WITHOUT UNDERSTANDING THE ROOT CAUSE of a conflict, your attempt to resolve it becomes difficult at best, impossible at worst. In my four decades of working with organizational leaders and teams, I have observed that most personal, business, or political conflicts can be traced to five root causes (the first four are in increasing order of resolution difficulty): (1) disagreement over facts, (2) disagreement over methods, (3) disagreement over goals, (4) incompatible values, and (5) choice of interaction approach (a special case in itself, and the subject of the next chapter). Even complex conflict situations can be traced to a combination of these causes. When you’re embroiled in complex situations, the first step you ...

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