As I sink into the Red Zone of unhealthy conflict my personal story starts to dominate. That story has a theme of premise that is central to that story: Will I survive? Am I acceptable? Am I competent? Am I in control? As a person begins to sink into the Red Zone, it is usually these core themes that emerge.
Consequently, we will hear these same complaints over and over:
You’re trying to control me (control)!
Don’t you think I can do this (competence)?
You get the idea.
In the Red Zone the focus becomes personal. Even though the starting point of the conflict may be an organizational issue, the real energy is coming from a personal place.
But don’t confuse this with the mythical “personality conflicts” that many conflicts are blamed on. There is hardly any such thing. Our conflicts arise from our personal stories and experiences – which are much deeper than our personalities. Instead of trying to reconcile two very different personalities, the first step is to see how my story has influenced the way I am approaching the conflict.
Once I know this, I can start to identify my own Red Zone behaviors and how they are fueling the conflict. Here is a handy checklist that reveals when my own personal story may be weighing in in an unhealthy way:
- I disengage
- I distract
- I become easily annoyed
- I am resentful
- I procrastinate
- I attack someone personally
- I medicate myself with a substance or habit
- I avoid people and situations
The problem is not your personality, which is just fine! And it’s not the personality of the person with whom you are in conflict. They are just fine too.
The problem is when our stories crash into each other.
Take a look at the list above and note which behaviors you may tend to demonstrate when you are in the Red Zone. Consider adding other behaviors not listed which are unique to you. Now keep that list as a tool for self-awareness!