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As a professional, it's nice to stumble upon someone in your field who really gets it, who is committed to and passionate about our work. Through LinkedIn, I was fortunate enough to connect with Cinnie Noble, a widely respected mediator, conflict coach, consultant, speaker, and author. She is also the creator of the Cinergy coaching model, which, in many ways, aligns with my philosophy of conflict resolution. The foundation of this model is to "provide individualized assistance for building conflict competence." This is a skill that too often we are not taught or encouraged to procure.

How does Cinergy work? Much like my model, Johnergy, does. Or Curtisergy. You can see why the terms never really took off as far as branding goes. But the principles of Cinnie Nobel's coaching system are similar to those that I practice. The one-on-one process is designed to develop or strengthen the skills that will allow clients to handle conflict more effectively. Key aspects of the model include:

  • Clarifying goals. What do you want to get out of this experience? When you set goals, it helps increase performance and reduce anxiety. You set the boundaries; the coach helps you stay within them to achieve your objectives.
  • Exploring the situation. A vital step is to allow the client to explain his story. What's going on? This is often the biggest need that people involved in conflict have. The coach helps guide this "venting" so it is constructive and helps the client clarify what is most disturbing and why rather than just amping them up further. This goes beyond story telling to getting at the values, needs and identity issues that are at the heart of all conflict.
  • Considering other perspectives. Part of the process is seeing how the conflict looks through the eyes of the other party. This is hard whether we're dealing with a conflict with our coworker or trying to negotiate dinner with our spouse. If we can see the issue from another perspective, even if it is not the way the other party sees things, it can help us come to a resolution. If not, at least we will have a more thorough understanding of the problem.
  • Using coaching as a first step to mediation. With the right skills in place and perspective, people are better equipped to handle mediation, state their case, and work with the other party. It can help build confidence, while at the same time fostering a sense of empathy, which helps uncover interests and a sort of optimism about the possibilities when people work together towards a mutually acceptable resolution.
  • Using coaching for present and future needs. Not only does coaching help a person deal with a current dispute, it puts in place the tools he/she needs to deal with conflict more constructively and effectively throughout their careers and throughout their lives. The types of conflicts we find ourselves in usually have a common theme in terms of root causes, triggers and reactions. Gaining insight into these patterns has value going forward.

The benefit of coaching is that it doesn't apply to one situation, one ornery coworker, or one bad boss or employee. It isn't a solution to one problem, but rather a potential solution for virtually any problem you encounter. Developing conflict competency is important for the workplace and for our personal lives.

Contributed by John Curtis, Attorney and Conflict Coach


Larry Hart

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