The fundamental rift between people that is behind most problems is the degree to which they are each being either positive or negative.
CORE CONFLICTByWilliam Cottringer, Ph.D. Sooner or later every leader-manager comes face to face with understanding and trying to deal with the ultimate, fundamental conflict between people. This basic people difference is the problem behind all problems and it takes on many different forms and shapes in the workplace. It is also obscure enough to defy easy resolution, because of the many layers that have to be pealed away to see it clearly. This most basic rift between people is their allegiance to one fundamental approach to life or it’s opposite. We all get shaped from our upbringing, personal experiences, education & training, intuition, thinking styles and gene pools to become either positive or negative personalities. The origins of the particular approach with which we are aligned is a result of many complex interactions and this approach is reflective of the core of our being. It is also very resistive to change. The approach we develop expects certain things to happen and they do with enough regularity to reinforce it as a self-fulfilling prophesy. We all leans towards being a positive, optimistic, proactive problem-solver who works smart most of the time in using time and resources to restore productive order; or we tend to be a negative, pessimistic reactionary problem-causer who is too busy missusing time and resources in creating chaos (sorry, no euphemisms here!). Obvioulsy we all do a little of both. This positive vs. negative approach reflects the degree to which you either do or don’t believe you have control over creating the future. In essence, a person learns to become varrying degrees of powerful or powerless. Either way you continue use what power you think you have to thrive or survive, depending on your viewpoint. The first time this rift appears clearly enough to understand it, a resolution doesn’t seem to be possible. It is an addictive, complex paradox that can muddy even the sharpest of thinker’s mental processes. At first, such a conflict is a divergent problem that doesn’t seem to have a convergent solution—much like perplexing issues as freedom vs. equality, justice vs. mercy, or even opposing forms of government and religion. The final solution that all wise leaders eventually discover to resolve this most basic positive-negative conflict is as complex as the problem, and is painfully slow in coming. This is because we are talking about the simplicity just on the other side of complexity, where critical thinking is strained. This is not an easy place to get to and it is where solutions stop being either over-simplified or made more complex than they need to be. Part of the solution is accepting the value and necessity of both approaches (as two sides of the same coin) because it is the dynamic tension between these opposites that is responsible for true growth and improvement in the organization. And it is the creative joining of such opposites that produces win-win forward movement instead of either-or deadlocks. Such is the case as innovative inventions such as coopetition, assertiveness, shared responsibility and responsible freedom. In reality we are not 100% either positive or negative and both approaches can teach each other something valuable at times. Negative thinkers can be challenged to realize that you generally get what you expect and if you don’t like what you get, then… And at times positive thinkers can benefit from the caution to pick their battles as to what negativity to react to in order to win the war. Or in an ironic way, each side can serve to validate each other’s approach. Sometimes you appreciate what you have more when you see someone who doesn’t have it (Of course they may be thinking the same thing about you). The other part of the solution is to practice the only thing that comes with a guarantee of having the most positive impact on influencing others to your way of thinking and behaving. That is being sure of the talk you are trying to walk and then walking that talk without missing a step. After all, a person can’t think their way out of a situation they behaved themselves into and leading is showing by doing. If your experience has lead you to believe the correctness of the positive approach to life—and historical and contemporary research certainly supports this conclusion, based on physical and emotional health, life expectancy, and work productivity—then all you can do to gain followers from the fringes of the negative group is to be a perfect role model. (Forget about the deeply entrenched negative folks; they are there to stay). When you demonstrate a positive, proactive approach to using good time and resource management skills to restore order to a chaotic, dysfunctional work situation, you are selling and teaching the value and reason for this approach. You are walking your talk. The other thing you can do to spread positivism and increase the number of powerful and productive people in your organization, is to catch yourself at your own worst habit of being negative and complaining about the negative reactions, pessimism, helplessness, firefighting behavior and disorganized chaos coming from your counter-personality employees—especially during adversity when it is quite normal and natural. This is the real proof in the pudding and where the rubber meets the road. If you are comfortable with the truth and value of the positive approach to leadership, then by all means show your positivism to others, but make the effort to be extra vigilant to catch yourself with your hand in the cookie jar when you are not being this way yourself. Positive actions outspeak negative words with a 100% money back guarantee.Practice moments of leadership positivism and bring about years of organizational productivity. William Cottringer, Ph.D. is President of Puget Sound Security in Bellevue, WA. He is author of You Can Have Your Cheese & Eat It Too, a business and self-help book that delivers what it promises. He can be reached at (425) 454-5011 or bcottringer.pssp.net