Separating the Person From the Behaviours

04.09.2020 |

Episode #5 of the course Confident conflict management by Martin Probst


Welcome back.

Yesterday, you learned about the circle of influence and gained a lot of clarity around what is in your control—and what isn’t. Today, we will look at why we must separate people from their behaviors if we want to successfully and confidently manage conflict.

“You meet Noah after the flood, you think: That brave, faith-filled, visionary man.
You meet him before and you’re like: What a nut job. Perspective and timing matter.
Sometimes you have to accept that you might not be able to see the truth from here.” —Courtney C. Stevens

Here is what we need to be aware of to overcome our ego and stay calm when we are finding ourselves in a conflict situation.

The very first thing we must understand is that people are not their behaviors. In fact, what we need to find out is what their positive intentions are. Ultimately, we all want the same. We want to be respected, appreciated, valued, loved, etc., something we already looked at in Lesson 1.

Behaviour is NOT who we are. Behaviour is what we do.

One of my close friends used to lose his cool with just about anybody around him when they didn’t get him or didn’t do what he asked them to. And that was not at all a reflection of his personality—he actually was a peace-loving, caring individual, but often felt misunderstood or not listened to at all. Can you agree that this happened to you before? That you yourself demonstrated behaviors that really surprised you, behaviors that not at all reflected any of your values or what you actually stand for?

My friend finally cracked the code after he started using the simple but powerful insights that I am about to share with you. The results happened immediately.


Accept the Person and Calibrate Behaviours

So, when we or other people behave in weird ways, don’t judge the person on their behaviors. Instead, look beyond the behaviors and ask yourself what’s triggering that behavior and what is the person trying to achieve. Accept the person and calibrate their behaviors.

The key to managing conflict is to appreciate the positive intention of the other person’s behavior because the behavior is what happens last! Remember in Lesson 2, we talked about the external event, our internal representation after filtering the immense flood of information, and lastly how all of this influences our behaviors?

Separating the person from their behaviors doesn’t mean that we view the other person’s behavior as positive. We may even find it quite disrespectful. However, we need to look beyond their behavior and find out what happened beforehand to get to the bottom of what triggers this sort of behavior.


Appreciate the Positive Intention

The key to getting to the bottom of this is to appreciate the other person’s positive intentions. We all do the best we can with the resources we have available at the time. If we could do better, we would.

For example, if someone is getting “edgy” with you, that person may feel misunderstood, insignificant, or not listened to at the time, which causes undesirable behavior and ultimately the conflict.

No matter how strange, hurtful, or inappropriate a person’s behavior may seem to you; to the person engaging in that behavior, it makes sense within their model of the world. They see the behavior as the best or only way of meeting their needs or achieving their outcome. If we look at the intention behind the behavior, we might find that the person simply wants to be:

• understood

• appreciated

• respected

And right at that point, the person most likely believes that “getting edgy”, screaming at you, or undermining you, is the best or even the only way to get your attention and achieve their needs, wants, and expectations. Although, if you would ask them later, they might be quite embarrassed about their own behaviors. So, please remember, people are not their behaviors.


Positively Achieve the Needs

Once you have a good understanding of their positive intention, explore alternative and more resourceful ways to help the person achieve their needs.

In the case of somebody getting “edgy” with you because they feel misunderstood, insignificant, or not listened to, you may want to pay more attention to what they are saying, start asking questions, and give them your full attention to acknowledge their values, needs, wants and expectations. Do you think this person would still feel that they must yell and scream at you? Not likely, because there is no need for this behavior anymore.

My top tip for the day: Be curious; the more you know about yourself and other peoples’ thinking and map of the world, the more you can positively influence them. Recall a time or situation when you behaved in such a way that you later thought: “What was that all about? I can’t believe I just did that. This is not who I am and doesn’t in any way reflect what I stand for in life.” Reflect on the reasons for this behavior. Can it be tied back to your unfulfilled need to be listened to, to be understood, to be appreciated, or to be respected?

Tomorrow, we will learn about conflict constellations, and which role we should adopt for ourselves to ensure positive outcomes.

“Dare to make a difference!”



Recommended reading

4 Pillars of Positive Behavioural Change in the Workplace


Recommended book

Understanding Other People: The Five Secrets to Human Behavior by Beverly Flaxington


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