Conflict Resolution – Audio Interview

Conflict Matters Audio Interview Transcript with Dr. Bill Halbert and Attorney Leigh Ann Roberts (Nashville, TN-2008)

Content courtesy of The Halbert Company (Nashville, TN)

Bill Halbert: Hello. This is Bill Halbert. I'm president of the Halbert Company in Nashville, Tennessee. Today, I'm very, very excited about the topic that we're going to look at: conflict resolution or dealing with conflict or managing conflict. We may go in a thousand different directions. What's really exciting is that I have an expert, Leigh Ann Roberts, who is a friend of mine and is certainly known for her credentials. She's an attorney, a mediator, a trainer, and a consultant. I'll get her to tell you more about her life and experience in just a minute. She's here with me and we're going to talk about conflict from all points of view. I think conflict is maybe one of the areas that I hear the most about when I go into companies. First of all, Leigh Ann, tell us who you are and join the group.

Leigh Ann Roberts: Great! Thank you for having me, Bill. I appreciate it. Thank you for that introduction. As Bill said, my name is Leigh Ann Roberts. I am attorney-mediator with the firm of Papa & Roberts, PLLC. We are just outside of Nashville, Tennessee. I do all types of work for individuals and companies and non-profit organizations that are struggling with conflict, whether it is an immediate conflict or trying to be more proactive around training their managers or their leaders or their staff on how to deal with conflict.

Bill: Now, you had a thriving law practice for a long time. I'm going to start this off, and then you can finish it. You told me one time that you became convinced that there might be some better ways for dealing with conflict than the traditional law practice litigation approach. Is that right? Say it in your own words. You can say it much better than I can.

Leigh Ann: I think that's fair. I've been practicing law for about ten years. I still practice law. I advise small businesses and nonprofits on how to set up their companies and that sort of thing. Mainly, what I saw very clearly was a need to help individuals and organizations work through conflict in a better way before things escalate. The costs of litigation, whether you're in Tennessee, New York, California, wherever you are, are just really way more than people ever really can imagine. Once you get in the middle of litigation, not only are you really committed to some expenditure of time and money, but also you're also closely tied with the other party that you're in conflict with for an extensive amount of time. It always takes a lot longer than people think. What I found is that individuals and organizations, if given the opportunity to actually sit down in a good way and talk through the issues that they were having, about 80% of the time, they will come up with a resolution. That's really good statistics. Those are really good odds. I always liken it to if you have an issue; if you have a fly in the room, you probably want to pull out a flyswatter before you pull out a machine gun.

Bill: So, you think people have the ability within themselves to solve problems, differences of opinions, disagreements, and conflict — both personal and professional — and they don't necessarily need litigation. Is that what you're saying? Is that your bias?

Leigh Ann: I think that you have to look at the situation and use the tool that is best fit for that job. You wouldn't use a hammer if you needed a screwdriver. I think that there are cases where there are sexual harassment issues in the workplace or maybe cases where maybe a company is dumping toxic chemicals into a waterway. There are some issues that need to be litigated. Obviously, some of those cases have even been mediated or arbitrated, but I think you have to be very intentional about creating alternatives to just litigation. I wouldn't say that litigation isn't appropriate for some conflicts.

Bill: Would it be fair to say it's kind of a last resort?

Leigh Ann: I would definitely recommend — and I recommend this to clients regularly — it is not your first stop. You definitely want to assess your options. The costs associated with litigation are not just paying your attorney, not just paying court fees, not just paying experts, but missing opportunity costs because you are in a courtroom or deposition. You're not at work. The relationship with the other party and possibly the public will never be the same after litigation.

Bill: I saw an incident a number of years ago where two fellows got in an accident on an interstate. I happened to be an observer. I was there. I got to see it. I say, "I got to see it." I had to see it. It was right in front of me. Both were angry. Both were assuming that they were right. One of the individuals began to scream, "I'll see you court! I'll see you in court!" That's a case in point where it was first base, not second, third, or fourth. It was, "My first trigger finger is going to be, 'Let's go to court!'" I think too often, that's the norm. What do you think?

Leigh Ann: I think that it really does come down to a matter of emotions. If you've just been in an auto crash, then you are going to have adrenaline; you are going to say things out of emotion and angry. Whereas, a reasoned person at a later time would probably assess the options. Unless you are in litigation all of the time, a lot of cases never make it to the judge or to the jury. Most cases are settled before they get to that point. If you're going to end up working a settlement out with the other party anyway, it makes sense, after you've had an opportunity to get some good advice, to assess that option.

Bill: Let's get a few definitions out on the top of the table just so we are all talking about the same thing. How do you define "conflict"? What definition comes to your mind? How would you describe conflict?

Leigh Ann: I think conflict is where two individuals have opposing viewpoints and they have reached some sort of impasse in the ability to come to some sort of resolution or understanding of an issue.

Bill: I would say, in addition, that conflict generally means that I'm focusing on my point of view and I probably don't care about your point of view. At least, I don't think it's valid. I think I have the point of view. When I have a point of view and yours is devalued, we have a real imbalance in that conflict. We're probably going to have some real problems in getting this thing off ground zero. Do you think conflict is healthy?

Leigh Ann: I think conflict can be very healthy. It depends on how the conflict is managed, basically. I think one of the signs of a thriving organization is the ability to have conflict and benefit from it. If there weren't differing opinions on how to build a bigger and better widget, one company might go out of business. You might never have developing technology. If you never have disputes with your customers, your customer service might never improve. Really, conflict is an opportunity. That's one of the things I try to talk with my clients about as well as other organizations when I go in to consult or train. Crisis occurs and the opportunity is to look at the root of the conflict and to be proactive about that. What I am very passionate about in my work is trying to help organizations and even our culture have a shift in their philosophy around conflict.

Bill: What about personal conflict? I'm not going to ask you if you have conflict in your marriage, but I am going to ask you this one. Did you grow up with any conflict in your family? I'll be the first to testify. My mother and dad had little or no conflict. My dad was a peacemaker at all costs. Whatever my mother wanted, he just was more than happy to give it. I don't think I ever saw them disagree. I don't think I ever saw them have a point of view that was different. If they did, they did it behind closed doors. They seemed to have had a great marriage, but it was kind of dull and boring in a lot of ways. More than that, it didn't teach me how to fight fair or how to have any conflict resolution skills. If you think I wasn't in for a surprise when I got married, you are mistaken. How about your childhood? What was it like?

Leigh Ann: I'm glad you brought that up. I think that when we're young, we really are looking to adults in our circle — parents, grandparents, teachers — to reflect back to us, "Is this a good thing; is this a bad thing." If we never see adults argue, then when it does happen, we have different responses. Maybe less mature responses. If you grew up in a home where conflict had high intensity, you may be afraid of conflict or you may be overly aggressive and wonder why some people that grew up in a household like yours — well, we're just having a conversation. For them, it registers as an emotionally charged conflict already. And you're just getting warmed up. On a scale of what you're comfortable with, a lot of that is determined when you are very young. We all grow up with our personalities. There is a lot of science out there that birth order can sometimes affect your view on conflict and leadership and decision-making.

Bill: The firstborn would be more inclined to have conflict. What would you say?

Leigh Ann: I haven't studied that area. There may be more experts out there. I definitely think that the research states that firstborns are more likely to take responsibility. You may have firstborns that are compromising; whereas, a baby of the family may be more avoidant. Their opinion was never engaged. Then, you may have some people in the middle that have had to work really hard to get their opinion heard, that are more combative and more boisterous in their opinion. All of that is subjective.

Bill: I was a middle child. That fits me beautifully! One of the things I think is interesting about conflict is that some people seem to enjoy it. Other people have to get mad before they have conflict. I've heard women speak of their husbands and say, "He just won't differ with me until he gets his back up against the wall. Then, when he does express himself, it comes out in anger." Then, of course, we all know about the couples that have Friday night fights and just look forward to each gathering for another knockdown drag out. I think I'm hearing you say that it can come from a lot of different places. Everybody relates to it in a different way. It may have something to do with birth order or maybe even where the moon and the stars are. At least, you're saying here that it's healthy. I'm dying to get to the questions of how can we make it healthier, what can we do to make that a really healthy enterprise. Before we do that, I want to ask you about the negative side. What are some of the costs — you mentioned some of this, but I would like you to amplify that. What are some of the costs of inappropriate or ineffective communication conflict?

Leigh Ann: You mentioned that conflict can be healthy. I think one way of looking at it, whether we are co-workers, neighbors, family members, conflict is going to happen. Conflict is inevitable. It's not a matter of if it's going to happen; it's when it's going to happen. When I get called into a organization to train or consult on this topic, one of the very first things that I talk with them about is if they willing to pay the costs of not moving through conflict in a good way. That's not to say that every manager, every staff member, or every leader is going to handle every conflict perfectly. We just spent a fair amount of time talking about how we all come to the office, we all come into our organization with our own personal issues, our own slants on conflict. Just like we are interacting with others and we are bringing all of our issues to the table, everybody that comes into the workplace has got their own issues. You may have an individual that is going through a divorce or a financial crisis. Maybe they are taking care of an elderly parent or a sick family member. That individual may have a response to conflict that seems off the chart. When I say there are opportunities there, having a conversation with those individuals in a good way can earn you an employee for life. It can earn you a customer for life. Or it can go the other way. For those of us who have clients and customers, I think one of the most obvious costs of conflict is loss — a loss of a client, loss of revenue. All of the marketing that you put into having people come in the front door can be lost if, once they get into the first bump in the road, if that's not handled in a good way.

Bill: One of the costs that I see often and I hear expressed when I do conferences with companies is the stress that comes from individuals who are dealing with ineffective conflict. The fact that they're talking about going home at night - or maybe the conflict is at home. They're dealing with this upset stomach, cardio-vascular, hardening of the arteries, diabetes, some kind of problem that is manifesting itself pretty much out of a physiological expression. The conflict has become so disruptive that their health is impaired. I think we could both agree that if we get away from that and get to a healthier place, we're at a much better zone. I'm going to kind of pitch us to that direction. I want to start off with an alphabetized abbreviation that you refer to. You tell us all about it. A.D.R. What in the flip dip does that mean? A.D.R.

Leigh Ann: I wanted to mention that when people get stressed and when they're in conflict, some people take wellness days, sick days, and mental health days. You will see people miss work. You will see people's decision-making abilities go down. I think you're very right. Those are immediate costs of conflict. About A.D.R. It's so funny. I think every major industry has a meaning for the term A.D.R. In my industry, it stands for Alternative Dispute Resolution.

Bill: Say it again.

Leigh Ann: Alternative Dispute Resolution. What is it the alternative to Litigation? What are the alternatives for resolving disputes other than litigation? There are quite a few different methods that come under that umbrella. I'm an arbitrator as well as a mediator. I get this question a lot. What is the difference between arbitration and mediation? Basically, the easiest way to remember it is who gets to make the decision in the process. In mediation, which is something that works really well with parties like business partners or people that are in a conflict in their community, mediation is where you bring parties into a room with a third party neutral, somebody like me that doesn't know the individuals or doesn't have a stake in the game. Bring them in and walk them through a process where they talk about the issues that they're facing. Then, at the end of the day, the parties come up with a resolution to their issue. About 80% of the time, when you get parties in a room together — I want you to remember this, because we'll talk about this a little bit later — about 80% of the time, when folks get in the room together, they will come to a resolution. That's a pretty good statistic. Sometimes when you don't want to have a hard conversation with people, I tell you to hang on to that statistic. Eighty percent is pretty good odds. Not only do you have an agreement when the parties leave that room, but you have an agreement that actually has the parties' fingerprints all over it. They're much more inclined to carry the terms of that agreement out. It's usually a much better suited agreement for those parties since they actually came up with the agreement. The other part of that, arbitration, really has to do with — we think of a judge coming in. a lot of arbitrators are retired judges. I do some arbitration with disputes between business owners. Basically, what that means is you bring the parties into the room. They tell me both sides of the disputes. They put on proof just like that would in a litigated case. I actually make the decision. The parties don't make the decision. I hear the evidence. I go off. I consider the evidence. Then, I make a ruling just like a judge or a jury would. Those two individuals most times, have to be bound. Most arbitration is binding. They have to live with that decision. They really have lost the ability to make that decision for themselves. That's the key difference between arbitration and mediation. Under A.D.R., people will use different formats like mediation, arbitration. You may have a panel review board where if you are in a workplace and maybe there's a labor dispute or some sort of grievance, you'll actually have a collection of your peers that will hear the evidence and make a ruling. There are a lot of different formats. It can really be suited for the different needs of the organization.

Bill: One of the things that you have in your writings is the notion of self-mediation. I want to see if we can give the listener today some help on what an individual can do if there is not a Leigh Ann Roberts around. Obviously, this is how you make your living. You're available at your Website, which we'll give in a few minutes. This is something that many of you might want to do. Let's just say that you're there with a co-worker, a husband, or a child. You're trying to use some self-mediation techniques. What would we do to make that happen?

Leigh Ann: The sign of a really healthy system, a really healthy business, a really healthy organization is in a business leader, they need to know how to handle, resolve, manage conflicts themselves, rather than calling in an outside person. When we talk about self-mediation, what we're talking about is how to have what feels like a very difficult conversation with another individual in an attempt to resolve that at the most immediate level. As you go up and you start calling in managers to be a mediator or an outside mediator like myself, that's when costs go up. You have to pay for that outside mediator. You may have to pull a manager off another project. Really, the most efficient and the most timely, most cost effective way is to really encourage individuals to have these conversations themselves.

Bill: We'll call that "first echelon mediation."

Leigh Ann: That's right.

Bill: What do I do? I want to be that. I want to learn the skills that will make me a first echelon mediator. What do I do?

Leigh Ann: First of all, if you are learning self-mediation skills, these are skills that translate not only in the workplace, but you will use them at family reunions. You will use them at the grocery store. If you live in a neighborhood association, I have seen people use their conflict resolution skills in their homeowner's association. It's particularly helpful when you have cases with neighbors. There is a core set of skills and understandings that I try to convey to people. One of the very first things is something you and I have already talked about a little bit. Know your own personal background with conflict, your personality in conflict. This is taking a step back a little bit, but if you know that you are conflict avoidant — and the statistics show that 75%, three out of every four managers is conflict avoidant — if you know that you are conflict avoidant, then you should know about yourself that you are really going to have to push yourself outside your comfort zone to have these conversations. There are quite a few books out there talking about how to difficult conversations. A lot of times, you just need to have a pep rally with yourself to even get to the difficult conversation. I think taking a few moments and looking at yourself. Do you detach from conflict and pretend that nothing is going on? Are you one of those people that is very confrontational in your style? If you don't know your style, go ask your child or your significant other or your co-worker. They know what your style is. Are you a compromising person that doesn't like conflict and wants everybody to get along and is willing to let go of your own personal opinions and interest just for the peace of the group? Or are you an individual that can work collaboratively to advance the interests of all involved and really sit in that uncomfortable space? Knowing that is really good information. You're going to know what skills you need to develop.

Bill: I remember one time, I was teaching a course on communication. I had an inventory on conflict resolution that I had never used before. I decided, "Well, since I'm teaching this course, I might as well take the assessment myself," knowing all along that I would come out very well. I just had all kind of vision that I would be a great conflict resolver. As it turned out, I'm a real avoider. I can understand why after having shared with you about my folks. I just avoid it like crazy. It was a real turn around for me. The first thing is you have to know yourself.

Leigh Ann: That's right.

Bill: And accept where you are, but maybe push yourself a little bit to get outside of that label or box that you've been in previously. What's number two?

Leigh Ann: That's right. I think that you make yourself a more marketable employee, a better leader by developing those skills. I think the second point is that you really have to identify is this a conflict. I try to help people think of it as is this a blip on the radar screen of life or is this a real crisis. If you are conflict avoidant, resist the urge to label everything as a blip. It's not! We all have different personalities. Sometimes, people just don't get along. Not everybody is going to be friends. That doesn't mean that if two adults don't like each other that there is a conflict there to be mediated. You really have to assess the situation. If it's a pattern of people not being courteous to each other or slighting each other, that's more of a situation where it's starting to create a scenario where it could be presenting opportunity costs, not only for the company, but creativity is lost. If those two people at their tasks are interdependent on each other, if they depend on each other to work and they're avoiding each other, we've got more than a blip.

Bill: Frequency might be an issue here.

Leigh Ann: Frequency. That's right.

Bill: A blip might be it happened once, so let it go. It's not a big deal.

Leigh Ann: That's correct.

Bill: But, if it happens continuously, then maybe you're beginning to see some erosion in the relationship and some costs in the family or in the work environment or whatever.

Leigh Ann: That's right. Let's be honest here. There's the water cooler effect. If there is a personality conflict going on, don't kid yourself that it's not — those conflict avoidant folks out there, don't kid yourself that it's actually not affecting other people at work. Your conflict may be the most interesting thing going on in the office. Then, you get people standing around talking about it. What do we do as humans? We take sides. You actually will have a lot of energy going towards this personality conflict. That's really when a leader or a team member sees it actually pouring outside of the two individuals. That takes it above a blip.

Bill: Some people refer to this as differentiating between a war vs. a battle. Is everything worth raising it to the level of negotiation? I would suggest that it isn't. I think, as a matter of fact, the pattern issue reminds me a little bit of my readings with Edwards Demings, who was the father of total quality management. He referred to one incident as a special effect. He said often we, particularly Americans, jump on a special effect, and we generalize our reaction to it. We overreact. He said, as you're saying here, wait until it becomes a pattern, wait until it becomes something of a continuance. What would number three be?

Leigh Ann: After you've determined if it's appropriate to intervene, you really need to honor what is about to happen. The reason that a lot of people don't have these conversations is that this is not a conversation that you start at 3:30 on a Friday afternoon when you've got plans to play volleyball with somebody at 6:00. These conversations are not 15- or 20- minutes conversations. They take time to have in a good way. One of the reasons that people don't have these conversations in a good way is the time that it takes. One of the very first things that I try to help individuals do in self mediation is what I call "the work before the work." I would say 90% of the time, this is what goes out the window. The work before the work is what you do personally, what you do for the surroundings, what you do to prepare for this conversation that creates the likelihood of it going as well as it can possibly go.

Bill: I'm going to have to really get you to give us some nuts and bolts on that one. I love this one. This is great. Now, I can get my hands onto something that I can do specifically. Let me give you an instance. I'm having problems with a coworker. Neither one of us has power to hire and fire. We are both instrumentally connected. Let's say we're department heads. We have to work together in order to be effective. You're the one that's giving me grief. Of course, I think you're the one with the problem. You're the one that's making life miserable for me. What can I do to work before the work? What would I do to prepare? I'm going to go into your office and talk to you about the fact that you've been saying some things behind my back. What could I do to prepare for that?

Leigh Ann: That's a great scenario. We'll just jump off from there. Basically, the first thing that you would need to do, Bill, is to take a few moments. Go into your office, go outside. I've seen people go sit in their car, leave the facility altogether. Just go get yourself grounded. Whenever you go into these types of conversations, you need to come from as balanced a place personally as possible. Having time to sit, take deep breaths, think about what it is important to you.

Bill: Count to ten? Is that what you're saying?

Leigh Ann: Count to ten. That's a great way. Everybody's got their method. Some people have been known to do visualization exercises. Some people meditate. Some people go out and take a smoke break. Obviously, I want people to be healthy. You have to do what you can do to get yourself grounded. Introducing and starting this conversation is probably one of the most important phases of all of it. You have to do what you can do. Take some deep breaths and count to ten.

Bill: Are you saying that if I'm angry, I should relax, meditate, count to ten, walk around the building until I can get rid of my anger? Would you want me to get rid of that feeling so that I'm in a status quo place?

Leigh Ann: I don't know that that's going to happen for you. Quite frankly, I don't know if it's appropriate for you to just get over your anger. You may have a real serious and legitimate gripe, a real concern. Obviously, in the conversation, those feelings are going to come up. However, you want to get yourself in a place where you can actually introduce the conversation in a good way so that the other person wants to participate in a good way. Then, after you've laid some of that groundwork, that's when you can safely express your concerns.

Bill: Safely express. I like that. Somewhere I read a long time ago that anger is purposeful if I'm managing it. It becomes unpurposeful if it's managing me. It seems to me that all that is involved in step number three is getting me to the place where my anger is manageable. If it's out of control, I'm dangerous. There's no telling what I'll do.

Leigh Ann: If you're out of control, that's not the right time to go talk to the other individual. I had a very, very wise boss when I worked at the Attorney General's office who is now a judge. Russell once said to me, "Don't hit send on that e-mail. Sleep on it."

Bill: That's great.

Leigh Ann:"Don't send that brief out. Don't send that pleading out. Sleep on it." I think there is some real wisdom to letting a very strong emotion have some time to really sit and simmer down just a little bit.

Bill: I worked with a few leaders that I have admired that I respected the fact that when they had their back against the wall, they would kind of squint or relax a minute before they would grab a trigger finger and say something that they would later regret. That's good. That's helpful. Number four, what would you do?

Leigh Ann: This is something that may surprise you. This really helps a conversation go better than if you had not taken this step. You're going to come into my office and you're going to tell me what I'm doing wrong and your concerns. You have absolutely no idea, at this point, what I'm in the middle of, what I'm working on. Very few of us, even if we work in a very interdependent, very close fashion, very rarely will we know exactly what that person is in the middle of when we go to talk to them and have this conversation. We don't know if they've got five minutes or if they've got an hour. One of the very first things that you do is you've got to have what I call "the conversation before the conversation." The conversation about having the conversation. One of the things that this establishes right off the bat is respect. Respect for the other party. You're going to come into my office and you're going to say, "Leigh Ann, there are a few things that I'm concerned about that I would like to talk to you about. Is there a time, maybe this afternoon or tomorrow, when we might have 45 minutes or an hour where we could sit down and talk about what's going on?"

Bill: So, you set a date.

Leigh Ann: You actually make an appointment to have this conversation. What that signals to me is that you actually respect what I'm in the middle of, that you're going to be professional about it. Let's face it. We're in the workplace. Busting into somebody's office doesn't always go over well. If you want the conversation to go well, you don't want to immediately put the other person on the defensive. I think this is a really, really crucial tool that a lot of people don't utilize. You actually make an appointment. The person may want to get into it right there and say, "Well, what is this about?"

Bill: Yeah. I'm just imagining that if you came into my office and tried to set a date and you said, "There's something we need to talk about, but I want to find out if this is the best time for you, or should we do it later," my sense of curiosity would be, "Well, Leigh Ann, what is it? What do you want to talk about?"

Leigh Ann: Right. I call this "the opening." You've got to have an opening. One of the things I say is, "Open in a good way, and close in a good way." You want to open these conversations, even the conversation before the conversation, in a good way and close in a good way. What you would do is make sure that you talk about the concern. You want to avoid the use of "you" statements. "You've done xyz, and now I'm mad." Saying the word "you" automatically puts me on the defensive. It's just a natural response. When you go in to have the conversation, think about what your concerns are. "Leigh Ann, I'm concerned about the last project that we did together. I think that there are some ways that we can improve it. When you would have time to talk about that?"

Bill: Some people call that the "I message," instead of the "you message." If you want to read a good book on that, Thomas Gordon has written a book called Worker Effectiveness Training. It stresses how to put those words in such a way that the individual wants to "open the door," as you say. I love that opening the door. Okay. We're at number five. What do we do now?

Leigh Ann: You've got an appointment to have this conversation. You've asked them to schedule an hour. I tell people 45 minutes to an hour is the ballpark of how long one of these conversations should take. In doing that, you need to ask the person if they can meet you at the boardroom. They need to make sure that someone's fielding their calls. If they have a manager, obviously the manager needs to know that they're going to be gone for an hour and where they're going to be. There is some planning that they need to do on their end. There is some planning that you need to do on your end. You need to set the stage. You need to set the stage for this conversation to go as well as it can. That means find a neutral space. Don't necessarily have that conversation in their office or your office. If you have a boardroom or a neutral place that is a private setting or where there's not going to be a lot of traffic, try to set it there. It will have an effect of taking some of the power play notion out of the conversation. You want to make sure that when you're setting the stage, you are taking care that the person has access to water, bathroom, and everything that they need; and that your contact, your manager, your assistant knows to hold your calls. You're going to be in this space. Both of you need to make sure there is not going to be any interruptions. Again, I go back to 80% of the time, if you get folks together and you keep them in that space and they talk about their issues, they will work it out. You've got to do everything you possibly can to make it comfortable and to make sure that happens.

Bill: Is that number five?

Leigh Ann: Set the stage. Yes.

Bill: We call "set the stage" number five. It sounds to me like there's an awful lot of planning and preparation and mental awareness and aptitude that goes into it before I even walk through the door. This is great.

Leigh Ann: Here's the thing. If you have the conversation in a good way once, you don't have to have the conversation five or ten different times and not really ever have it in a good way. I tell people, "If you're a manager, if you're a team leader, and you want to have this conversation once, you want to have it in a good way. It's actually worth it to take the extra time to make sure that it actually goes in a good way."

Bill: I like the percentages that you give. I have never heard that. Eighty percent.

Leigh Ann: Eighty percent of the time. There's an individual by the name of Dan Dana. He talks about forces towards harmony. Whatever your belief system is, what Dr. Dana and I have found professionally is that there is a real method in this process. If you bring people together and if you let some of the emotion out, if you let some of the venting take place in a good way, most of the time, people are going to get to a resolution. After you actually get in the space, you want to make sure that you give both sides of the issue equal opportunity to voice their opinion. Some people call this "venting." If people don't feel heard, you're just going to have this issue come up again. If you have a situation where a person is repeating themselves over and over again, that needs to be a signal to you that you either didn't hear the core issue of what they're saying or there's an emotion there that needs to be named.

Bill: This is terrific. I can't tell you how much I appreciate hearing this from you and having you share with our listeners these great ideas and all of this information. I have a hunch that you know more than you're telling us here in this short 45 minutes. I would love to sit under your tutelage for five, six, seven, or eight hours - or a semester. I do want to ask you in just a minute to give us one last tip. Before we do, let me just conclude by saying this. Think of all the inappropriate ways that we have handled conflict, such as stuffing it or avoiding it or telling other people. I think that's one of the worst things we do. We tell other people. We ask people who really can't help us, "What do I do? How do I handle this thing?" After a while, we become a burden to society because we're always running around moaning and groaning about our difficulties and not really doing anything about it. Leigh Ann has given us today some very concrete things that we can do that really will make a difference. I'm going to put you on the spot and say give us one last tip. With that, we will close. If you will, add your e-mail address, please.

Leigh Ann: Okay. Thank you again for the opportunity to be here. I think that one of the best things that people can do when someone that is involved in a conflict comes to you is, just like you said, Bill, encourage them to talk to the other person. A lot of times, we just need encouragement, because that's a scary conversation to have. Remind people that eight times out of ten, they're going to walk away with an agreement. I always say that it makes a big difference to thank the person. Even if you're in a conflict with them, when you're having the conversation before the conversation and at the end of the difficult conversation, thank them. Thank them for their time. Again, if you move through conflict in a good way, you can have a teammate for life, a customer for life, an employee for life.

Bill: Thank you, Leigh Ann. I appreciate so much your contribution today. We look forward to another opportunity to interview an expert in the very near future.

Leigh Ann: Bill, if they do want any additional information, they can go to Thanks again for having me here today.

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