From Kathleen Kauth’s blog
The iceberg principle states that while you may see the tip of an iceberg (usually about 1/10th of it), the vast majority of it (9/10ths) is deep beneath the water, hidden from view. This massive amount of ice affects everything about the iceberg – where it drifts, how hard it impacts when it runs into things (looking at you Titantic) and how fast it moves. Just looking at it, you would have no idea that there were tons and tons of cold, jagged ice dragging around under the apparently free floating thing of beauty you see.
People are Icebergs
People are a lot like icebergs. What they present to the world is usually only a small portion of the entirety of themselves. You may be exposed to someone who appears collected and calm. They may be stressed and angry. They may be distant and aloof. What you see is directly affected by what they carry around with them under the water.
Dealing with Conflict
In conflict situations, what is being presented to you as the problem may not be the whole issue. Sometimes people in conflict are channeling issues that others don’t know about, and therefore can’t understand (they might not even understand it). When you are involved in a conflict with someone and you are confused about what the issue is, or why it is being strongly reacted against, take a second to think about icebergs. It is possible the individual has much more going on than you know – either from their past or their present. Patience and empathy can help you ask if there is something else bothering them. Be direct, but be kind – and take a look under the water.