Two weeks ago, I had the priviledge to work with my friends at Personality Insights in Atlanta at Share the Passion 2008. On Sunday morning, Christopher Coleman spoke. Christopher's story is really amazing. In summary, Chris was declared dead at birth and he stayed that way for fifteen minutes until his twin sister was born. When she cried, he cried. So, he was without oxygen for the first fifteen minutes of his life. As a result, he has cerebral palsy, and he is always in a wheelchair.
Many people might see Chris's condition and feel sorry for him – don't. Chris is an overcomer. He is a winner. He may have some physical challenges, but I assure you he is not disabled. He speaks with energy. He speaks with passion. He speaks with conviction. Chris is inspiring and encouraging. I am proud to call him my friend.
Since the topic of this blog is resolving conflict in teams, I can almost hear people thinking, “That's a great story, but what does it have to do with resolving conflict.” From my perspective it has everything to do with it.
When I encourage people to start the conflict resolution process by controlling their emotional response, I often hear them say “I can't help it. That's just how I am.” The thought that usually goes through my mind is: “You can't control yourself or you won't control yourself.” Then, my mind quickly processes these thoughts: “If you can't control yourself, that may indicate a psychological problem that needs professional help. If you won't control yourself, that is a performance problem that we need to address. Either way we have a problem here. We do not have an excuse for your contribution to the conflict.”
I acknowledge that self-control can be difficult. I understand that it takes work and effort. That being said, I'm not prepared to accept that most people can't control themselves. Excuses are harder to accept when I look at Chris. He could easily say that he can't help it, that's just the way he is. He's wheelchair bound and must have others take care of him. To some extent, he does rely on others for assistance with some physical challenges. He does not, however, wallow in his condition. Instead, he uses his condition to encourage and uplift others. He chooses his emotional response to a difficult situation.
Chris sets a great example for any person engaged in a conflict. Choose your response to difficult situations. You may occasionally lose control. That's understandable. Just accept responsibility for your response and then work to keep yourself under emotional control from that point forward. Set the example for others to follow. Since the human emotional system takes much of its input from external sources, you just might influence the other party to control their emotional state as well. Someone has to set the tone. Why shouldn't it be you?
Watch a video about Chris here.