Turning Conflict into Peace of Mind
by Dr Tammy Lenski
- A Book Review by Alec Coakley
Have you ever read a book that made such an impression on you that you had to tell everyone, even if they had absolutely no interest in its subject matter?
“The Conflict Pivot – Turning Conflict into Peace of Mind” by mediator Dr Tammy Lenski had this effect on me. It is a book I have re-read many times and continue to recommend to people who wish to better manage difficult relationships, either in their own lives or in the lives of others.
The book provides a simple mechanism that can quickly and effectively transform conflict from a destructive to a productive process. Dr Lenski proposes a concept of pivoting to change the way in which we address difficult issues.
This idea of a pivot I find very appealing. It suggests stopping, assessing the situation, determining the correct direction for you and transferring yourself from the old to the new. Dr Lenski suggests three pivots essential to dealing with conflict. The pivots are easy to remember, important to evolving or stressful situations. They are:
#1 Pivot Away from your Stuck Story and towards Its Message
Humans are natural storytellers. When we experience ongoing tension or conflict, we tend to mentally replay what happened in an attempt to understand it and figure out what to do. Over time, these replays lead to a shorthand story of the conflict. A Stuck Story is a montage of the most powerful and noteworthy moments. It is not the story of the conflict it is our story of the conflict. It is rich in meaning if you know what to look for. Dr Lenski explains how to take this information and use it to determine where our new direction might lie.
#2 Pivot Away from their Behaviour and Towards our Hooks
The second conflict pivot is to stop dwelling on the things the other person is doing or not doing and look at the reasons you’re hooked into the conflict. Ever hear that saying “He/she really knows how to press my buttons!”? Not so says Dr Lenski, we are responsible for our own buttons. We press them ourselves. Dr Lenski believes we all have “hooks”, things that draw us in when stuff important to you is threatened, disrespected or insulted. They are connected to our values and identity, the way we see ourselves and the way we wish to be seen by others.
#3 Pivot Away from the Past and Towards the Now
The third conflict pivot is to stop focussing on the past and attend instead to where our freedom lies – in what we do now.
Conflict thrives on the unknowable past. Unreliable memories, who said what when and why…
Conflict thrives on your reliance on the other party. How or when will they set things right?
This pivot is about taking back this power…
While the book follows a logical format it is written in an engagingly narrative style. A short text (177 pages) its brevity enhances the effectiveness of Dr Lenski’s insights. A professional mediator for over 20 years and 2012 recipient of the ACR’s Mary Parker Follett Award, Dr Lenski has generously distilled what has worked for her into anecdotes and stories which never seem instructive. There are fables, stories and personal experiences of challenging situations which many can relate to and which are described honestly and entertainingly.
This is the real treasure in this book – the openness of the author. Mediators experience conflict in their own lives the same as anyone and often fail to deal with it as a rational human being should. The author subjects her own conflict responses to the same level of scrutiny as she would anyone else’s (I would so love to meet “Bad Tammy”) reinforcing the naturalness of the conflict experience.
The conflict pivots work. I’ve used them myself and have helped others discover their value. I invite you to try them for yourself.
You can learn more about “The Conflict Pivot” at www.conflictpivot.com.