Applied Psychology - Conflict Escalation

Personal MBA member Vincent Touquet points us to this extraordinarily interesting article: “He Who Cast the First Stone Probably Didn’t" , written by Daniel Gilbert of Stumbling on Happiness fame. (A non-business book I highly recommend.) Here are the key takeaways.

Conflicts naturally escalate because of three factors:

  1. We can easily observe the actions of others, but not our own.
  2. We can easily observe our own thoughts, but not those of others.
  3. Any pain we receive appears to be more real and hurtful than pain we inflict.

The best way to diffuse this psychological aspect of conflict is to try to trust the good intentions of others and ignore what our brains infer to be escalating ill intent.

Think of this the next time you’re tempted to respond in retribution in any context, business or otherwise.

(Tip o’the hat to Penelope Trunk , who tipped Vincent off to the article.)


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