[PODCAST] We Just Want to Belong | Conflict Management Strategy

An Interview with Nira Nurieli

“Conflict can be like fertilizer. It stinks while you’re in it, but in the long run, it fosters growth,” says our guest Kira Nurieli, founder of Harmony Strategies Group. During this episode Kira reveals 3 crucial skills to resolve and leverage conflict management. She describes why she uses “Circles” strategy and how it can boost productivity, increase engagement, and help people feel like they matter.

When you hear the words conflict management, your first thought is likely an intervention to resolve a disagreement. That’s a rather limited description because we all deal with conflict daily.  Sometimes it is personal. Other times, it’s the pace of change or fear of technology taking our jobs. 

Conflict management, when applied effectively, ironically offers a vast amount of opportunity that few of us capture. Kira uses a powerful and effective image to describe conflict: “Conflict can be like fertilizer. It stinks while you’re in it, but in the long run, it fosters growth.”

To understand how we can grow from conflict, first requires that we expand our perspective of this negative, argumentative-winner-loser image. Without a doubt, conflict between people is real and painful.  We struggle with bosses, co-workers, parents, spouses, and children daily. We contend with neighbors, community leaders, and government officials regularly. And many of us are experiencing the pain caused by the accelerating pace of change, technological disruption, and threat of automation. 

Our increasing struggles with conflict make sense when you consider that as humans, we are herd animals. Throughout our evolution, we have relied on others for survival. We have a basic need to understand and be understood – to connect with others in a deep and meaningful way.

For the anthropologist, Circles make sense. Whether at work or in our communities, we form small tribes when challenged or threatened. Circles bring us together in ways that validate everyone. They allow us to belong, to feel supported and protected.

Yet over the last century, many of us have lost our sense of herd and tribe. We have become human robots: we spend over ⅓ of our lives at work, nearly 90,000 hours over our lifetime. We spend long hours commuting, working in cubicles, and staring at screens all day.  With more than 80 percent of the U.S. population owning a smartphone and more than half owning a tablet, we now tend to communicate more with our devices than we do with other people. In our desperate need to connect, many people experience loneliness, anxiety and even depression, which is reaching epidemic proportions.

“Many people in HR are not equipped or trained to how to manage conflict.”

At work, management and employees alike turn to HR for conflict management help. But according to Kira, “many people in HR are not equipped or trained to how to manage conflict.”  Instead the response is to “switch teams” and instead of managing or resolving the conflict, they avoid it. Unfortunately the result is disengagement and often termination.

Kira Nurileli has a solution – not to end conflict but to help us benefit from it. Kira uses a methodology called Harmony Circles to help connect both adversaries and friends and to get them talking – and listening – to one another. 

3 skills that we all need (especially those of us who work with and manage others):

  • Listening 
  • Shifting
  • Creative inquiry

To connect with people we need to listen, shift (see the world through other’s eyes) and be curious – ask a lot of questions (creative inquiry).  

Where can Circles be used?

Any place where people feel the need to be connected. Headline news about sexual harassment, racism, and bias are sucking the oxygen out of relationships. We all want to matter but don’t always feel like we have a voice. 

Can Circles help improve communication between generations? 

Absolutely. Kira says, “every generation wants to feel they belong, to experience meaning, and find purpose. Yes, sometimes generations are at odds with each other but circles encourage a conversation.”

Where else can Circles Conflict Management Strategy be used?

Circle technologies is also being used to impact the ways teams are formed, innovation is fostered, and people learn. Kira has helped companies grow productivity, improve engagement, and even reduce turnover. She has used Circles for on-boarding and performance management to help employees and managers assess performance together, in a format that encourages brainstorming capacity-building and talent development.

Kira’s final words: “We need to help people manage their conflicts because how we manage our conflicts determines our path.”