#29 A Methodical Framework For High Conflict

High conflict calls for structure. You may not always stay within that structure. That’s OK. But you need a methodical framework to fall back on.

The method below supports you in acting consciously rather than reactively. It enables you to manage the conversation constructively.  Possessing and using such a framework is helpful in all conflict. In high conflict it is essential if you want to make progress.

Here are four objectives that make up such a methodical framework:

  • Establish connection
  • Explore new understandings
  • Choose a focus
  • Develop multiple options

The framework can be followed sequentially. It should also be thought of as a set of practices required in order to work effectively with most conflict situations. The four practices bring into focus four objectives to be pursued during the conversation.


1. Establish connection

You don’t have to like each other. You do have to find a way to connect and communicate over the differences.

Sounds like: “It is important to talk about it, I would like to schedule a better time.” “We’ve never liked each other, getting through this would be good for the company.” “How about we speak one at a time and let the other finish?”


2. Explore new understandings

You don’t have to agree. In order to make progress you do have to seek new understandings and accept new perspectives.

Sounds like: “What don’t I understand?” “How have you been impacted by my way of doing things?” “I would like the opportunity to explain something to you, and I would like you to try and see it from my perspective.” “What is most important to each of us at a deeper level and why?” “What additional information or assistance do we require?” “What I’m learning is…”


3. Choose a focus

Conflict can be messy and confusing. At some point you need to focus on a topic you can make progress on.

Sounds like: “What topics do you and I need to speak about?” “We are probably not going to agree on who is more disruptive to the team. Let’s look at how we might be able to cooperate some of the time. ”


4. Develop multiple options

Don’t go for one solution. Take some time to play with different proposals.

Sounds like: “What are some different ways of communicating we could try?” “What are the needs that each of us has that must be considered in order for another system to work?” “Let’s list possibilities.” “I would like to sleep on it and talk again tomorrow.” “Let’s try these new systems for a week and check in next Monday over how it is going.”



The above method is a learning conversation in which you explore new territory. It’s not a proving conversation in which you try to establish why you are right.

In high conflict and difficult conversations you need some navigation aids to guide you through rough waters. The above methodical framework is such a guide. Reduce the guide to very simple terms that you can memorize and use under pressure:

  • Establish connection
  • Explore new understandings
  • Choose a focus
  • Develop multiple options


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