Leading Blog






06.08.20

How to Achieve Optimal Outcomes

How to Achieve Optimal Outcomes

CONFLICT is inevitable. It is part of life. Some of it is good for us. We grow from it, it moves us forward, and it makes life more interesting.

However, there is a kind of conflict the seems to reoccur no matter how hard you try to resolve it. And some of that becomes self-perpetuating as we react in ways that cause even more conflict. Jennifer Goldman-Wetzler calls a conflict loop. In Optimal Outcomes, she writes:

What I’ve discovered is that when you are stuck in a conflict loop, you develop conflict habits, including blaming or avoiding others, blaming yourself, and relentlessly seeking “win-win” solutions even when other people refuse to cooperate. And your conflict habits interact with other people’s conflict habits to form a pattern of interaction that keeps you stuck in the conflict loop.

Wetzler offers a set of eight practices called the Optimal Outcomes Method, that we can use to free ourselves from the habits and patterns that reinforce the conflict loop. The dynamic woven throughout each practice is the capacity to observe or pause to acknowledge the factors that have contributed to the conflict and then take a pattern-breaking action.

Another key point is this:

In reoccurring conflicts, we tend not to be very good at imagining what we want. Instead, we’re focused on what went wrong in the past and who is to blame. If we do think about the future, we tend not to look honestly at the reality we’re facing. The degree to which you are able to create an Optimal Outcome is determined both by your ability to imagine an Ideal Future and to acknowledge the reality of the situation and people you’re dealing with.

Practices one through four help us to pause and understand a conflict situation and break out of the conflict patterns of the past. Practices five through eight will help you to exit the conflict loop. Briefly, the eight practices are:

1. Notice Your Conflict Habits and Patterns

We begin by identifying and understanding our own conflict habits. Wetzler has identified four conflict habits: Blame Others, Shut Down, Shame Yourself, and Relentlessly Collaborate. What habit do you tend to gravitate to? She has provided an assessment to identify your primary habit on her website. Optimaloutcomesbook.com/assessment

2. Increase Clarity and Complexity: Map Out the Conflict

When emotions run high, we end to see things in black and white. If we step back, we can see more layers to the conflict and better understand the nuances. With awareness comes possibilities. She introduces a practice called Conflict Mapping to help widen your perspective on the situation.

3. Put Your Emotions to Work for You

How do you tend to express your emotions? When it comes to our emotions, we tend to fall into the Knee-Jerk Reaction Trap, the Inaccessible Emotions Trap, or the Lurking Emotions Trap. The way out is to pause and allow your emotions to settle. Calm, you can begin to understand where they are coming from and what messages they are sending you. Then take more constructive pattern-breaking action to represent better the message you want to send. If other people’s emotions are triggering you, remember they are dealing with their own emotions, too.

4. Honor Ideal and Shadow Values—Yours and Theirs

We have ideal values that we share proudly and shadow values that we have pushed out of our consciousness because we’ve received mixed messages about them, but they affect our thinking and actions, nonetheless. We need to identify and understand both.

Our shadow values tend o come out in words or actions in ways we don’t intend. Noticing the tensions between our own values is key to freeing ourselves from conflict with other people. Those inner tensions often prevent us from being clear about what we want in any given situation, which makes it impossible to be clear with others.

Look for ways to close the gap between our ideal values and our behavior. “Considering others’ shadow values can enable you to develop greater empathy for them, which is likely to have a freeing effect on you. Thinking about others’ history will help you break free from the conflict loop.”

5. Imagine Your Ideal Future

Your Ideal Future will help to pull you out of the conflict loop. In this step, don’t worry about how feasible it is. That will come in practice eight. Describe it in detail with enough clarity so that you are prepared to communicate it. The more emotions are involved in the conflict, the less likely that rationally derived solutions will solve the problem.

6. Design a Pattern-Breaking Path

A Pattern-Breaking Path (PBP) is a linked, yet simple set of action steps that will help to push you out of the conflict loop. The PBP has three characteristics: it is surprisingly different, simple, and each action builds on the one before it. “Your PBP should compromise action steps that, one by one, will move you and others toward the Ideal Future you’ve imagined. Designing a path begins with you. “What can I begin with?” Then, “Who is the first person, if any, I will involve?” “Who else, if anyone, will I involve?” “Are there any groups that I can engage with?” and finally, “How will I build a path of linked action steps from here?”

7. Test Your Path

When designing our Pattern-Breaking Path we tend to either “act recklessly, failing to think about the potentially unintended consequences of our actions” or “anxious about the potential consequences of our actions, we fail to think about the potentially dire consequences of inaction, and we take no action at all.”

We do not think about the impact of our behavior on other people, and we almost certainly do not consider the potential impact of our behavior on ourselves or on others over the long term.

Anticipate unintended consequences. Often, we assume that we are so right in our views and actions that rarely stop to consider other people’s perspectives. “To create the outcome you intend, begin by testing small patter-breaking actions in a safe environment, review your results, and adjust as needed.”

8. Choose an Optimal Outcome

We may hesitate to initiate our Optimal Outcome for several reasons. For instance, it may not seem feasible. Freeing ourselves from the conflict by simply cutting ties and walking away is not feasible or has terrible consequences, or perhaps it is easier to do than your Optimal Outcome. And finally, there is the fear of change or ironically the comfort of the familiar—our new normal state of conflict. To work through this, you have to gauge the feasibility and the cost and benefits of other alternatives.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:11 PM
| Comments (0) | This post is about Problem Solving



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