As we learned from our mule friends last week, Toe-to-Toe is a well-established way of dealing with conflict that doesn’t get the best possible results. The problem isn’t conflict, but the way we SEE conflict.

We can continue to see conflict the same old way…we are adversaries in which one of us will win and one will lose…or we can see conflict in a new way…as an opportunity for discovery.

In this Heart-to-Heart approach, the mules listen to each other. Instead of bringing shields to defend themselves, they bring curiosity to discover each other’s needs or desires. This is a major breakthrough for two reasons. First, misunderstandings are imbedded in all conflicts. Listening to understand eliminates misunderstandings. Second, listening to understand another person communicates ‘You matter’. When we communicate to others that they matter, they are more open to consider possibilities.

Unlike a Toe-to-Toe perspective in which we see each other as adversaries and expect a Win-Lose outcome, in Heart-to-Heart we see each other as partners and search for a Win-Win outcome. Now that we know what each other desires, we stay curious and see if we can discover a way that provides mutual benefit.

Practicing a Heart-to-Heart strategy does not ensure that we will always get the results we desire. However, it does result in two valuable outcomes. First, when we practice Heart-to-Heart, we maintain our self-respect because we act in ways consistent with our own values. When we go Toe-to-Toe, we often give up our self-respect by saying things we wish we hadn’t said and responding in ways that leave us with regret.

A second outcome of Heart-to-Heart is how it affects the next time. It’s likely that we will experience future conflicts with the same person. If we have handled a previous situation in a Toe-to-Toe manner, the negative experience and low trust between us will likely cause more of the same next time. However, the trust, respect, and cooperation communicated when we practice Heart-to-Heart set a positive foundation for a highly successful experience next time.

In your next conflict, consider practicing a Heart-to-Heart strategy in which you seek an outcome that is mutually beneficial. Let the other person know that you will not accept an outcome that is not a Win-Win. This will likely lead to seeing the conflict as a discovery time.

From our Top 20 team…Kevin Brennan, Willow Sweeney, and Tom Cody…who keep discovering better ways of resolving differences.

Paul Bernabei, Director
Top 20 Training