I’ve suggested we’re afraid to be vulnerable because we’re afraid to be shamed. Because we must be willing to be vulnerable to get what we want, its downside – shame – deserves attention.

Quoting an expert in the field in Shame By Any Other Name,
I’ve explained that:

Shame makes us want to hide – from ourselves, our God and our peers – making shame an existentially isolating state of mind. Feeling shame makes a person “dejection-based, passive, or helpless,” causing the “ashamed person [to focus] more on devaluing or condemning his entire self” than upon his behavior. He sees himself “as fundamentally flawed, feels self-conscious about the visibility of his actions, fears scorn, and thus avoids or hides from others.”

That’s hard, right? Who wouldn’t avoid conflict? Who wouldn’t fail to ask for a raise if the response was going to be insult and humiliation?

Let’s turn again to the author of Conflict Revolution and my personal mediation guru, Ken Cloke.

How, I asked Ken, do we find a way to resolve disputes or ask for what we need or, heck, even just what we want, in a way that doesn’t cause us pain?

“By discovering the hidden nature of the dispute,” he advised.

And by hidden nature, I mean two things. The first is what their conflict actually means to them – which requires a consideration of their interests and emotions. The second happens at an even deeper level, which is this: every conflict we experience in our lives occurs at the intersection, or crossroads, between problems we now need to solve in order to grow, and skills we do not yet possess.

This is the kind of advice that I chew over for years. Every conflict occurs at the intersection between problems we now need to solve in order to grow, and skills we do not yet possess.  What does that mean?

“[T]here are no two year olds who experience conflicts over romantic love,” Ken said, “because romance is not yet on their agenda, and there are no ninety year olds who have conflicts over who gets to play with the blocks. With each level of growth and development, we experience fresh conflicts and at the same time transcend old conflicts that we not only successfully resolve, but develop the skills to move beyond.”

I was beginning to get it but I need to attach these general concepts to my actual experience, so I offered up this example.

by Victoria Pynchon



Victoria Pynchon is an attorney-mediator and arbitrator. She is also a principal in the She Negotiates Consulting and Training firm for which her blog “She Negotiates” is named. In addition to writing for the Forbes.com legal blog “On the Docket,” Pynchon also authored the book “A is for A**hole, the Grownups' ABCs of Conflict Resolution.