By Kathy Ficcadenti

By Kathy Ficcadenti

Learning to manage conflict can be life changing.

Click here to read the entire October 2019 newsletter

Employment Services has a new Conflict Management curriculum designed to help clients retain employment. This is a crucial part of our service offering because, while we continue to teach basic job skills, help clients develop resumes, coach interviewing techniques, and even line up one-on-one interviews, helping clients retain employment might be more important today than ever. Why?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of employees quitting their jobs in 2018 reached a high of 40 million people. While a solid job market is certainly a big part of these numbers, where employees leave for greener pastures, one can not overlook employees departing jobs due to conflict with employers and co-workers.

This compelled our Employment Services staff to look more closely at job retention and set out to find new and innovative ways to teach clients about conflict resolution.

In our search, we discovered a TED Talk by Kwame Christian, director of the American Negotiation Institute, who explains in some ways we have evolved faster than our brains. When faced with conflict, our brains tend to operate in the limbic system – the fight, flight, or freeze response. This means, when faced with conflict, many of us choose to fight — focusing on winning every perceived battle, flight – avoiding the problem, or freeze — ignoring the situation altogether. All these reactions might have their place in conflict resolution, but they often don’t provide long-term solutions to problems encountered.

Kwame’s theory stems from a research study, The Physiological and Psychological Effects of Compassion and Anger. In this study, they found when a person experiences five minutes of anger/frustration, it has a negative effect on the overall mood of that person, which can be sustained for five hours. On the other hand, when care/compassion were imposed on the same individuals, there was a positive impact on mood, which in turn, was sustained for six hours. In essence, the positive outweighs the negative!

Kwame goes on to introduce a fresh, creative approach to conflict called Compassionate Curiosity. It can be explained by these steps:

  1. When conflict arises, acknowledge our brains natural reaction to fight, flight, or freeze. Take a moment to step back from this tendency and accompanying emotions.
  2. Look at your opponent as an interesting individual. From a place of pure curiosity, start asking open-ended questions to help gain a better understanding of their perspective.
  3. Allow yourself to respond with understanding and compassion for the other person.
  4. Take ownership of anything you can in the disagreement.

While this sounds easy, it takes practice. Giving up the desire to “win” is challenging for most. It calls for a special vulnerability that makes many of us uncomfortable. Interestingly enough, it may feel as though you’re giving up power, when in fact, you’re gaining it. Giving up our position in order to better understand another garners respect and trust. It’s also likely your rival will be more willing to listen to your perspective as a result. Listening with real curiosity creates an atmosphere of compassion which produces progress and long-term resolution. Imagine the impact on the work site if we all used Compassionate Curiosity.

For our clients, learning to manage conflict can be life changing. It is an essential part of sustaining employment and moving up the career ladder. Professional success requires effective conflict resolution. Compassionate Curiosity is but one of several techniques we now teach our clients to help overcome conflict, build relationships, and garner trust and success.

If you or someone you know needs help with conflict resolution as it relates to job retention, please contact Kathy Ficcadenti, 816-659-8269 or


Pin It on Pinterest