Embracing conflicts and separating wants from needs are how we actualize change and breakthrough. International expert on systemic change, Dr. Domenico Lepore, shares his insights after many years of guiding corporate and individual change through the Thinking Process Tools.
In virtually every culture I had the opportunity to come in touch with, the word “conflict” is evocative of something negative; an often prolonged struggle, a situation of distress, an
incompatibility difficult to reconcile. Whether you look in the dictionary or try to fish in some hidden ravine of your memory, you will invariably connect “conflict” with something you would want to avoid. Unless you are a lawyer, you will probably derive very little pleasure and benefit from a situation of conflict.
Conflicts, with their heavy burden of emotions, act as debasers of our intellect, allowing negative emotions to take over. Conflicts unleash powerful forces that make up an important part of what we call “life”; like any force, we can be overwhelmed by it or we can harness it for a good purpose.
Conflicts are inevitable; they arise from the simple fact that we are all different and we
see the world in different ways; we have different agendas, different priorities and we are
subject to different stimuli. Sometimes we have conflicts with ourselves, we struggle to take decisions. The issue, then, is not so much to avoid conflicts; rather it is to turn their potentially devastating power into something useful. In his lifetime crusade for better thinking as a prerequisite for better acting, Dr. Eli Goldratt dedicated a book, It’s Not Luck, and endless seminars to the subject of conflict resolution. Here the attempt is not so much to explain the mechanics of it, but to unveil its underlying paradigm.
Separating wants from needs
A conflict is invariably originated by two statements that we perceive as conflicting; these
statements always take the shape of a “want”: I want X, you want Y, and this difference of
“wants” originates a conflict. Unless we enjoy the arguing that normally ensues a conflict, or we decide that its resolution is not worth pursuing, we may want to consider unveiling what causes the conflict. Choosing to unveil the causes of a conflict is an act of self-determination, a point of strength, and, as such, a step in the direction of change.
A want always hides a “need”. Anytime we state a want, consciously or not, we verbalize
with our statement the way we intend to satisfy our need. I want a new car to satisfy a need
for safety or prestige; I want a steak to satisfy my craving for meat or need for proteins; I want to read a book to protect my need for knowledge or because I need the information contained in that book. The list is obviously endless.
Separating the “want” from the “need” is the first step; once we do that and we look at
each need that has originated the “want”, we immediately realize that these needs are never in conflict. Why do we claim this? Because we can quickly link these needs to a plausible common goal, the achievement of which is only possible if the two needs are simultaneously satisfied. In the end, we only argue and want to solve a conflict with somebody with whom we think we have some common goal to achieve, otherwise we are indifferent.
Goal, needs and wants must be verbalized as clearly as possible; it is only through a
correct and precise verbalization that we disclose the true nature of the categories of speech that make up the conflict.
In our next post we will look at verbalizing goal, needs and wants through the Conflict Cloud Tool.
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Change: Tools for Thinking, Planning and Enacting Change