bad for relationships. That relationships suffer because people are more interested in getting their outcomes than they are actually in maintaining a positive relationship. Now, these views or these assumptions about conflict are very limiting, and they can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. If I assume the worst behavior in others, I might adopt behaviors myself that are actually really provoking bad behaviors in others. So that's what happened to me in the consulting project, is that I anticipated the other engagement leader to be sabotaging my work and be aggressive every step of the way, so my own behavior, I went to work actually with that attitude, right. And I made it come true, because there was this escalation. And the belief that there's this potential to lose something, whether materially or in a relationship, and trying to avoid all conflict always, that actually means that you will never experience a positive conflict resolution because that is actually a possibility that there is a positive outcome out of conflict that both sides, or all sides, stand to gain something. That there is a productive constructive conversation that comes from conflict. So this attitude towards conflict is not a coincidence. You can go back in history to ancient Roman history, to the foundational myth of Rome, the Romulus and Remus legend. And this is a story essentially about two brothers, leaders of men who gathered many followers, that for a while shared power to rule their land. And they tried to decide on where to start the city of Rome. And they have an argument about whether they should found it on the Palatine Hill, or the Aventine Hill. And they can't resolve it, they resort to. Romulus actually cheats on the and to convince his brother, starts building cities, tries to build a wall around the city. And Remus jumps over the wall to belittle the wall and shot that it's a bad idea to build the city on Palentino Hill and as a response, Romulus actually kills him with a shovel and then he continues to build the city and becomes the heroic leader of Rome that he names after himself of course and ultimately also becomes a tyrant. Now, scholars have puzzled over the significance of this myth. Stories are made up for reasons, so why is there this brother? Why is Remus there? If Romulus found the city why does there have to be a brother that gets killed? Of the many interpretations that exist for that myth, the one that I find most compelling comes from T.P. Wiseman. And I like it because it really unpacks the duality of conflict that is in that story. According to this presentation, basically what this story suggests is that conflict is endemic to human relations and to societies. That not all conflicts are resolved in a fair manner or even in a manner that easily or morally rightfully justifiable. It's being said that Romans were actually horrified by the fratricide, but the murder in T.P. Wiseman's argument actually keeps the idea of, in the period, of the balance of power between the two brothers, before they have that quarrel over the city in the minds of people. That it keeps alive this idea of a period before there is a single ruler, a tyrant, the idea of the other Rome if you will. And that is a really important take away from this story is that a better handling of conflict could actually lead to a better society according to the myth. And this is something that reoccurs again and again in Roman history, that clearly there were many conflicts that they had with neighboring empires, neighboring fiefdoms, but they also had many conflicts internally, civil wars. And you see this cycle of a unified society actually standing divided against itself, but then also forging a new unity out of that conflict. So from that perspective, conflict is not an end point, it's not an end to things. It's actually an opportunity for a new unity. And that I really like as an idea. And I see that even today. When I worked as a consultant in Italy, I saw a lot of open conflict in meetings, in projects. But they are often leading to better decisions in the end. I even see it here with my colleagues and department meetings that the Italian colleagues are very openly arguing and we have conflict out in the open but often it leads to better decisions. My own culture is completely not like this. In Germany what I've experienced, is that people regard conflict in the workplace as something that's inefficient. They regard it as failure. If there is conflict that means you haven't planned properly. You haven't done your homework properly. You haven't really understood the situation properly. So that's why I like the Italian approach to conflict, that it really sees it as a catalyst for something good. That it can lead to a productive constructive outcome. And those could be that it focuses attention on things that matter. Matter to people, that's why they come into conflict in the first place. That it actually leads to a sharing of information, you learn something about others, about their viewpoint, about a different way to see things. And that might help you actually keep an open mind, right, because you reexamine your own assumptions through that process of working through the conflict. Now the idea that a certain amount of conflict, is you can lead to better decisions, something that we've talked about earlier in the course and it's something that is very common place now in research on innovation creativity. People have labeled this creative abrasion, that you need a certain amount of tension of ideas of perspectives, and you have to really take the time and work through those tensions in order to really get innovative ideas in the end. And this view of the positive outcomes of conflict clearly is based on very different assumptions. It's not that it's not a fixed pie anymore that we're talking about, we're really thinking of conflict here, as something that can actually lead to integrative solutions that can lead to better outcomes for everybody. We think about conflict as something that can bring out the best in people, the most creative ideas, they might get inspired. They might learn, they might actually jump over some of the limitations in their thinking that they have had earlier. Anger can actually help relationships, it can help deepen them rather than erode them because you learn more about who you're interacting with, through this process of working through a conflict and managing that conflict. No conflict is inherently destructive or constructive. It's what you do as a leader, how you deal with a conflict that makes it destructive or constructive. And that's why, especially as an international leader, you have to learn how to identify conflict. Even in cultural contexts where the expression of discontent, the expression of conflict is very, very subtle. Maybe even be hidden and you need to decide which conflicts are actually worth addressing and worth are working through. And very often, you will have to be the one that leads the involved parties, that leads the involved people through that process of conflict management and conflict resolution. And how to do that, we'll talk about in this session.