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How Do Blind Spots Affect Conflict?

Meredith Mediates by Meredith Richardson

We all have blind spots. There are things we intentionally ignore and things that we unintentionally ignore. How do those blind spots impact our reaction to conflict?

Willful blindness can be defined as when “there is an opportunity for knowledge, and a responsibility to be informed, but it is shirked.” See “Willful Blindness: Why We Ignore the Obvious at Our Peril,” by Margaret Heffernan. You may see this in parents who see only the best in their children, or spouses who see only the best in their spouses, or managers who see only the best in their favorite employees. “Oh, s/he would never do something like that!” they exclaim, even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

The opposite can also happen. If you already dislike someone, and are presented with evidence that the person did a good thing, willful blindness may cause you to completely disregard it or say, “I don’t believe it,” or, “They must have an ulterior motive.” You may see this in parents who target a particular child, or former romantic partners, or employees who are mobbing another employee.

Much of the time, though, the blindness isn’t even willful. In “The Power of Habit,” Charles Dugigg talks about how Febreze’s first marketing attempts failed miserably, due to “nose blindness.” People who lived in chronically smelly homes did not know that they lived in chronically smelly homes. With constant exposure, they became desensitized to the scent. Without the scent, there was not even an opportunity for knowledge.

You can have blind spots as a result of desensitization in a lot of areas. Some people live in clutter and just do not see it. Some people live in chaos and do not recognize it. Whatever your version of “normal” is makes you blind to certain things. It can make you blind to dysfunction, sexism, racism, homophobia, bullying, discrimination, domestic violence, child abuse, elder abuse, alcoholism, drug addiction, and so much more. It can also make you blind to peace, acceptance, and functional relationships.

What are your blind spots?

Take a step back and look at your house as if you were looking at it for the first time, as if someone else lived there. What do you see?

Think about your favorite people. Do they have certain negative attributes that you overlook because you like them so much?

Think about your least favorite people. Do they have certain qualities that you dismiss because you’re more comfortable seeing them in a negative light?

Are your blind spots contributing to an increase in conflict in your relationship with one or more people?

Are your blind spots allowing you to avoid conflict in a relationship with one or more people?

Now that you are aware of some of your blind spots, are there any changes you would like to make?

                        author

Meredith Richardson

Meredith Richardson, Esq., CPC, helps people and organizations to successfully navigate conflict through mediation, conflict coaching, and training.  Though she was trained and worked as an attorney in ME, NH, and MA, she no longer self-identifies as a lawyer.  She helps people to have difficult conversations successfully. Meredith is well-respected… MORE >

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