I have yet to meet a leader that can effectively solve problems or conflict by way of assertion. In fact, assertion as a means to resolution is highly toxic to your organizational culture.  Assertion is like holding a beach ball under water, holding it steady is consuming and the slightest shift will cause you to lose control of the ball.  Yet time and again leaders default to assertion or bully tactics to try to attain control of problems or conflict, at best this provides a temporary false sense of control.

When leaders engage others by way of assertion it is a clear indicator that they are lacking in self-awareness and perspective-taking; the ability to see the world through someone else’s eyes.  Self-awareness requires an openness to introspect upon how your biases, beliefs and values affect what you say and do and ultimately how you affect those around you.  Few people take notice of how their own biases manifest irrational behavior and even when we do pay attention, it is challenging to change our deep-rooted habits.

Problems and conflict are a part of life and your level of self-awareness and perspective-taking shapes your response to them.  As you change your level of consciousness your situation changes.  In fact the most powerful method of resolution is to elevate your level of self-awareness and perspective-taking.

We can view self-awareness through three lenses:

Literal awareness: is when problems or conflict are repetitive in nature, they feel frustrating and draining and your perception is that others are the problem and that you are right.

Symbolic awareness: is when problems or conflict are viewed metaphorically, you recognize the patterns, biases and perceptions that are at the root of the problem.

Creative awareness: is when problems or conflict become opportunities for your creativity to shine, your symbolic awareness has enabled you to discover resourceful ways to find resolution and learn.

When someone pushes your buttons, you are in literal awareness and the key to disabling your buttons is to choose a more symbolic perspective.

Next time you feel the urge to assert yourself to resolve a problem or conflict take a step back and gage your level of self-awareness and then consider the perspective of others before you respond.  The same goes when you feel your buttons being pushed, this is not easy, in fact it is very humbling at first but you will quickly discover that this is the most effective and sustainable path to resolution.

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