Steve Scherer

by Steve Scherer


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Comfort Kills Growth: Preparing Mentally For Healthy Conflict (script included)

People might say they don’t mind change, but they do.  Most of us mind it a lot. 

 

We like being comfortable, but comfort doesn’t lead to growth. 

 

As you take steps toward introducing healthy conflict in your home or at work, here are 4 things to be mentally prepared for. 

 

Awkwardness 

As a leader, you are introducing a new concept.  Remember that most everyone else won’t have a reference point in their minds for it.  Extending grace and kindness are invaluable as people react to this new thing.  Many responses that outwardly look like resistance come from the discomfort of our brains needing to be rewired.  Seriously.

Our nervous system consists of neurons (nerve cells) that transmit nerve signals or messages to and from the brain.  According to Psychology Today, “Neuroplasticity underlies the capacity for learning and memory, and it enables mental and behavioral flexibility. Research has firmly established that the brain is a dynamic organ and can change its design throughout life, responding to experience by reorganizing connections—via so-called “wiring” and “rewiring.” Scientists sometimes refer to the process of neuroplasticity as structural remodeling of the brain.” 

The good news is that you can retrain or rewire your brain.  The bad news is that it takes work.

When you bring healthy conflict to your spouse, friends, or coworkers, remember that you’ve been exercising and training your brain to recognize the discomfort as just being part of the process.  But no one else’s brain knows that.  Their neurons are carrying semi truckloads of information telling them there’s confusion, danger, uncertainty, and discomfort down this road. 

This is why it gets awkward.  Most people just can’t help but feel weird about it.  Try not to take it personally.  The awkwardness is worth it.  I promise.

 

Disappointment 

I remember when my boss, Patrick, and I really got serious about pursuing healthy conflict.  We both were excited about what Pat Lencioni had written in his book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, and we were ready to build a stronger team. 

The problem was that we found ourselves fighting old patterns of thought more than anything else.  It was disappointing.  It was also part of the process.  It takes 60 days (or more) of practice to really get into a habit of having healthy conflict as part of your routine.   As I found out, you can mess up a lot of conversations in 60 days if you’re not careful.   

Patience is a virtue in this process.

We’ve found that disappointment comes in several forms.  Negative self-talk can easily happen, especially when group participation is taking longer than expected.  Beware of thoughts like, “I’m alone in this” popping up.  Frustration can also build in other ways. Perhaps a positional leader in your company just won’t lean into the process.  There is also the disappointment that comes when everyone else in the room is having a Tony Robbins-type breakthrough and you aren’t. 

People are people.  You can’t control what they do or how they feel.  Listen to them, empathize, reinforce the ‘why’, and keep stepping forward. 

 

Assumptions

Good or bad, the experiences from our past shape our worldview.  These assumptions will inevitably be tagging along with everyone in the room.  Including you. Whether it’s “here we go again”, “I’m just not the type that opens up”, “this is exactly what we need” or 100 others—assumptions will be present.

Knowing assumptions are present is critical.  Calling them out to the group at the beginning is where the power lies. You don’t have to be controlled by your preconceived notions.  However, many will feel stuck, even if they don’t articulate it.  Their outward resistance is a symptom of the inward battle.  “I’ve seen this before; it doesn’t end well for me” is a common reaction from people who have been burned by showing vulnerability.  “I’m just not wired that way” is what you’ll often hear from strong personalities.  “I’ve done fine without it so far” is what most smart, successful people think to themselves. 

There’s another option.  None of us are stuck.  Even when it feels that way.  In section 6 of our eBook, you’ll find a scrip.  Take this script and make it your own. It will help bring everyone to a common starting position.  Assumptions and all.

As gently as I can put it: No one gets to opt-out of this.  Your prior experiences, personality, and success are all real.  None of that gives you a pass on healthy conflict though.

 

Surprises

Guaranteed, you will be surprised in the process of adopting healthy conflict into your leadership.  Right when you think someone will never, ever take a posture of humility--they apologize and speak directly about their misstep. 

The other side to that coin are the territorial responses from seemingly non-territorial people.  As my pastor Mike Bullmore says; “People are like cups.  If they get bumped hard enough, you’ll see what’s inside.” Those surprisingly territorial people probably haven’t been bumped in a while.  And you just bumped them big time. 

 

When it happens, encourage the person to stay there.  Label what you’re seeing.  Such as: “it seems like you’re feeling ___”, and let them correct or agree with you.  Ask open-ended questions to draw the person out:  “Tell me about…,” “Help me understand…,”.  Or encouraging statements like: “I’m with you.  Keep going with that last thing you said.”

 

Balance, awareness, and finesse are required here.  Not perfection.  Think interview vs. interrogation. Reassure them that this is what healthy conflict looks like and is exactly why you all are doing this.  You’re identifying areas of conflict and staring them in the face with the hope of enjoying the health on the other side of these conversations.   

 

You will also be surprised at your own growth along the way. 

The ability to sit in the awkwardness becomes more your style as your brain gets rewired by the repetitions day after day.

 

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