I was recently asked about my background in conflict management/resolution, and specifically, how many years’ experience I have in the field.
I help people with all sorts of conflict –
- The inner conflict you have when you should have stood your ground but didn’t, which you still regret after all these years;
- The insidious conflict in the workplace where a person specializes in creating cliques of in- and out-groups through gossiping, ‘sharing’ strategic corporate information with their select group in a way that suggests a strong power base vs. a bunch of naïve drones who are the members of the ‘out’ group; and
- The open warfare of strongly held opposing positions where neither side will budge and important decisions fail to be taken, typically to the detriment of employees and the organization.
This is all workplace oriented though.
I also help people with the conflicts in their personal lives:
- The family that cannot agree on ‘what to do with mom’ as frailty and reduced mental acuity takes their toll on someone who may previously have been the key decision-maker and controller of resources in the family;
- The siblings that carry years of relationship baggage that makes every Christmas a nightmare;
- The disagreement with the neighbor about blocking your driveway with his car,
- and so on.
My response to the question about my experience was spontaneous and not part of what I’d prepared as a succinct and compelling professional representation of my marketable skills. I said “It all started at the dinner table when I was the little girl who refused to eat her peas”. The audience laughed and I carried on with the more professional version of who I am. Yet, afterwards, I had all sorts of people coming over, wanting to find out more and asking for my business card. Several made reference to the peas story.
As I said that thing about the peas I immediately regretted it: I thought I’d got it wrong because offering my childhood stubbornness as a credential in my service as a conflict resolution guru would signal the wrong thing. I was concerned that I’d created the impression of someone who likes quarrelling and winning. But no, apparently I had discovered a new rule about public speaking: Not only giving the folks something to laugh about because they can relate so personally to what you said; but also peak their curiosity by not telling them the whole story. No pontification about the message or credentials.
Many of the people who came to speak to me wanted to know how the pea story ended and THEN asked for my business card.