The #1, Best, Most Excellent Conflict Resolution Move

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    There are many constructive moves you can make when you find yourself in a difficult conversation or conflict at work. But they all rest upon a foundation of one crucial move. I demonstrate it for you here.


    The #1, Best, Most Excellent Conflict Resolution Move

    What is arguably the most important move you can make when you are involved in any sort of difficult conversation at work: whether it’s a conflict, an important negotiation, a yearly review, even an awkward social situation?

    It seems like nothing, it’s almost invisible, yet it’s crucial.

    It’s to PAUSE and stop ourselves from reacting, from doing all the things that would escalate the situation.

    No lashing back, no defensive questioning, no self-criticism.

    No fight or flight, or automatic response borne of our upset.

    Just pause…

    Pausing creates a space in which we can choose how to respond. All other helpful moves, and there are many, begin there.

    We may assess what’s happening, we may try to learn more, we may remind ourselves of our ultimate goal for the situation…

    …And then, when we are ready, we can act, not react, in a way that moves things in the most constructive direction..

    How do you learn to pause like this and not react? Well, it’s not easy. More to come…

22 responses to The #1, Best, Most Excellent Conflict Resolution Move

  1. Linda Stamato says:

    As usual, Richard, your suggestion is terrific: simple, straightforward, and solid. Think about the term “pregnant pause.” To me, it’s recognizing how valuable a pause can be and, too, acknowledging that there must be an investment in time. Then, of course, there is “the outcome.”

    It’s not only a good suggestion when there is conflict or criticism that might prompt defensive moves, but allowing for a pause gets attention, prompts focus and can, if used well, improve communication.

    1. Richard Cohen says:

      Yes, Linda. I agree. Great thoughts too about the benefits of pausing on our counterpart. In addition to what you suggest, it also models for them how we want the conversation to proceed: considered, respectful, etc.

      Thanks for writing!

  2. Gail Carroll says:

    I loved this and your creativity to make a pivotal and simple point memorable! I look forward to your next post.

    1. Richard Cohen says:

      Thanks, Gail. ;o)

  3. David Leon says:

    Thank you Richard…the only problem is I’m stuck on pause. How do you get “unstuck?”

    Seriously, a very helpful and often overlooked reaction…to just pause. Well done with great production value too.

    1. Richard Cohen says:

      Press “play.”

  4. michael katz says:

    Loved the “post credits” ending, Richard. And the very useful bit of advice as well!

    1. Richard Cohen says:

      Thanks, Michael. I wasn’t sure whether to do that, but I thought: “what the heck.” Glad someone out there appreciated it.

  5. Belinda Wasser says:

    Awesome video and a great tip. I loved how you said “I’m surprised” – that takes the charge out instantly.

    1. Richard Cohen says:

      Hi Belinda. Yes, one of the benefits of pausing is it “takes the charge out:” it reduces the emotional temperature, ours and theirs.

      Thanks for writing.

  6. Courtney Bourns says:

    Fun to see your emails and video posts. Always good nuggets of wisdom. Glad to see you are still at it!

    1. Richard Cohen says:

      Thanks, Courtney!

  7. Marian Bore says:

    Great post and well executed. Thanks. Is it ok to use this in a course I teach – giving you credit, of course?

    Oh – and I use ‘Respond not React’

    1. Richard Cohen says:

      Feel free to use this, Marion. And thanks for asking.

  8. Judi Fitts says:

    Love your videos, Richard! I teach my 5th grade students about “the pause” when we meditate twice a day. It’s news to them that, while we may not have control over our first feelings, we certainly can have control over our second feelings and/or our actions. Respond, not react, is my motto! 🙂

    1. Richard Cohen says:

      Thanks for writing, Judi, and great to hear that you are teaching this stuff to 5th graders! Self-awareness is key, and meditating is likely building your students’ capacity to be aware of what they are feeling. Many of us act unskillfully in part because we don’t even know what we are feeling. Keep up the wonderful work.

  9. Brian Blancke says:

    Pause….so simple, and yet, not easy to do, especially in the midst of conflict or an identity quake, when we are triggered (fight/flight/freeze). As O’Sensei says, its not about whether you get thrown or not (you will), but how quickly you recover. The pause is a critical piece of that ability to recenter in difficult conversations.

    1. Richard Cohen says:

      Yes, Brian. So critical and “not so easy to do.” Thanks for referencing the great Aikido master too.

  10. Sharon M says:

    You’ve got a gold mind here with your short, simple and applicable tips! Love ’em and will pass them on.

    1. Richard Cohen says:

      Thanks, Sharon. There’s gold in them thar hills!

  11. Peter Hiddema says:

    Lovely video Richard: succinct, to the point, engaging, and with great content. Bravo.

    Learning the art of pausing and developing the discipline to do it is indeed SO important. As you say, it opens the door to responding purposefully and productively instead of reacting instinctively from our fight or flight response.

    I’ve just posted it on my blog.

    Happy New Year. All the best wishes to you and yours.


    1. Richard Cohen says:

      Thanks for kind comments, Peter, and for posting this piece on your blog. That’s great. Keep up the good work, and I hope our paths cross at some point…

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