By Barry Kaplan and Jeff Manchester, authors of THE POWER OF VULNERABILITY: How to Create a Team of Leaders by Shifting Inward

In our work with hundreds of organizations, it has become clear that in order for teams to unleash their full potential, team members must experience true and authentic connections with one another. Only then will they feel safe to bring their best selves to the table.  

Therefore, it’s vital to be able to keep conflict from getting out of control and to keep debate healthy.

Conflict is inevitable, and it’s important to acknowledge that you and your employees aren’t immune. However, you do need to respond in the appropriate way, and that starts with recognizing what triggers conflict, and then taking steps to move beyond the trigger.

For example, you may notice that your internal dialogue wants you to shut down or avoid people. Sometimes you may feel an emotional trigger someplace in your body—perhaps your belly, neck, head, or shoulders. Triggers are blocks to the openness you are looking for. It’s a physical message that you’re not yet ready to fully engage. Your emotional triggers will prevent you from being able to have an authentic connection with the person or group that has triggered you.

The only way to create the trust necessary to get back into a deeper conversation is to clear the trigger. We recommend this five-step clearing process. It may take some getting used to, but it won’t take long for the clumsiness to give way to a more natural clearing conversation.

  1. What are the facts?

A small part of your issue is grounded in facts, so it helps to parse those bits of provable, objective data first. Facts reflect actions or omissions, statements made, and potentially your reactions to the data. Examples of factual statements include:

  • You committed to have the manager reviews completed by Friday, and they are not yet done.
  • You have worked late every night this week preparing for this morning’s client meeting.

The reason we start with the facts is to keep the other person engaged and curious, rather than showing up critical or in an emotion that might make the person go on the defensive.

  1. What are your perspectives?

These are your opinions and beliefs that come from your point of view. Your point of view may not match that of the person with whom you’re clearing, but it’s still your truth—with a small “t.”

  1. What are you feeling?

Do you remember any physical sensation you have experienced about the issue? That physical feeling was associated with an emotion. You may have multiple feelings triggered, or one may be pronounced. By identifying and speaking about the identified emotion, you are liberating or clearing yourself from them.

  1. What was your role in attracting the issue to you?

Stuff doesn’t just happen to people. Rather, they have a role or responsibility in why they attracted whatever situation they were a part of. In this critical step, you share what your part may have been in creating the issue. By exploring and describing this, you invite the person you’re clearing with to better see and understand why you may be sensitive to their behavior and what it is about you that elicits your reaction or response. It also allows you to claim responsibility for your part of the issue, making it easier—and safer—for the other party to also claim what may be his or her part.

  1. What do you want specifically?

Now you have the opportunity to ask for what you want. You may not necessarily get it. Though if you don’t ask, you’ll never know. This request is also the platform for what resolution may follow the discussion. The more specific and clear you are about what you want, the more likely you will get what you really need.

After you have gone through the five steps, one of the people involved in the issue or someone from the group should mirror back what they heard the other person say. The idea behind this is that it shows the people who have been trying to clear an issue that they have truly been heard and seen. When you are mirroring what another person has said, it is not the time to debate what was expressed, explain your side of the situation, or make any interpretations of what was said. You simply, but genuinely, repeat back what you heard.

One key predicate for the success of the clearing process is to know that it isn’t about changing the other person or group. It is literally about clearing your emotional charge that would otherwise prevent you from authentic connection.

Adapted from The Power of Vulnerability:  How To Create A Team Of Leaders By Shifting INward (Greenleaf Book Group Press) by Barry Kaplan and Jeff Manchester.  Copyright (c) 2018 by Barry Kaplan and Jeff Manchester.  All rights reserved. This book is available at all bookstores and online booksellers.

Barry Kaplan and Jeff Manchester are the authors of The Power of Vulnerability:  How To Create A Team Of Leaders By Shifting INward (Greenleaf Book Group Press).  As partners at Shift 180, they coach business leaders and their teams to unlock their full potential.  To learn more, visit:



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