Resolving conflicts with appreciative communication

Whenever people come together or work together, there can be situations where different 
viewpoints, interests, and needs collide. Sometimes this also leads to conflicts. A respectful 
approach to others may be a first step.

So, what can each participant contribute to ensure that the different perspectives of individuals are 
integrated into a solution that is suitable for all sides?

As an introduction, here's an example: Ms. Weiss is a valued and long-term employee. She has been 
unhappy at work and has been feeling stressed for some time now. Her last promotion was five 
years ago, and her boss assured her during the last performance review that she would be promoted 
this year. Unexpectedly, things turned out differently. Instead, her colleague, Mr. Schmidt, who has 
only been in the department for a year, was promoted. She feels like she has been overlooked but is 
hesitant to address this disappointment with her boss. Additionally, she is becoming increasingly 
frustrated with her boss. Because the thoughts of her missed promotion keep her awake at night, 
she comes to me for coaching. She wants to learn how to handle the situation better and resolve her 
tensions with her boss.

Moving from victimhood to a creator mindset
In the first step, we addressed her mindset. We realized that she was blaming her boss for her 
unhappiness. She complained to colleagues and her partner about him but didn't directly address 
the issue with her boss. This is typical of a victim mindset, where we hold others responsible for our
own unhappiness. We often stay in this mindset because the secondary gain of victimhood lies in the 
sympathy and understanding we receive from others. However, this does not solve the problem. 
How did Ms. Weiss eventually manage to become the creator of her own life again and take 
personal responsibility?

Gaining distance and keeping things in perspective
To do this, we first looked at the situation from a bird's-eye view by stating the facts with a neutral 
and non-judgmental attitude. This led to a separation between the situation and the emotions.

Subsequently, she was able to answer questions like "What emotions does this evoke in me?" and 
"What does the situation have to do with myself?" or "Which need is currently not being fulfilled for 

Ms. Weiss predominantly experienced disappointment, anger, and sadness. Negative emotions are 
not inherently bad. In fact, they are valuable signals that point us to our unmet needs. We just need 
to learn to appreciate them as such and decipher the underlying message behind them.

Beneath Ms. Weiss's emotions were the need for appreciation and recognition of her performance. 
The need for reliability was also violated as she was promised the promotion years ago. The non-fulfillment of these needs resulted in a loss of trust in her boss. Consequently, her motivation to 
complete tasks and collaborate within the team diminished.

Talking it out
With an understanding of these connections, Ms. Weiss talked to her boss. She approached him with 
an open and interested attitude rather than an accusatory one, asking why she was not promoted. 
At the same time, she could now talk to him about her disappointment and the resulting 
consequences. In doing so, she took responsibility for her own feelings and regained a sense of self-efficiency.

The boss thanked her for the open conversation and her presentation of the situation from her 
perspective. He noticed Ms. Weiss's decline in performance and couldn't explain it. He was also 
unaware that he had promoted Mr. Schmidt in favor of the justified promotion for Ms. Weiss. His 
performance evaluation was based on a project recently successfully completed by Mr. Schmidt.

Finding new solutions
After such a clarifying conversation on both sides, it becomes much easier to find new solutions that 
are satisfactory for both parties. They agreed to have regular meetings to keep the boss informed 
about Ms. Weiss's performance. A promotion was promised for the following year. Additionally, she 
was given the opportunity to pursue a long-desired training during her working hours.

Both parties happily agreed to these solutions. Ms. Weiss's attitude towards her boss, colleague, and 
work turned positive again. Her perceived stress also reduced as a result.

This example demonstrates that conflicts can be resolved through appreciative communication.

What if a conversation doesn't help?
In cases where this doesn't work, for example, when narcissism, ignorance, or personal sensitivities 
come into play, I recommend following the saying: "Love it, change it, or leave it." So, we should first 
ask ourselves: Can I love the situation, meaning, can I live with it? If not, can I change it or my 
attitude towards it? If that's not possible either and I've tried everything, the last option is to leave 
the situation. In the specific example, this would mean leaving the department or the company. This 
is the last resort if the situation makes us unhappy or even leads to psychosomatic symptoms that 
can ultimately result in stress-related illnesses.

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