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There is risk everywhere and fear of risk leads to avoidance, delay, or surrender in the face of conflict and change.

The thing about risk profiles is that they differ based on the stories that we tell ourselves about how we can either succeed or fail in the face of conflict or change.

The stories of failures (“People like us tried something like this before. And it didn’t work.”) and the stories of successes (“People like us tried something like this before. And it worked.”) both share at their core, a story about risk looming large.

If you want to succeed in managing a conflict effectively, or if you want to manage change for other people, or if you want to “win” at a negotiation, here are three points to consider about risk.

By the way, these are not exhaustive points, they are merely starting points:

Everyone has a risk profile. Many people believe strongly that they have something to lose.

For some, its respect, face, honor, the ability to do work tomorrow, or even deeper emotional hurts.

For others, its position, title, money, or the ability to get to show up tomorrow in a place that feels safe.

Most risk profiles, based on fear, is not about physical harm (most of us in the West have eliminated those factors from our daily lives) but is instead about psychological harm.

And psychological safety.

Everyone’s risk profiles mismatch to everyone else’s. This should be obvious, but the fact of the matter is, empathy is in short supply—and always has been.

It becomes even less of a factor when we are so focused on convincing the other party that their risk profile is wrong or misguided, we miss the fact that what matters is empathy to the presence of the mismatch, rather than trying to resolve it.

Everyone wants risk reduced at the least, or eliminated entirely at the most. Reduction and elimination of risk are acts that move parties toward a sense of safety in situations where risk is high, profiles are mismatched, and empathy is in short supply.

The party who succeeds in diplomacy, change management, or conflict reduction is the party who is in tune with what stories will reduce (or eliminate) feelings of risk in the other party.

By the way, the things that people focus on as being “risky” or that they believe they have to lose the most, sometimes are drivers for their most impactful, deeply held stories.

Understand the risk profiles (and the safety and trust needs) of the other party at the table, before trying to convince them of your “I’m right.”

That way, you’ll be sure they listen.

Jesan Sorrells

Jesan Sorrells

Jesan Sorrells is the CEO and Founder of Human Services Consulting and Training and lead on HSCT's flagship product, LeadingKeys. Contact him directly at jsorrells@hsconsultingandtraining.com