Abandoning Our Assumptions When in Conflict

Conflict Management Blog by Cinnie Noble

“For things to reveal themselves to us, we need to be ready to abandon our views about them.” Thich Nhat Hanh

One of the things that many of us do when we are in conflict is to make assumptions about the other person and their motives. Depending on our relationship with the person, the nature of the situation, what is said or done (or not said or done), and our frame of mind and heart at that time, there are varying levels of assumptions we may make.

We may start out by giving the other person the benefit of the doubt and make excuses that demonstrate some empathy or understanding of why they are acting or being a certain way that irritates us. On the other hand, we may go directly to malevolent assumptions, depending on what they have said or done and the degree to which we are offended by them.

Reflecting on and checking out our assumptions – the perspectives and views we choose – helps us become more masterful at managing conflict. To most effectively respond to some of the queries from this week’s ConflictMastery Quest(ions) blog, it helps to consider a specific situation that is ongoing or one that has recently happened when answering these questions:

  • Considering a specific situation, what did the other person say or do that you found particularly irritating?
  • What are three possible reasons you might attribute to them and why they did so?
  • If you do this sort of thing yourself at times, what are your reasons? How might those reasons apply here?
  • What don’t you know about the other person’s reasons for saying or doing that (those things) that provoked you in that scenario?
  • If you check it out and you are right about your negative assumption(s) about the other person in this particular situation, what will that mean for you?
  • If you check it out and you are not right about your negative assumption (s), what might that mean for you?
  • What may surprise you about the other person’s motives that would be the best case scenario for you?
  • If checking out your assumptions with the other person’s motives is a challenge for you, what is that about?
  • What happens if you don’t check out your assumptions?
  • What else occurs to you as you consider these questions?
  • What insights do you have?

Cinnie Noble

Cinnie Noble is a certified coach (PCC) and mediator and a former lawyer specializing in conflict management coaching. She is the author of two coaching books: Conflict Management Coaching: The CINERGY™ Model and Conflict Mastery: Questions to Guide You. MORE

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