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The Power of Trying in Conflict Management

Blog by Lorraine Segal

The power of trying often gets a bad rap in today’s culture. I remember years ago being told that “if you’re trying, you’re planning to fail.”

Nike says “Just do it”.

And I just saw a marque sign outside of a local middle school quoting Yoda from Star Wars saying, “Do or Do not. There is no Try.”

Harsh judgements about trying aren’t true
I don’t think any of those sayings about trying are true. When my clients and students become conscious of their part in a conflict, and are willing to change their behavior with a difficult person, or to change the way they think about a disagreement, or understand the real source of their pain, they are beginning to access new information and approaches that were inconceivable before.

I always encourage them with information about neural plasticity and how we can change our neural connections. The neural pathways we currently have for a response to conflict or a particular issue are like super highways with strong, wide, automatic connections, but we can begin to forge new connections that are more helpful to us.

Contempt for trying==perfectionism
I think that this contempt for trying is really associated with perfectionism, which allows no room for mistakes, for false starts, for incomplete attempts.  I believe the expectation that we must make the change immediately and make it stick right away sets us up for failure and reinforces the old way.

Not trying may feel safer but you don’t grow.

You can read about something forever and not change anything. People who are serious about learning a new skill, or about art and writing or helping themselves or others resolve conflict know it is messy trying that gets us there.

Being willing to try to do things differently is powerful.

Trying, and maybe failing completely the first time, forgetting to try the new way until afterwards, trying, and succeeding a little, trying and succeeding one time and then reverting to the old pattern the next time, are all part of the process of changing one’s behavior in conflict. This transformation requires patience, repetition, and practice. But if it helps you create an ally of an adversary, work through a difference with a cherished colleague or friend, isn’t it worth the effort? I know it has been for me and my clients.


Lorraine Segal

After surviving the 50's and 60's, as well as twenty years in toxic academia as a tenured professor, Lorraine Segal was inspired to started her own business, Conflict Remedy (, happily teaching, coaching, blogging and consulting around workplace conflict transformation. She is addicted to reading novels and enjoys walking and… MORE >

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