S3 E4: Shifting Conflict into Growth with Tracy Callahan

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Season 3 Episode 4 of The Crazy Ex-Wives Club Podcast: Shifting Conflict into Growth with Tracy Callahan

Shifting Conflict into Growth with Tracy Callahan

In this thought-provoking episode of "The Crazy Ex-Wives Club," host Erica Bennett talks with mediator and divorce coach Tracy Callahan about transforming conflict into growth. They delve into the psychology of conflict, revealing strategies to transition from reactionary impulsiveness to thoughtful resolution. Sharing from personal experience and professional practice, they explore the five styles of conflict handling, emphasizing the need for self-awareness and the potential for personal transformation. Whether you're negotiating with an ex, coparenting, or navigating blended family dynamics, this episode offers valuable insights and tools for anyone looking to turn the challenges of conflict into opportunities for empowerment and change. Join us as we confront the stigma of discord and learn the art of conflict management for a more resilient future.

Full Transcripts Below

Learn More About This Week's Guest: Tracy Callahan

https://www.thesplitsociety.com

Tracy Callahan is a Supreme Court of Florida Certified Family Mediator, New York Unified Court trained Mediator, Advanced trained Divorce Mediator, Certified ADR Divorce Coach, facilitator, and educator who specializes in navigating challenging conversations and complex negotiations. 

 

Her work with families in mediation and with individual parties to conflict in divorce and co-parenting is centered on developing effective conflict management strategies and engaging in meaningful and effective dialogue. 

 

Tracy owns and operates her own practice, Mediating-Matters, LLC, The Split Society, and is the co-founder of Divorce Coaches Academy. 

 

As a pioneer in the field of divorce coaching for early dispute resolution, she has presented at the ABA annual ADR conference and is a contributing author to the best-selling book, Divorce: Taking the High Road: Simple Strategies for Creating a Healthy Divorce.

 

⁠https://www.thesplitsociety.com⁠

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Special Offer: Free Download: 3 Strategies To Keep It Together: The Role of Emotional Regulation in Divorce 

⁠Get it HERE⁠

 

Transforming Conflict into Growth with Tracy Callahan FULL TRANSCRIPTS


Erica Bennett [00:00:00]:
Hey, guys, it's Erica and another episode of The Crazy Ex Wives Club. Super excited for our guest today. Today we are talking conflict. I mean, how does anybody actually get through a divorce without even a little bit of conflict? We're going to learn all about conflict styles and learning from conflict and navigating conflict. So let's get started. Welcome to The Crazy Ex Wife's Club, a podcast dedicated to helping women navigate the emotional journey that is divorce. I'm your host, Erica. And if you're trying to figure out life after the big D, welcome to the club.

Erica Bennett [00:00:38]:
Whether you're contemplating divorce or dealing with the aftermath or any of the many phases in between, the club has got you covered. Each week, you'll hear stories from women who have been in your shoes. This isn't about spilling tea on divorce details. This is about giving you the tools to take control of your own healing journey. Listen in weekly for advice, tips, and tools to help you move through each stage of the process.

Erica Bennett [00:01:05]:
Welcome back to another episode of The Crazy Ex Wives Club. Today I have Tracy Callahan with us. She is the guru of conflict. So she loves conflict, loves learning from conflict, has had a long career in helping people through conflict. She is a supreme court of Florida certified family mediator, a New York court trained mediator. Right. Lots of mediation, alternative dispute resolution experience.

Erica Bennett [00:01:37]:
I mean, this woman, Tracy, you do not run from conflict. I think when we first met, too, and you were like, I just love conflict. And I was like, oh, yes, we need to chat, because most people don't. Even myself. I am strong and I am fierce, and if you push me, I will get into the very specific word argument. That's always, even from when I was a child, that was one of my strengths is, like, you didn't get into a verbal argument because eventually I could get there, and not in a mean way, not in a cruel way, but just arguing the facts was my strength.

Tracy Callahan [00:02:24]:
Yeah, that's a good strength, though.

Erica Bennett [00:02:26]:
Right? But even with all that, oh, conflict used to make me so uncomfortable. Right? Can I just deal with it? Can I just give in to not have to be in a place of conflict? So I wanted to have somebody on who loves it, because I'm sure we've all felt that way.

Tracy Callahan [00:02:41]:
Yeah. So one of the most favorite things I like to do at a dinner party or just in casual conversations with people, I ask them to pick three words of what conflict means to them or how they feel in conflict. And I'm going to go with pretty much. 90% of the people I ask this question to use words like scary, intimidating, horrifying, anxiety driven, overwhelming.

Tracy Callahan [00:03:13]:
There's all these negative emotions associated with the word or even the thought of conflict.

Tracy Callahan [00:03:21]:
And I think that's a normal experience, because conflict can be scary. It can be. Nobody likes to be in a situation where they feel that somebody is opposing them.

Tracy Callahan [00:03:36]:
So in conflict, there's these two things. There's the situation or the conflict, something that's happened that's created this conflict. And then parties to conflict.

Tracy Callahan [00:03:49]:
So in divorce, we can say, okay, it's the spouses in conflict. In life,


Tracy Callahan [00:03:55]:
Parties to conflict can be anything. Us and our kids. Hello, I can be in conflict often with my children or with an employer or with a colleague or with a friend.

Tracy Callahan [00:04:08]:
Right.

Tracy Callahan [00:04:09]:
Conflict is a normal expression of relationships. So it's inevitable. It's just, unfortunately, we don't learn how to positively deal with conflict, and that creates all of this other stuff.

Erica Bennett [00:04:26]:
This stuff, yeah. Because I would say my three words, like conflict would first be tension. And then to me, conflict goes one of two ways. It makes you stronger or it burns the bridge. Because even in my marriage, we had conflict and we never talked about it. Conflict could be as easy as we disagreed on how we wanted to move forward in my son getting vaccinated or not.

Tracy Callahan [00:04:52]:
Yeah.

Erica Bennett [00:04:52]:
That was a big conflict. And so when we don't talk about it, what happens? It just erodes the foundation, because I thought you just always got along. I never saw my parents navigate conflict. I never saw them have to have a hearty, passionate discussion that each could have opposing sides and that they still stayed in love with each other. I thought conflict was ugly battles, conflict was ending. Conflict was like, things are broken.

Tracy Callahan [00:05:20]:
Yeah, absolutely.

Tracy Callahan [00:05:22]:
Right.

Tracy Callahan [00:05:23]:
So there are so many factors for why we feel the way we feel about conflict.

Tracy Callahan [00:05:28]:
Right?

Tracy Callahan [00:05:28]:
But I just heard you name some words associated with your feelings, with conflict. For me, conflict is an opportunity. So my three words would be growth, opportunity, and expansion. And that's actually quite the contrary to what people mostly think about conflict, but it truly is how you experience conflict. It can be an opportunity to feel worse about a situation, or it can be an opportunity to learn more about a situation, not just the other party who you may be in conflict with, but also yourself.

Erica Bennett [00:06:06]:
Yeah. I think being able to shift. When I finally saw tension points as opportunities for growth. Right. Even just things are getting too hard. Right. All of a sudden, I'm feeling overwhelmed. Whether it's in a conversation, in a relationship, in a job, and I had to remind myself, this is a growth point. You're being called to be able to understand more or handle more.

Erica Bennett [00:06:30]:
And so looking at it as, like, right now, in my relationship, when we disagree, when we'd first disagree, all those fears of, "oh, my gosh, this is the beginning of the end", would come up. We're having conflict. This means that these are the crumbling of the rocks already, but instead shifting to be, how can I understand where they're coming from and what I really want? And how is it the two of us against the conflict instead of us against each other, transformed it into a growth opportunity to become closer.

Tracy Callahan [00:07:01]:
Yeah, yeah. And here's where I love to quote John and Julie Gottman, and for any listeners out there that's familiar with the Gottman's work, they have basically have created a formula where they can predict whether a marriage is going to stay together or end in divorce. And they've identified that 69% of all problems in a marriage are unresolvable.

Erica Bennett [00:07:27]:
That's crazy.

Tracy Callahan [00:07:28]:
Unresolvable. So if we think about 69% of problems in a marriage being unresolvable, what the hell is the difference between whether a couple stays together or decides to end the marriage, and it is their engagement and management of the conflict? It doesn't mean that it has to be solved.

Tracy Callahan [00:07:51]:
Right?

Tracy Callahan [00:07:52]:
So let's say you can't stand the way your spouse puts the forks in the damn dishwasher, right? The forks should go up. They put them down. Why is this so difficult? Okay.

Erica Bennett [00:08:05]:
I'm dying laughing because I can't tell you how many times that example has come up. It's like they marry each other, too. It goes down, and those two come together.

Tracy Callahan [00:08:18]:
Exactly right. So the issue is, if you can say and bitch all day long, you have to put the damn forks up. Why do you keep putting them down? And it doesn't change. Unresolvable problem. The difference in this conflict is and how people can move past unresolvable problems is how they look at as an opportunity to manage that conflict, both for themselves and for the relationship, with the understanding that we cannot control or change anybody else. We can only control and change ourselves.

Erica Bennett [00:08:53]:
Right.

Tracy Callahan [00:08:53]:
Mel Robbins is famous for this. Let them theory. Oh, okay. So your friends don't invite you out for brunch, and you're really hurt. Let them.

Tracy Callahan [00:09:08]:
You want a commitment from the person you've been dating for over a year and a half, let them. Because this is the ownership to your own control. You can't control any of that. So we can't control, no matter how much we want, how annoying it is. Because I am a little OCD. I'm not going to lie about how somebody loads my damn dishwasher.

Tracy Callahan [00:09:32]:
But what can I control? I can't control that. So either I can decide, you know what? Hey, just leave the dishes. I'll do them myself, or I can get into the problem cycle, right? And the problem cycle is all defining and redefining what the problem is, going through a whole course of action, cause and effect. How did we get here? And then appropriating blame for such. And when we do that, we get lost because we're removing ourselves from our role in this process. So although we might not have, quote unquote, started a conflict, we very well can define and control how we engage in it. And that's what's so amazing about conflict.

Erica Bennett [00:10:19]:
Yeah. Got to watch a little conflict over the last week. We were on a trip, a very blended trip with the boyfriend and his ex wife and all of the children. And so watching all the dynamics, and it was a Disney trip right. So you're already heated and Disney.

Erica Bennett [00:10:37]:
You know, every family's happy in Disney world aren't. But you have the normal stuff of kids are tired and it's hot and it's sweaty and it's long days and nobody's sleeping, but everybody's excited because it's Disney. And then you also layer in adults who are still having real conflict issues and adding and watching those kind of bubble throughout the week and how they're handled or how to move through different. Are there, like, set patterns or ways in which people typically handle conflict? So the listeners are out there looking at the conflict they're engaged in. Is there almost, like, personality styles of conflict?

Tracy Callahan [00:11:18]:
Yeah. And we know that people approach conflict very differently.

Tracy Callahan [00:11:23]:
Right.

Tracy Callahan [00:11:24]:
For a lot of reasons. Our innate tendencies, our go to conflict style, our perceptions, our beliefs, our life experiences, how we grew up in a household. Right. I had an italian mother. Damn. Right.

Tracy Callahan [00:11:41]:
She certainly expressed conflict in a very different manner than which my father, who's Scandinavian. Who is this sort of, kind of layback, chill, kind of, hey, I'm Switzerland kind of person.

Tracy Callahan [00:11:58]:
So how we were exposed to conflict, our current demands, as well as what our perceived goals are. So there are differing conflict styles. And it's really important to recognize that just because we have a go to conflict style or an innate tendency, conflict style doesn't mean that that's it.


Tracy Callahan [00:12:24]:
We can learn different approaches to conflict. And you said something earlier that I really want to highlight is not only recognizing how we engage in conflict and taking some reflection on that, but also acknowledging and identifying how somebody else engages in conflict.

Tracy Callahan [00:12:45]:
Right.

Tracy Callahan [00:12:46]:
In disputes, it's often easier to justify our own actions and assign motive to somebody else's right rather than to take a step back, kind of self reflect on our own. And we know self reflection is hard. It's hard to look in that mirror, but also while looking at our mirror, looking at how somebody else is engaging in conflict without all of the negative connotation associated with it.

Erica Bennett [00:13:16]:
Yeah. This last week, a lot of the observations, or almost like the theories I was testing out, right. Because it's always a test and learn. You're trying to figure out what helps something and what doesn't. And it's that. It's that you know that there are specific behaviors you can do that are going to make it worse, which means there are behaviors you can do that make it better. And also acknowledging that when you're really in the conflict, like in these situations when we're low on sleep and low on food and we're walking 20,000 steps a day, that the ability to pause before reacting is super diminished. And so knowing that more reaction is going to happen than choice action, and so just having a little extra bubble.

Erica Bennett [00:14:00]:
Right, like taking a little extra time, even giving yourself grace, that, okay, I didn't handle it. There was one day I was like, I didn't handle this as well as I'd hoped. Even though I was irritated, I'd really gone in it thinking that I was going to be able to keep that all under wraps. And that's just not always possible. But then it's how do you move forward and how do you repair it versus letting it sit there.

Tracy Callahan [00:14:23]:
Yeah.

Tracy Callahan [00:14:24]:
So we know that conflict is difficult because it is so damn emotional.

Tracy Callahan [00:14:32]:
They're just married to one another. Because if you just met somebody on the street, you really wouldn't care, right. If they said something, you say something back, you move on. It's when there's this emotional engagement that makes conflict even more difficult. And what you were talking about was this sort of what we identify as an amygdala hijack. Right? So our stress responses kick in, in our body's innate ability to want to protect themselves, regardless of whether that threat is real or perceived. So there's high emotional engagement. Often in conflict. There are threats abounding, right? Not just a threat to our physical safety, but to our emotional safety, to our identity.

Tracy Callahan [00:15:25]:
I mean, we can go on and on, especially in coparenting. There's a lot of identity threats. You are with a blended. You are doing the whole blended thing, just screaming. There's going to be an issue. There's going to be an issue. So our body engages in this process, right? We call it amygdala hijack. There is a physiological response where our amygdala is getting kicked up. And either we engage in sort of those stress responses.

Tracy Callahan [00:15:54]:
Most people know, fight or flight, either you're going to run away from that fight or you're going to engage in that fight. But there's also others. Flop. Fawn. There's all of the other Fs. So part of what we want to do in conflict, in recognizing conflict problem cycles, conflict cycles and conflict styles, is also giving ourselves that space to, what I like to say, slow the roll.

Tracy Callahan [00:16:30]:
So, okay, threat, perceived threat. My amygdala is getting kicked in. I'm going to engage in a reaction, right? More than likely, what's going to happen in a reactive state is there's going to be an escalation of conflict. Even for those that walk away from it, there may be an escalation of that conflict. So the goal is to be able to support a process, a strategy, to be able to move away from our reactive part of our brain, the most primitive, our amygdala, and move into our thinking brain.

Tracy Callahan [00:17:05]:
That's our frontal cortex. The last, most advanced part of our brain, because there we can actually engage in a response which may be not running away, maybe. I hear you. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I'm just going to take a minute.

Erica Bennett [00:17:26]:
Yeah. And for me, if I speak about, like, in my divorce, when we were having those periods of disagreement, of conflict, that a lot of times it was. That it was giving myself. Not giving myself, making myself walk away instead of continue to engage in it. Because for me, I already confessed that I'm a little fiery. There is a rush that I get when I know I'm about to get into a verbal argument. And can I win? I'm competitive. Can I win? And so can I.

Erica Bennett [00:17:56]:
Zing, zing, zing. Throw them all out and make it that I just won. But that hurt the long term goal. And so making myself put it away, walk away. Even this weekend, one time, I was like, you're going to text. I'm too frustrated to discuss this right now, but I will respond later. We're not going to leave anybody waiting. We're going to acknowledge it, but we are also not going to react right now because it's not going to help the long run and then being able to go away, do something that made me happy, get back into alignment, visualize when it's working, what's it going to look like and feel like.

Erica Bennett [00:18:32]:
Kind of stayed true to what I'd hoped the end was. And it took years to get there. You guys, it's not like we had one fight. It was a lot of years of just brewing conflict sitting there. That was unexpected.

Tracy Callahan [00:18:47]:
Yeah.

Tracy Callahan [00:18:48]:
And again, not our fault. I mean, seriously, if I can go back and change our education system, the one thing I would do is teach children from a really early age that conflict is okay. Conflict is a part of relationships, and there are things about conflict that we can learn in terms of skills that then carry on. So one of the things I love to say about divorces is that I know for many people may not feel like it was a gift, but it could be a gift. It could be an opportunity to now, for the first time in 30 something years, 40 years, 50 years, that you are now looking at the opportunity to develop skills. And there are specific skills, not only understanding conflict, understanding conflict styles, but also those things that impact conflict. Emotional regulation and management, effective communication, flexible thinking, all of those things we need to do, but we can learn. We can learn. This isn't one of those things that, oh, if you didn't learn how to do it when you were five, you're not going to be able to learn how to do it now.

Tracy Callahan [00:20:04]:
And the work that I do, both as a mediator and mostly as a divorce coach, is helping people develop the skills so that they can engage in conflict productively. One to minimize the impact. Because divorce is not detrimental to children, conflict is. And to help be able to honor and support those relationships moving forward, because you are going to have a relationship with a co-parent as long as the life of your child supersedes yours, God willing.

Erica Bennett [00:20:38]:
Yeah.

Erica Bennett [00:20:43]:
Are you at a crossroads contemplating whether to stay or go in your marriage? It's okay to feel lost, to feel scared and even uncertain. Hey, guys, this is Erica. And I get it. I felt the same way. I was afraid to make the wrong choice. But I also knew that I wanted more. I want to invite you to join The Crazy Ex-Wives Club Cohort. It's not just for divorced women, but it's also for those who are trying to find clarity on whether or not they should stay.

Erica Bennett [00:21:10]:
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Erica Bennett [00:21:39]:
Just society in general, we need to remove the stigma around the word conflict because we are all fine by having a disagreement. Conflict is the same thing. It might just be little disagreements that we didn't deal with, and it got bigger and bigger because I think that feeds into it, too. A lot of the resentment of the past when we really look at, I'll call it like conflict with the capital C when it's really there, right. It's because there were a whole bunch of other things that are still being brought into it. Well, you did this to me before. Well, you hurt me before.

Erica Bennett [00:22:13]:
I can't trust that you're going to show up in an actual neutral space to be able to move forward. So are there any tricks to letting that go? Because mine was a lot like I shared. I had to tell myself to take a break. I had to remind myself of what my goal and purpose and end objective was, and I had to do it over and over and over again. But is there anything else people can do to kind of let go of that pattern?

Tracy Callahan [00:22:36]:
Yeah. So it is. We carry past baggage, right? We call it baggage. Whether that's baggage from your childhood, perhaps you had some abandonment as a child, which now you're in this marriage that's not working, and there's a divorce process and feeling abandoned again. So we do. There's a lot of stuff that we bring forward continuously.

Tracy Callahan [00:23:01]:
However, there are things, right. And it's self work, which is hard.

Tracy Callahan [00:23:07]:
Right.

Tracy Callahan [00:23:07]:
We can't click our heels together and just magically wish it away. I love to tell people, you know Obama did his whole "the audacity of hope". And I love hope. But hope is not a strategy. You can hope all day long, something's going to change, but it's not going to change just by hoping it.

Tracy Callahan [00:23:29]:
Right.

Tracy Callahan [00:23:30]:
It's not a wishful thinking process. It is an actual hands on event.

Tracy Callahan [00:23:35]:
Right.

Tracy Callahan [00:23:36]:
Things that you're doing that are particular to you. So when we talk about emotional regulation, right, understanding, part of that emotional intelligence process, the pillars of emotional intelligence, the first one is awareness right. Now, not awareness to erase it, not awareness to finger point and go, yeah, that's exactly why I'm so screwed up. Awareness to be able to just name it. I feel hurt when you yell at me or when you tell me I did something wrong. It makes me feel. Now, you don't even have to say this to the other person. You just need to be able to identify it for yourself.

Tracy Callahan [00:24:18]:
So that self awareness piece of saying, this makes me feel disrespected, or this makes me feel hurt, or this makes me feel alone, and when I'm alone, I feel scared and desperate and all of those things.

Tracy Callahan [00:24:34]:
So first piece is that self awareness. The second piece then, in self awareness, is, how is it showing up for me? What is my desired outcome? You were just mentioning this. Your desired outcome. What was my goal? What do I want it to look like, and what am I willing to do to get that? Because without a desired outcome, we cannot start looking at solutions, or what I call or people in negotiation processes refer to as empathetic problem solving, because we cannot understand the interests of somebody else until we understand our own interests. But often we get caught in that assumption. Iceberg again, I can assign intention to my behavior, but I assign motive to somebody else's.

Erica Bennett [00:25:29]:
Yeah, going back to your first point, the self awareness, because a lot of times, people don't actually know what's getting triggered. They got to peel back those layers because they think that, oh, I didn't like how they talked to me. Okay, but why? Well, it made me feel stupid. Okay, but why? And so when you get to the actual root of the emotion that is like screaming to be acknowledged and healed, that that's what it's triggering, then you can change the behaviors to start to move forward. But so often I see people grab the top layer of that onion and say, oh, you did this. And so then when that gets soothed, all of a sudden, they're still not soothed because they didn't do the work to figure out what was really at the core of it. And if you don't find out the core of it, we can't meet that need. We can't figure out what behavior will help with that.

Tracy Callahan [00:26:21]:
Yeah, it's very much triaging.

Tracy Callahan [00:26:23]:
Right.

Tracy Callahan [00:26:24]:
You can kind of put a band aid on it, but that band aid is going to fall off. We know it's going to fall off. So what's really going on there? So there's that awareness, then to be able to start defining strategy in terms of, okay, what am I willing to do? What's my desired outcome? And then the next piece of that is moving into empathetic problem solving.

Tracy Callahan [00:26:46]:
Right.

Tracy Callahan [00:26:47]:
And empathetic problem solving is our ability to recognize somebody else's interests, not to have emotional empathy.

Tracy Callahan [00:26:55]:
Right.

Tracy Callahan [00:26:56]:
This person hurt me or made me feel angry or betrayed me or broke my trust or doesn't love me anymore. And I loved them so much. No, I don't need you to have emotional empathy for them. But cognitive empathy is the ability to understand where somebody else may be coming from. It's hard. It is hard to be able to do that, but we don't have to agree to understand.

Tracy Callahan [00:27:25]:
Right.

Tracy Callahan [00:27:26]:
So part of that then, that next step is moving then into that empathetic problem solving with some sense of looking at interests from both sides. What might the other party. Because most people, when they're engaged in conflict, they listen to respond rather than listen to understand.

Erica Bennett [00:27:46]:
Yeah, I was a big conflict to persuade. I'd love to claim that I was negotiating, but negotiating is still a win win. And I was really like, oh, no, I will persuade you that I am correct. Yeah.

Tracy Callahan [00:28:01]:
If you're listening to this, take a moment and think about your last argument. Right. How much were you actually listening to the other party to understand where they were coming from or how much of you was listening to get your next response, formulate your next attack? So usually our brain can't do these two things at one time.

Tracy Callahan [00:28:27]:
So if you are listening or engaging in conflict to figure out what your next comeback is going to be, what your next slinger is going to hit them across their forehead, you're not at all engaging in problem or empathetic problem solving.

Tracy Callahan [00:28:44]:
So there's a lot of prosthesis. But one of the things I did want to also talk a little bit about is conflict style. This goes to empathetic problem solving. So we were talking about why we all have our conflict styles and that conflict styles can be learned.

Tracy Callahan [00:29:02]:
There's five sort of categorical conflict styles. And Thomas Kilman. It's a model that was really created for not the relationship world, it was for the work world. Really identified sort of five different conflict styles. And it's interesting because they are pretty much the exact communication styles also. So there's a lot of good work here. They might sound familiar to you. One is the competing conflict style.

Tracy Callahan [00:29:34]:
You talked a little bit about that in terms of. Yeah, you were a shark. We identify competing conflict styles as a shark.

Tracy Callahan [00:29:43]:
That's that. I'm going to win and you're going to lose.

Tracy Callahan [00:29:47]:
I am going to do whatever I can to win. That's that competing, that competitive conflict style. Then there's the avoidant conflict style.

Erica Bennett [00:29:58]:
That's what I married.

Tracy Callahan [00:29:59]:
Yeah. We like to refer the avoidant conflict style as the turtle.

Tracy Callahan [00:30:04]:
I'm not here. I'm going to stick my head back in my shell. Make it go away, make it go away, make it go away. Some people believe an avoiding conflict style is just they never cause problems. And, in fact, they can just be as difficult as a competing conflict style. So you just shared that your ex was an avoidant conflict and you were a competing conflict style? Yeah. That was a lot of oil and water. I'm going to gather.

Erica Bennett [00:30:37]:
Yeah, well, and we just never talked about it because I showed up and I had a strong opinion and he would say, I don't really agree, and I'd be like, I'm going to win this and I'm going to do it anyways. And it's so funny because I remember what he said was the moment he knew he was done fighting for the marriage was literally over the color of the basement because we were in disagreement over what color we wanted to paint the basement, and he wanted to try something more fun and paint colors stress me out. And I just picked a very neutral, light colored green, and I didn't care what he wanted, and I was going to do it my way, and I did because I knew best. And it was years later that he finally looked like, that is the moment that I quit. He's like, I stopped speaking my opinion. I stopped sharing what I wanted because you weren't listening anyways.

Tracy Callahan [00:31:20]:
Yeah, fascinating. Good stuff. Okay, so we've got our shark and we've got our turtle. Then we can have an accommodating conflict style. We like to call the accommodating conflict style the teddy bear.

Tracy Callahan [00:31:32]:
This is the person who's putting somebody. Oh, okay. For the best interests of our family. I'm not going to argue with you. I'm not going to engage in conflict.

Tracy Callahan [00:31:43]:
Always accommodating to somebody else's interests. Then we have a compromising conflict style. And people think usually, oh, compromising conflict style is where you want to be. But compromising conflict style, which we refer to as the fox. Sly fox. Sometimes there might be an opportunity where there can be benefit on both sides, but the compromising is all right, I'm willing to give up maybe this amount. I'll compromise here, where there might not be a true win win situation in the conflict, it may be a concession. And again, there are times for each one of these styles.

Tracy Callahan [00:32:25]:
And then, of course, the last one, which is the collaborating conflict style. And this is the wise owl. Collaborating takes the longest time to engage in. That's why most people don't truly engage in a collaborating conflict style, because it takes time. For anybody who's gone through mediation, that is a forced collaborating conflict style, right? It takes a certain amount of time. It takes more than just we're not going to be able to resolve this. The thing about these five conflict styles is, regardless of whatever our predominant conflict style was, we can actually learn to engage in different conflict styles in different conflict situations. So we may be able to. Maybe an avoidant conflict style is actually warranted here.

Tracy Callahan [00:33:21]:
Or maybe a competing conflict style. There's a real safety issue at play here. So a competing style may be more appropriate. All five styles have pros benefits as also weaknesses in its approach. So recognizing that in addition to all of this stuff and all of these strategies, there are skills within each one of those different styles. And one style, it's not a one size fits all kind of deal, right. We can pick and choose depending on the conflict situation, the party to the conflict, what that party conflict style is and how I might best approach it. So I'm going to turn this back to you. So you were the competing, right? And your ex was avoidant.

Tracy Callahan [00:34:15]:
How might you have engaged in a different conflict style to still be able to get what your desired outcome was, right. You used the pink color in the basement, right? As one. I did.

Erica Bennett [00:34:29]:
That is an interesting question because I don't know what I would say is now what I have learned are some different skills. So, like, I've learned to reduce some of my fiery shark, I must win, right? So to show up when conflict hits, I have switched. And I might have switched a little bit too much, but I have switched into the listening mode first. Why does this matter to you? Why are you hurt? What's at the root of this? So I'm going through those same steps to understand the other person. What are you really looking for? The piece that I have to continue to work on then is being able to show up and still share. Well, this is what I wanted, right?

Tracy Callahan [00:35:13]:
Yeah.

Erica Bennett [00:35:13]:
Because it's really easy when you're in those conflict situations. For me, at least, if the other person makes their emotions so big and I still have some lingering fear of things don't work out. Right. Of the betrayal, of is somebody quitting in the relationship, that I will allow that to override what I need. We're doing a good job of finding that balance of how are we speaking? Okay, here's what I want. Here's what he wants. And what has helped me the most is what is the problem that we're both fighting against.

Erica Bennett [00:35:47]:
So how do we find the common theme? I always talk about opposite ends of the same stick. We're just on opposite ends. So how do we either move a little bit closer or the forks up? Forks down? That is totally a conversation in this house. Now, we both were like, okay, great, you know what? I will try and remember to do it your way if it matters that much to you. I don't want to get stuck with a fork when I absently put my hand in the dishwasher, and then they weren't getting very clean, and I was like, well, can we just try it the other way and see if that works? It worked better for the dishwasher. So, yeah, I think I've just learned to not go for the kill strike right out of the gate.

Tracy Callahan [00:36:29]:
Yeah. And again, if some of these problems are unresolvable and we find ourselves back in those same problems, we're not perfect. Nobody's perfect. And trust me, when I show up for something, I'm a little crazy, my kids will tell you I'm a big efficiency person. So if I walk into a store and I want to buy something, and there's like, one cashier and 20 people in line, I am the girl who's looking around like, is there a manager here? Clearly somebody is not paying, right? So I have my own shit that I carry continuously, even though I support individuals in engaging and working through conflict, either for a management purpose or to get to resolution. But the thing is, okay, so if it didn't go the way you want it to go again, always, what's that desired outcome? I think age is so beautiful in this regard. You know how everybody always talks about wisdom, and I was always like, what?

Tracy Callahan [00:37:34]:
When you're young, you think you know so much. When you get older, there is an opportunity to sort of sit back. And even in my own life now, I have been able to engage in conflict. Just engage in conflict, and then that's it. Meaning, no feelings, emotions get carried through. Because that's the other piece, right? That you get into this argument, but then it sees, even if everybody says, okay, whatever, I'm going to take a break or I'm going to walk away. If it's still simmering, it will boil again. So that extension is the issue.

Erica Bennett [00:38:16]:
Yeah. And I think that's the piece about in the conflict now, if I can speak my piece and he can speak his piece, whether or not we resolve the conflict, but we feel heard. Like, if I feel like you truly heard me and you understand the piece that mattered to me and did I truly understand you? Do you feel heard and understood? Then it doesn't carry over, because then I feel like, well, now, this was a successful conflict, and kind of. You're supporting 69% never get resolved. Now it makes sense, because I'm like, half the time, the issue is it's not conflict to solve the problem, which is what I used to think. It is conflict to be heard and validated and seen in what you're trying to achieve, and then be like, okay, I've got my emotions out.

Erica Bennett [00:39:01]:
I feel heard and seen. Let's move on. Let's go do something else, because I feel okay with it now. And we'll continue to try new things to figure it out. Blending families is hard. Blending four kids is hard. There's a lot of extra conditions in this situation that wouldn't be for the majority of blending families. And so it's very complex on trying to figure out how we meet everyone's needs in this situation.

Tracy Callahan [00:39:31]:
But it was that acknowledgment. Right? Again, you don't have to agree, but if both parties can walk away feeling heard, I heard what you said, and you can acknowledge you heard what I said, then score. Win all day long. One of my most favorite things to do with clients is this little exercise. So you guys can all try it. So I don't know if anybody's ever taught you how to engage in a conflict with somebody, but if you're in a verbal argument with somebody. So, Erica, you and I got in an argument. You were like, tracy, you were ten minutes late for this. This is ridiculous.

Tracy Callahan [00:40:12]:
As the other party is unloading everything you did, appropriating blame, telling you, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Repeat everything they say back to you. You're really upset I was ten minutes late. Spend the entire argument not saying anything of your own interests, engaging what we call jading behavior. Jading behavior is justify, argue, defend, or explain, right? Don't engage in any of that and simply repeat back everything that other person is saying to you. Most people, when they engage in it, it stops it right away. This person who is in this high verbal engagement of conflict, once you start saying it and you don't have to say it within intensity, you can detoxify it a little.

Tracy Callahan [00:41:09]:
You can take out some of the curse words or whatever you did. Just reflect back, reflect back, reflect back. That other party feels heard, and then they have nothing to argue about.

Erica Bennett [00:41:22]:
Yes. We used to talk about it in terms of, like, it's a big balloon, right? Your emotions are this big balloon, and every time you reflect back, you're letting a little air out and a little air out so it's no longer in danger of popping. But you got to get all little air out all throughout that balloon.

Tracy Callahan [00:41:39]:
Yeah. We all just want to be heard. We all just really want to be heard. And most people don't even need to be validated, but being validated that I hear that you're feeling that way. I don't need to understand it. I don't need to agree with it, but I can still validate. You are upset.

Erica Bennett [00:42:02]:
Yeah. I think the other thing, too, as we near the end of our time already, is because I'm a big fan. I really like structure, but structure leads me to look for themes and repeating behaviors, patterns. I'm always looking for a pattern because when I can find a pattern, then I can find the core, right? Because a lot of things will feel like they're very different. Try and think of some. We were talking about, the boyfriend and I, our oldest, are the same grade. They both were getting cell phones, right? What kind of cell phone were they going to get? We talked through what kind it was, well, he came back and his kid got an iPhone. After we discussed that wasn't going to happen.

Erica Bennett [00:42:40]:
Okay, I'm inflamed, right? Then it comes down to like, somebody got to stay up later. I'm inflamed. The pattern that came out was a fairness pattern, which as a middle child, I'm always like, how is it fair? How is it equal? Now, you normally would have been like, well, being able to stay up late and getting an iPhone are two completely different conflicts. But when I started to see the pattern, when I started to see how it felt in my body, I could get to this core of, well, I don't want to have favoritism. I want things to be fair. How are we making things fair for these kids? Because we are trying to blend this family and we can't have favorites when we've got different bio parents in the mix. So looking for those patterns enabled me to be like, I could tell him and say, hey, this is triggering me in this pattern and I don't know why yet. I need to go think about it first.

Erica Bennett [00:43:33]:
But when I figure it out, I will come back and talk to you about it. And it kind of ties them all together. So now we're not having ten different separate arguments. We're looking for one pattern. Same with being able to change the response in your ex. If there's a pattern of when things always go awry, find the pattern and start to change your behavior. You can't change theirs, you've got to change yours. But anything else to add on that?

Tracy Callahan [00:43:59]:
No. There's this whole study about you are unwanted, repetitive patterns, or these patterns that happen over again. That's what makes it dysfunctional. It's not that conflict is dysfunctional. The way in which it continuously repeats is dysfunctional. So identifying those patterns is so essential to really moving past. Getting this is all dust. The conflict is the dust.

Tracy Callahan [00:44:27]:
The real issue is what is this threatening to you? What is it meaning to you? When you talked about the word fair, what came up for me was David Rock's scarf assessment. And if you've never heard of the scarf assessment, I encourage you all to go check it out. And it's basically a self assessment tool on status, certainty, autonomy, relatedness and fairness. And we work in conflict off threat, reward. And those five domains, again, was never intended for family work, but is screaming family work, right? Status, certainty, autonomy, relatedness, fairness, those are all things that come up all the time in divorce, in conflicted co-parenting relationships. So fairness. My other four letter f word in divorce, fair is subjective, right? So when people start engaging in words like fair, there's subjectivity. Subjectivity is grounded in what we, our history, our culture teaches is about fairness. Also threats to that subjectivity.

Tracy Callahan [00:45:45]:
Being able to sort of look at some of the objectivity on that one of the other words I love instead of is it fair? Is it equitable? Is it equal?


Tracy Callahan [00:45:57]:
Something more objective based rather than a triggering word, such as fairness or autonomy or certainty. All big subjective words.

Erica Bennett [00:46:10]:
Yeah. And even I can think about in that cell phone issue, they had been gone for hours trying to get the phone set up. And so what happened? Resentment that I was stuck at home with the other kids. They came home with takeout and I had to make leftovers for lunch. There was the cost behind the phone, right? Like I had spent hours creating all the arguments about why I was so offended and so bothered. And as we sit down and he shares the facts and shares the facts, and it breaks down all this big argument of why I was puffed out and ready to fight for the fairness, and I'm like, oh, the logical facts. But why am I still upset about this? And that's where it had to get to the root of what was left over from my childhood. It wasn't something that the other person did.

Erica Bennett [00:46:56]:
It wasn't something that he would have even known what landmines he was stepping on, right? Like, hey, it turns out it was $5 more a month. Why would I not get the easiest phone for him? Right? Couldn't help that. It was the day after Christmas and everybody was trying to get phones. Okay, well, my kid was having a meltdown. I didn't expect it to take this long. So we had takeout. Right. We would have all made the same decisions.

Erica Bennett [00:47:19]:
And the emotion that gets stuck in there, that had nothing to do with what he did, because all of that was very logical and made sense. And everything had to do with my own inner childhood wounds of what I was fighting for, for myself and for my son. That to avoid the conflict, right. You got to do the work. You have to see the patterns. You have to see the pain, and then you have to be willing to lift the heavy lifting and try and change those thought patterns and really look at them.

Tracy Callahan [00:47:50]:
Those limiting beliefs, that historical perspective. Right again. Opportunity to learn something about ourselves as well as the people we're in relationships with.

Tracy Callahan [00:48:00]:
Right.

Tracy Callahan [00:48:01]:
We know that there is a huge increase in statistics for every divorce that happens. You can change it at this point in time. And it is. One of the things that I love about the work that I do is all of this can be learned. It's the identification to say, you know what? I don't want to do this anymore. It feels icky. I don't like how I feel. I don't like what it does to my relationships.

Tracy Callahan [00:48:27]:
I want to change it. So that's that awareness piece and then saying, okay, I do. I want a different process. I want this to look differently for me, that's that desired outcome. And I love supporting people through that process because it truly is transformative. I know we were talking about Disney, but I'm going to say it's just magical. It really is. When it happens, it's magical.

Tracy Callahan [00:48:51]:
It's just fantastic. And changes so many aspects and facets of people's lives. Right again. Work, kids, family, significant others, partners all the way up the chain.

Erica Bennett [00:49:07]:
Yeah. Well, thank you, Tracy, for joining us today to talk about conflict. For, you guys listening, key takeaways when that conflict shows up, whether it's with the ex, the current partner, even conflict with your kids because they're not behaving the way you want them to, it's an opportunity for you to grow, an opportunity for you to learn how to handle things differently, for how to change things. If everybody was really easy, we would never get better at what we're trying to do. So while it sucks in the moment when the conflict is there and it's hard and it feels shitty and you just want it to be over. Know that when you get through it, when you learn how to change the behaviors, when you learn from it, you come out on the other side transformed. You come out stronger, you come out more resilient.

Erica Bennett [00:49:54]:
You come out better able to handle the things that show up. So until our next episode, give yourself grace. Give yourself a little pause if you're in the middle of any conflict, and check out all those resources that Tracy mentioned. So thank you, guys. We'll see you next week. And that's it. Another great episode of The Crazy Ex-Wives Club, a podcast for women learning how to heal from their divorce. Tune in next week for more advice and tips to help you figure out life after divorce.

Erica Bennett [00:50:26]:
And until then, give yourself grace. Do the best you can and know that this is all part of the process.

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