Not really. Conflict arises everywhere, all the time, but the bulk of them, we deal with straightforwardly or even unconsciously. We exchange what we value less for what we value more. If we all had identical needs, desires, priorities and points of view, economic exchange would be very difficult.
What gets complicated is when we think we know our own minds, and the minds of others, but are wrong about one, the other, or both. Our thoughts aren’t transparent, our statements aren’t always clear, and we’re frequently unaware of our own biases and blind spots. As Kathryn Schulz put it in her TED talk, being wrong feels just like being right – It’s knowing you’re wrong that feels awful.
For a peek into my process, I’ve put some common statements in the left-hand column, what might go through my head when I interpret that statement in the middle column, and the labels attached to what may be going on (the possible cognitive bias at work) in the right-hand column, in case you’re curious about the phenomenon and care to look it up:
|WHAT THEY SAY||WHAT I MIGHT HEAR||COULD THERE BE…|
|I’m not good with conflict.||I’m triggered by displays of anger, sadness or disappointment and therefore reluctant to explore or share my thoughts.||Empathy Gap|
|It’s just common sense!||This is what I expect, based on my belief that reality is what I’ve experienced, and that reality comprises my beliefs and not others’. (Often accompanied by overconfidence in the accuracy of one’s answers to questions, and by wishful thinking.)||Naïve Realism
|It is what it is.
They knew this would happen.
They were asking for it.
|The world is just and fair, so this must be their own fault some how.||Just-World Fallacy
Status Quo Bias
|How could they do that to me?||Other people make their decisions based on how they feel toward me. The more harm I suffer, the more they are to blame.||Fundamental Attribution Error
Defensive Attribution Hypothesis
|That’s impossible.||If that happened, I’d feel awful forever.||Impact Bias|
|That’s nuts.||I’m realistic and rational, my feelings and interests have nothing whatsoever to do with my position. They’re being selfish, emotional, childish, etc.||Curse of Knowledge
|They broke the agreement!||They know every relevant fact that I know, and it means the same thing to them that it means to me.||Curse of Knowledge
|That’s not what my neighbor got!||My hopes and expectations are based on what happened to similarly situated people at another time.||Anchoring Effect
|I can’t believe this is happening.||This situation and the possible outcomes are so traumatic for me, I’m shutting down.||Ostrich Effect|
|There’s no way a court would support that!||I like my proposal better.||Overconfidence Effect
|Yeah but what I forgot was an oversight. What they did was way worse!||I judge myself by my intentions and others by the impact of their actions on me.||Fundamental Attribution Error
So, if you’re asking yourself, “How can they be so (self-righteous, entitled, blind, selfish, stupid, etc.)” maybe switch to “Which of these biases or errors, on my part or on theirs, would make this seem valid?”
Then you can avoid jumping into a downwardly spiraling conversation….