6 Conflict Triggers That Most People Don’t Know
“I’d agree with you, but then we’d both be wrong.”
Ah, the inevitability of another conflict at work, especially during COVID-19.
But let’s suppose you had access to a built-in, early-warning system to catch your anxiety before it sparked harmful dispute and pain? What CEO, VP, manager, or department head wouldn’t want this?
The answer is pretty basic.
According to Giselle Jenkins, Culture Consulting Director for BCWI with more than 20 years of service to Christian non-profits, “Avoiding unnecessary conflict is all about knowing and naming what triggers that anger or anxiety inside you and challenges your identity.”
Conflict specialists often use six conflict trigger categories to help build self-awareness. Every person has the potential to build awareness of these triggers, to lessen and prevent a needless conflict that can reduce trust, productivity, effectiveness, and hard-earned staff morale in the workplace. Here’s a helpful walk-through:
1. The Competence Trigger
You’ve worked for years to increase your knowledge and build your skills. But along comes someone who doesn’t respect your intelligence. If this triggers anger, you can gain perspective by asking yourself:
- What in my past could make this a trigger for me? Is there unresolved hurt or a lack of forgiveness?
- Am I a continuous learner? How aware am I of what I don’t know?
- Am I confident and comfortable working around people with better skills and more knowledge?
2. The Inclusion Trigger
Almost everyone desires to be wanted and seen as a valuable member of a family, a team, a partnership, or a friendship. Being left out makes us feel less than, minimized and unappreciated. If this is a trigger for you, ask yourself:
- What in my past makes this a trigger for me? Is there unresolved hurt or a lack of forgiveness?
- Why might I not be included in something? Could there be a rational decision to not make me part of it, versus a negative reason?
- Do I include all kinds of people in my decisions and my work? Do I model what I want?
3. The Autonomy Trigger
Life can often feel more comfortable when we can control things ourselves. Independence and autonomy allow for us to choose to act according to our own style, preferences, timing, and priorities. Creativity thrives under a less controlled environment; most people hate to be micro-managed. If you’re already nodding “yes,” then consider:
- What in my past makes this a trigger for me? Was there a time when someone tried to control me?
- What might be holding me back from feeling comfortable adjusting to a more reliant vs. independent approach?
- Lack of trust is sometimes a reason people prefer autonomy. How can I grow my trust in others?
4. The Status Trigger
In the dictionary, status is defined as “position or rank in relation to others, e.g. the status of a father” or “relative rank in a hierarchy of prestige, especially high prestige.” Status also equates with responsibility: full-time status means we work 40+ hours per week. Status as a supervisor makes us responsible for the well-being of others. Fidelity to an institution gives us status, like points and special consideration. If this is a trigger for you, think about the following questions to help you gain perspective:
- Why is it important to me to have my status recognized and respected? Is it for a “noble” reason?
- Reflecting deeply, what about me do I want people to see about who I truly am?
- How do I treat people who have “no status?”
- How could learning more about servant-leadership reduce this as a trigger?
5. The Trustworthiness Trigger
Trustworthy people are honest, ethical, compassionate, empathetic, great listeners, have integrity, and are reliable! The Bible tells us that being trustworthy grows our influence and gives us more opportunities. Who doesn’t want to be trustworthy? If this is a trigger for you, think about the following questions to help you gain perspective:
- What life events in the past could be causing me to react strongly when I don’t feel trusted?
- Are there people or situations I work with now that cause me frustration because of their lack of reliability and trustworthiness? Do I feel accused of the same thing?
- Is there an area where I struggle to keep up and I might be rationalizing rather than accepting that I’m not able to live up to a standard? How might I address this?
- Rather than react defensively when my trustworthiness is questioned, how might I ask good questions about how I can demonstrate I can be trusted?
6. The Integrity Trigger
Everyone has a moral compass base on their values and beliefs. Christians are blessed to have their “guidance” clearly defined in Scripture. People with integrity behave according to their beliefs in action, word, and deed. They “walk the talk.” Ask yourself:
- Why do I think this has become a trigger for me?
- Do I react more to people who question the merits of my values, or those who question my adherence to my values? Why might that be?
- What does Scripture say about our hearts and ability to see when we are off track?
- Do I have two or more people in my life who can be proactive accountability partners to help me stay on a path that consistently aligns my actions with my beliefs?
In his letter to the Romans, Paul may have saved some of his best for last when he wrote, “So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding (Romans 14:19). Might these words translate into generous listening, clearer understanding, and deeper trust among your employees? The vote is unanimous: Yes. Conflict need not apply.
Want to learn more? Eckert College has excellent training on this topic. Visit here.
Download BCWI’s four-page guide for inspirational leadership in crisis for FREE.