Conflicting wiring: How personality effects how and what we argue about
Conflict is inevitable, but more often than we think it is avoidable. A couple of weeks ago I was talking to a young leader in a charity who was complaining to me about how her leadership role involved far too much administration. She had come unstuck and had got herself into conflict with some of the other management because she was not communicating the information they needed. She said her leadership needed far more vision and work on developing relationships and team-work. I agreed with much of what she was saying although I felt she was leaning too far towards the idealistic. I urged her to listen more to the other managers and suggested she concentrate a little more on ensuring that basic administration gets done, as in reality it could do much to support vision and teamwork. I gave a personal example of having worked for employers that had little consideration for health and safety. We the staff did not feel safe and secure or cared for. This affected our morale and therefore our ability to work effectively as a team. There was therefore a balance to be found between the creative & relational and basic legal administrative minimums/best practices.
In reality I was suggesting she might find the best way forward, with least potential for conflict if she engaged in a mixture of left-brain and right-brain thinking . There are many different roots of conflict, but much occurs when predominantly right-brain thinking locks horns with left-brain thinking, without an appreciation of the benefits of both.
Left hemisphere of the brain - logical, legal, principles, linear, truth, linguistic, mathematical, science, objective, particular, prose, analysis, by the book, quantitive, truth, control, accurate, decisive, strategic, assertive and forceful. Classically ISTJ in Myers-Briggs® terms. Often comfortable with conflict – sees it as an inevitable fact of life.
Stereotypically male .
Politically right - Republican, Conservative
Right hemisphere brain - values, beliefs, relational, liberty, artistic, rhythm, rhyme, responsive, visionary, subjective, risk-taking, intuitive, predictive, open minded, creative, passionate, peace, love, freedom, Classically ENFP in Myers-Briggs® terms. Often uncomfortable with conflict – likes to avoid it.
Politically left - Democratic, Labour
Right-brained thinkers can see left brain thinkers as overly logical, cold, ruthless and rigid. Left brain thinkers can see right brained thinkers as overly emotional, airy fairy, idealists who have not bothered to research the facts, figures and practicalities.
Given the differences no wonder so much conflict occurs. In truth none of us are all of one type of thinking and none of the other. We all use both, however, the reality is we all have a preference of one type of thinking over the other. One tends to be easier for us.
Where much of the world runs into trouble is when people become rigid and locked into predominantly one type of thinking. We see this consistently in politics, the workplace, families and churches. There is much peace to be found in understanding and appreciating how we and other people think and make decisions. There are lots of helpful and informative personality models, such as Myers Briggs, Temperament, Insights, etc., which offer different insights. Indeed any personality model that can help you understand yourself and others can make a big difference to the level of conflict you end up engaging in.
Active listening is a key principle in reducing conflict. We make better decisions when we listen to others who think quite differently. They often see things we don’t. Having once been quite dogmatic and controlling myself and made some serious errors I have learned to listen far more. Now, when I have a plan/problem I often deliberately engage with friends and colleagues who I know think quite differently. Often I come away with new perspectives. I find a better path that takes into account things I would never have thought of. It saves me numerous mistakes and arguments down the road.
If you are interested in finding out more about how to reduce the level conflict you experience I will be exploring all this and much more in my workshop ‘Calming the Storm’ on the 18th and 19th July. Click here for more information.
 There are many women who are predominantly left brain thinkers and men who are predominantly right brain.
 Strictly speaking this is an oversimplification (but a useful one) of complex processes that are in fact spread out across both brain hemispheres.