Part One: Manage Tactics When You Must – They have an important role and are important indicators of potential conflict!
So far, my posts on effective communication have focused on your responsibilities as a person seeking to influence someone else in your life who is important to you either because they hold positional authority, such as your boss, or they have something that you need – resources, collaboration, professional support, and the like. But, sometimes we encounter situations where the other person whose support or cooperation we seek does not display model behavior and may actually actively seek to subvert your work toward your goal.
The reasons for the sort of behavior you encounter can be as varied as the behaviors themselves. But there are some common underlying reasons that someone may not be as open to cooperation and collaboration as you might hope. The fundamental underlying reason for non-cooperation invariably stems from lack of shared commitment to the goal you are seeking to achieve through your communication. Typically, the reasons for lack of commitment stem from one of the following:
- Disagreement about the goal itself or conflicting goals –
- The other person may not agree that your goal is appropriate or in fact may be pursuing a conflicting goal;
- Disagreement about the approach or particular method you want to use –
- The other may believe that another approach will work better to achieve the same goal;
- Disagreement about the facts that you believe support your position and approach –
- The other person may believe that other facts govern the situation or that you are relying on bad information, or simply relying on facts that are less relevant than others that they believe should control the situation;
- Conflicting values –
- The other person does not buy in to your goal because they do not find it consistent with their own value system;
- Style –
- You may simply lack rapport with the other person because your approaches and interpersonal styles are so different.
As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, you may not be aware of a problem until in shows up as an issue in your relationship with the other person – often accompanied by some degree of conflict. By the time conflict has occurred, repairing the relationship and aligning your goals with that of the other person is much more difficult.
In my November 10, 2013 post on “Conflict Conscious Communication,” I explained the importance of developing communication skills that will help you avoid stumbling into conflict situations in the first place. If we leave our differences with another unattended and there is, in fact, an underlying situation, conflict easily develops because you may feel unsupported or sabotaged, and the other person may feel disrespected, not listened to, and bulldozed. Obviously, this combination can be volatile!
So how do we spot these potential situations where are interests are not aligned with another whose support we need? Over the years much has been written about “tactics,” typically in the context of business or sports competition, or in negotiation situations. All of these contexts presume that you must be prepared to compete and to deflect or otherwise manage tactics so that you can overcome the resistance of others, so that you can ultimately prevail. On the other hand, over the years, I have come to look at “tactics” as valuable indicators and early warning signs that my particular interest, goal, or approach, is currently not viewed by another important individual, as consistent with their own. When a tactic is spotted early, it provides me with an important early warning indicator that allows me to regroup and revisit my alignment and congruence with the other involved. So, at least early on, I do not look tactics as barriers to be overcome, but rather as warning flags of issues to revisit and to address with the other person involved. Obviously, our interests are currently not aligned and are potentially in conflict, since the other finds a tactic unnecessary to avoid commitment and support.
So, how does one spot a tactic when it is deployed? This is a difficult question to answer because tactics show themselves in many different ways. Our next few blog posts will focus on tactics and approaches to neutralize them, and perhaps more importantly, how to learn more about the other person you are seeking to work with as a result of the tactics you observe.
Remember! Tactics are information! They tell you much about the person who uses the tactic, so tactical awareness in you communications (TAC) is a valuable skill. Next post, we will dive into some common tactics and discuss how to use them when someone tries to deploy them “against” you.
BJM — January 6, 2014
© Bruce J. MacAllister, 2014, all rights reserved.