Conflict Communication by Rory Miller

ConCom: Conflict Communication A New Paradigm in Conscious Communication by Rory Miller.

I’ve read this book twice.  It deals with de-escalation situations that could turn violent, as written by a Corrections Officer.  That’s obviously the worst case scenario, however the strategies apply equally as well during the teacup tempests that we all deal with in our personal and professional lives.

This is an excellent book that covers a variety of interactions; from the office to a dark alley.  The following are some of the key points:

On Our Three Selves

  • One of the key teachings is the differentiation of our three selves; the Lizard, the Monkey, and the Human.  The Lizard is inflexible and hard-wired for survival; the Monkey is all about the emotions. It is only when we use our Human brain that we become optimal problem solvers and conflict resolvers.
  • The Lizard is the oldest part of your thinking brain, the hindbrain. Your survival instincts (particularly fight/flight/freeze responses) are triggered here. The Lizard’s only concern is your individual survival.
  • The Monkey brain corresponds to the limbic system, the emotional brain. The Monkey is completely concerned with social behavior, with status and what other people might think. It literally cannot distinguish between humiliation and death.
  • We like to think that our Human mind is who we really are. We like to think that we spend a lot of time there. Get over that. Much of the time spent in our Human mind is spent making up reasons for what we (the other two minds) already believe or have already decided. Sometimes we are explaining it to others. Often we are explaining it to ourselves.

On Social Conflict

  • Social conflict stems from a handful of needs; To create and maintain a social group; To establish and maintain a hierarchy within the group; To enforce the mores of the group.
  • Othering is the ability to convince yourself that another human is different from you. The ability to other by behavior is one of the most important skills in force professions. Not being othered is also a skill, and one that is critical in de-escalating potentially violent situations.
  • Your natural responses to conflict are Subconscious, Scripted and for the Good of the Group. If the script doesn’t benefit anybody, why do we do it? We do it because the Monkey brain believes it benefits everybody. It benefits the group. Once you see the scripts , you can choose to evolve from a meat puppet to an actor, one who acts upon the universe.
  • People are not held in check by what people will think . T hey are held in check by what they imagine people will think.
  • In order to use your Human brain you must learn to: Recognize when you are on a script . Determine whether the script is helping . Decide whether to stay on the script, switch to a different script or reject scripting altogether .
  • Lions do not get into dominance games with cheetahs. Adult dogs do not get into dominance games with puppies. The adult remains cool, aloof and above it. To make this tactic work you must be and stay above the emotional landscape.  The essence of the Big Dog tactic is to show that this whole incident was beneath your notice.

On Leadership

  • Leadership is about people, not policy. It is about telling people to their faces when they have screwed up and also when they have done well.
  • Leadership is not demanded, it is assumed. If you have to prove you are in charge, it is because you know that you are not.
  • The best leader you ever had didn’t scream or yell. That person was relaxed when everyone else was panicked . That’s leadership.
  • Loud and bossy is the body language of doing a bad job and being insecure.
  • In a new group, and any group with an informal hierarchy (as well as most groups in emergencies) the people choose the leader.

On (Avoiding) Violence

  • Control the rate, tone , pitch and volume of your voice. Keep everything slow, low and rhythmic. The hindbrain, the Survival /Lizard is also the place where rhythm resides.
  • Crime is not random. Victims are chosen.
  • Prevention at this level is to lower your perceived reward and to raise your perceived risk. You raise your risk profile by being assertive, comfortable in your body, disobedient when a stranger tries to manipulate you. You raise your risk profile by having friends and being cautious and staying alert.
  • There are only five types of places where violence is common. 1. Where young men gather in groups. 2. Where people get their minds altered. Drugs, alcohol, even ritual drumming, lower inhibition. 3. Where territories are in dispute. 4. Where you don’t know the rules. 5. Predatory violence happens in lonely places. Places with no witnesses.

On Communication

  • Active listening is intelligence gathering, pure and simple. It is a natural counterpart of being able to read people.
  • The two elements of active listening are: 1. You receive the information as clearly, accurately, and completely as possible. 2. The subject wants to keep talking.
  • We want to jump ahead to the important things that we have to say. Avoid this.
  • One of the things presented in active listening can feel like a trick and, if done badly, can quickly put the subject on guard. Sometimes called “feedback” or “paraphrasing” or “reflecting , ” it is simply double-checking that you understand.
  • Do not negotiate, talk or explain. “No” is a complete sentence.
  • When you discover a breakdown in communication, backtrack a bit, find the common ground and build the understanding piece by piece.
  • Last note. When you are listening, you are gathering information. When you are talking, you are giving information away. What serves your purpose?

There is so much more to this book than what is presented here.  Do yourself a favor and get a copy today!

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