Monday, February 6, 2012

I Care For: People in Conflict

Posted on Monday, February 06, 2012 by International Coach Federation

In celebration of International Coaching Week (February 5-11), a different guest blog post will be highlighted on the ICF blog each day this week. This is the first in this special series.

Though it is inevitable to have disagreements in both our personal and professional lives, many of us do not have the skills to effectively engage in conflicts that may emerge. What may start as a difference of opinion for instance, can escalate unnecessarily into a harsh exchange that is full of blame and hurt. Unresolved and poorly-managed disputes can also linger after they are ostensibly over. When this happens, the words and feelings expressed remain as remnants that hang on us and shroud the next dispute and the one after that and on and on.

Conflicts happen for many reasons, including the fact that we have values and needs in our lives that we feel strongly about. It may even be a perceived challenge to how we see ourselves and want to be seen by others. That is, when we become defensive, we are defending something important to us. At these times, when we are offended by something another person says or does, we often react -  in offensive ways  - and perpetuate the cycle of conflict. We lose our perspective about what is important to us and also, what may be important to the other person. Conflict takes a toll in a range of other ways too. The emotional repercussions cause stress for us and those around us and have an impact on our problem-solving skills and abilities, our creativity, decision-making and our way of interacting and being.

A typical scenario that I encounter in my coaching work recently occurred for a former colleague who is aware of my speciality – conflict management coaching. She shared her deep concerns about the conflict-saturated dynamics among members of a Board - of which she is one. The group have apparently been at an impasse regarding some major decisions over the past six months, and their individual and collective well-meaning intentions are suffering due to the in-fighting.  My colleague said that the constant internal and interpersonal disputes among the members are apparently causing some stakeholders to question the Board’s effectiveness. She added that the members have built walls around them - and we are ‘up against a wall.’ 

What does this have to do with Coaching Week?
To celebrate, I have volunteered to help out the Board by using my conflict management coaching skills and also, the coach-approach to mediation that I developed. Together we have just framed the objectives. They are to help the Board members break down the walls, to better understand the dynamics that lead to their conflicts (as to proactively consider how to handle future challenges that may occur), to establish a process for making decisions in collaborative ways and to get on with the important work of fulfilling their mandate. We start at the beginning of Coaching Week - on February 6, 2012.

Cinnie Noble ACC, LL.B, LL.M (ADR),  is a lawyer-mediator and certified coach, specializing in conflict management coaching. She hosts ICF’s Conflict Management Coaching Special Interest Group and is a former Board Member of ICF-Greater Toronto Area. Cinnie is the author of “Conflict Management Caoching:The CINERGY Model” (September, 2011) and co-author with Ed Modell and Diane Brennan, of the chapter entitled Conflict Management in the book “The Handbook of Knowledge-Based  Coaching:From Theory to Practice” (John Wiley and Sons, 2011),  by Leni Wildflower and Diane Brennan. Cinnie’s website is

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