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Conflict Competence Glossary

5 Hidden Causes of Conflict: A framework for understanding the causes of workplace conflicts. In order of frequency, they are: Baby in the Back Seat; lack of skill, insight, or courage; conflicting performance measures; process or system problems; and Negative Reciprocity.

9 Stages of Workplace Conflict: The predictable pattern of escalation followed by workplace conflicts. Once understood, individuals and groups can interrupt this pattern, ensuring healthy responses to conflict.

Baby in the Back Seat (B.I.B.S.): A shorthand term for a hidden constraint or pressure that drives someone’s behavior. Examples in the workplace include performance measures, shortages, poorly designed processes, and pressure from customers, clients, colleagues, or managers. The term comes from a true story featured in the seminar Self-Defeating Habits of Otherwise Brilliant People®. See also Situational Attribution.

Code of Conduct: A popular follow-up to the seminar Self-Defeating Habits of Otherwise Brilliant People®. Participants create a written Code that generates buy-in and cements the languages and skills learned in the seminar.

Conflict Competence/Conflict IQ: A transferrable skillset for constructively handling conflict. Thera Rising specializes in building conflict competence within organizations so that individuals can reverse and prevent future conflicts without relying on external consultants.

Constructive Resolution: The goal of conflict competence training and conflict resolution processes. Conflict is usually a healthy reality of workplace life. However, it can turn destructive when it is handled poorly, creating Factions and costly Cycles of Contempt. With Conflict Competence, leaders and staff can take control of their workplace environment and keep disagreement civil and productive.

Cycle of Contempt: A destructive reaction to frustration between groups. Each side makes a series of self-validating, negative, personality-based assumptions and treats the other with contempt. As each side mirrors the other’s behavior, they perpetuate and escalate the conflict. As opposed to Cycle of Courage. See also Reciprocity.

Cycle of Courage: A constructive reaction to frustration between groups. Each side searches for hidden causes and constructive solutions instead of engaging in personality-based blaming and labeling. As opposed to Cycle of Contempt. See also Reciprocity.

Drama-Free Workplace: Thera Rising’s overarching conflict-competence and conflict-resolution process. It is founded on the seminar Self-Defeating Habits of Otherwise Brilliant People®, and can also include Code of Conduct or conflict resolution services.

E.A.S.E.: A process for helping to calm someone who is Flooded so you can focus on finding solutions to their frustration together. The acronym stands for Empathize, Appreciate, Speculate, Explore.

Faction: A group dedicated to self-preservation through undermining and sabotaging outsiders or other factions. When workplace conflict escalates, two or more factions often form, representing different parties or interests. Most faction members feel victimized, while simultaneously victimizing others. Most individuals belong to more than one faction, shifting loyalties and sharing information. Dismantling factions is essential to Constructive Resolution.

First-Assumption Thinking: See Reflexive Thinking.

Flooding: The process of “flooding” with adrenaline when we become angry or feel threatened. Flooding increases speed and strength, but it also hampers higher brain functions like communication, comprehension, and constructive thought. The only part of the brain that works fully when flooded is the primitive Lizard Brain.

Fundamental Attribution Error: The tendency to attribute disagreement or frustration to a fundamental flaw in another person’s character, ignoring any situational causes. See also Personality Attribution and Reflexive Thinking. As opposed to Situational Attribution and Baby in the Back Seat.

Lizard Brain: The primitive, walnut-sized part of the brain, responsible for fight-or-flight behavior. When we Flood with adrenaline, most brain activity outside the lizard brain shuts down. This makes clear communication and problem solving nearly impossible. As opposed to Mammal Brain.

Mammal Brain: The most complex part of the brain, responsible for constructive thought, language, and social relationships. When we Flood with adrenaline, this part of the brain is mostly overridden. This makes clear communication and problem solving nearly impossible. As opposed to Lizard Brain.

Neuroplasticity: The brain’s ability to rewire itself through continuous reinforcement of specific thoughts, emotions, or actions. (“Neurons that fire together, wire together.”) The human brain is very neuroplastic, which means we have a lot of control over the structure and function of our own brains.

Personality Attribution: A perspective that attributes individuals’ behavior to personal characteristics. As opposed to Situational Attribution. See also Fundamental Attribution Error.

Reciprocity: The process of reflecting (reciprocating) the behaviors, moods, or perceived intentions of others. Reciprocity can be positive or negative. Social scientists have found that when we open a dialogue, the other person mirrors our attitude 96% of the time. This makes reciprocity the most reliable predictor of human behavior. Building understanding of reciprocity in a workplace is a powerful tool for fostering mutual respect and pride in work.

Reflective Thinking: A state of mind in which we resist the temptation to label, blame, or belittle others (or ourselves), looking instead for constructive solutions to challenges and frustrations. Also known as Third-Assumption Thinking. See also Baby in the Back Seat. As opposed to Reflexive Thinking.

Reflexive Thinking: The tendency to target, label, or blame a person or group when faced with frustration. When we fall into the trap of reflexive thinking, we tend to swing between blaming others (anger) and blaming ourselves (depression). Both of these focus attention on individual character traits, rather than the core of the problem. Because these character flaws are assumed to be universal and permanent, this line of thought cannot lead to Constructive Resolution. Also known as First-Assumption Thinking. As opposed to Reflective Thinking. See also Fundamental Attribution Error.

Self-Defeating Habits of Otherwise Brilliant People®: Thera Rising’s foundational Conflict Competence seminar. Self-Defeating Habits delivers a framework for understanding, reversing, and preventing conflict, which helps leaders and staff reach Constructive Resolution.

Situational Attribution: A perspective that attributes individuals’ behavior to situational pressures, constraints, and other influences. As opposed to Personality Attribution. See also Baby in the Back Seat.

Thera Rising, Inc.: A Conflict Competence organization based in St. Paul, Minnesota. Thera Rising specializes in building skills in leaders and employees, helping them avoid, prevent, and reverse the subtle mistakes that cause conflict to become destructive. From the Greek root for “healing.”

Third-Assumption Thinking: See Reflective Thinking.

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