Starting today I'm going to begin blogging on my new book which has just been posted in Kindle. Actually, the book is a complete rewrite of a book I did 15 years ago. Contained in this book are the questions I hear over and over again from couples who come to my office for counseling. They come for help because their relationships have become distorted and confused, their lives are in pain, and their marriages are in trouble. So we meet together behind the doors of my office, we shut out the world, we talk, and we listen to one another. In the secure privacy of the counselor's office, a man and a woman face each other, they voice their pain, they ask their questions. These questions that continually recur in my counseling practice are questions about unspoken expectations, unexpressed needs, guilt and forgiveness, intimacy and sex, communication and conflict, in-laws, resentments, old issues that keep resurfacing, decision-making, children, step-children, and personality differences. Often, one partner will share these questions and feelings, and the other partner will look up in surprise and say, "I never knew you felt that way!" And real communication begins — sometimes for the first time in years. This book will explore each of these questions, and lay out clear, simple methods to address these issues.
Red Zone So let’s get several terms straight up front. The Red Zone is where the atmosphere is characterized by a lack of professionalism and emotional heat. We’re not talking about conflict that has no emotion. That’s absurd. But emotion is in the service of the intellect, because the primary source of the conflict is not emerging from my personal story, but from the mission of the organization. Have a look at this chart below, which should begin to detail the Red Zone where the conflict now revolves around me, my story, my neediness, my personal issues. Take the time to carefully consider how this may represent your experience with conflict.
Red Zone • This conflict is personal. • It’s about me! • Emotions rule without being acknowledged. • I must protect myself , because I’m feeling weak. • Emotions are denied in self, therefore “projected” on others. • The situation escalates. • Behaviors: I disengage I become easily annoyed I’m resentful I procrastinate I attack the other personally I use Alcohol as medication I avoid people , situations • This conflict is professional. • It’s about the business. • The mission of the organization rules. • I must protect the team and the business. • Emotions are understood and acknowledged in myself. • The situation is reframed into a more useful construct. • Behaviors: Thoughtful Reflective Listen deeply for what the underlying issue might be Do not see negative intent in other person.
As I sink into the Red Zone, my personal story begins to emerge. That story has a central theme or premise that is central to that story: Will I survive? Am I acceptable? Am I competent? Am I in control? As a person begins to sink into her Red Zone, it is usually the same core theme that emerges. Consequently, you will hear out of the mouth of a person the same general theme over and over again. You’re trying to control me! (control) Don’t you think I can do this? (competence). This Red Zone theme can color every interaction unless a person becomes aware of this and is able to manage it appropriate.
Red Zone Themes
Red Zone Issue Self-Description Positive Side Negative Side Survival “I must take care of myself. The world is full of peril, so I must enjoy the moment.” These people have traits of competence, self-reliance, and responsibility These people lack the ability to trust others and tend to be wary and troubled in relationships. They have little interest in anything but what is of practical benefit. They become angry and panicky (Red Zone) whenever they feel their survival has been threatened.
Acceptance “I will do anything to be loved and accepted by others. I am a people-pleaser.” These people have a heart for serving others and are very attentive to the needs and feelings of other people. These people are overly compliant and self-effacing. They tend to be rescuers. They become angry and carry personal grudges (Red Zone) whenever they feel they have been rejected. Control “The world is a threatening place, and the only way I can feel safe is if I can control every situation and the people around me.” These people tend to be have strong leadership qualities. They are vigilant, highly organized, and have high expectations of themselves. These people often wall themselves off emotionally. They do not let others get too close to them. They can be overly controlling toward others—bossy, directive, demanding, rigid, and nit-picking. They impose perfectionist demands on others. They become anxious and angry (Red Zone) whenever anyone or anything threatens their control. Competence “I am loved only on the basis of my performance. My performance is never good enough, so I never feel worthy of being loved.” These people tend to be high achievers. If you are a leader, you want these people on your team, because they will work hard to achieve a great performance. They are never satisfied with their achievements. They have a hard time receiving from other people. They impose perfectionist demands on themselves. They are defensive and easily angered (Red Zone) whenever they perceive that their competence has been questioned.
As the Red Zone core theme is activated, the feelings associated with that issue are also activated. The person then sinks down deeper into a morass of feelings, many of which come from stories long ago completely unrelated to the current story that has provoked the Red Zone response.
There is a different way and an opportunity to engage others in healthy conflict resulting in success.
Conflict is understood and discussed in many different ways. It is our belief that conflict is the basis of ministry, that anyone entering vocational ministry must understand that his/her calling will revolve around conflict.
In saying that, we realize that the word conflict is loaded emotionally. Many people associate conflict with destructive images, of people shouting at one another, of gangs shooting at each other, of countries involved in wars.
Certainly those are conflicted situations. But conflict, at its core, involves disagreement, differing ideas and opinions, discrepant evaluations and judgments. People are different. Each person walking this earth has a different slant on things, different ways of seeing what is unfolding, different strategies for dealing with all the situations life throws at us.
Issues regarding conflict are confusing. Is conflict good, or bad? How do I manage it? Let’s put one proposition on the table right up front: Conflict is necessary and beneficial, at least conflict that is focused properly (i.e. the Blue Zone which we will discuss later). As conflict strays away from issues, and accesses personal stories (i.e. the Red Zone), conflict becomes unmanageable and destructive.
How do you experience conflict and manage it? In the following two posts we’ll explore the Red Zone and the Blue Zone. You will discover key concepts and tools to help you navigate conflict in healthy ways.