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Psychoanalytic Business Coaching

Conflict management – a constructive approach to understand and solve conflict situations

Conflicts are exhausting and stressful for most of us. And that is why we like to avoid them. Professional conflicts in particular are sometimes sat out for a long time, until the fronts have hardened considerably and a way out seems almost impossible. But there is one…In the following article I would like to take a closer look at the topic of “conflict”, so that it becomes clear what actually happens in a conflict between the two parties. I will slow down a process that otherwise usually happens automatically and incredibly fast. Such a slowing down enables a more relaxed handling of aggression and fear and opens up new, more creative solutions for chronic conflicts.

1. Describe the situation

The first step is to describe the situation very soberly, or rather the trigger of the conflict.

  • Mrs X comes into the office in the morning. Her boss tells her that she has been assigned a new colleague and that she should share her work with the younger colleague in the future.

2. Feel the trigger

What triggers the situation in you? What feelings and thoughts do you have about it? Get involved and speak out everything you think and feel without filtering, no matter whether you are fair to the other person or not.

  • Mrs X experiences herself as rejected, exchanged and humiliated. She thinks the new colleague is a pretty but stupid goose who her boss only chose because she is young and pretty. She also thinks she is getting old and is no longer able to do the job well.

3. Recognizing the unfulfilled need

Which need is not fulfilled in the situation? What other needs might lie beneath?

  • Mrs X. has the need to feel appreciated for her work and to be seen in her efforts. Perhaps she also, if she looks a little deeper, has difficulty dealing with the fact that others are younger and have more opportunities ahead of them. This would mean that in the position she has in her work at the moment, perhaps her need for self-fulfilment and development of her own strengths has not been sufficiently lived out.

4. The view on developmental needs – the needs of the childhood self

Does this touch on a deeper need? Does it touch a biographical wound? Children have deep developmental needs and if these are not saturated, such a wound can always come back in everyday life. These developmental needs are the need for Security/ integrity, Proximity, Agreement/ To be seen, Autonomy. If these basic needs are not met, it can lead to an eruption of feelings that can be triggered by current situations.

  • Perhaps Mrs X feels that the situation hits a life theme of hers. As the eldest of three siblings, she was often responsible for the younger siblings and was little seen in her own needs. The pain of not being seen enough, of feeling invisible creates very strong feelings of anger and powerlessness in the current situation. She may also have adapted for many years in her professional career. The young colleague seems to replace her. If Mrs X. had a different biography, she might have been happy about the new support and she would have seen it as a chance to concentrate more on the projects she really likes to do. But so she reacts with desperation and the feeling of being hurt.

5. Go into adult consciousness

It is important to acknowledge the child’s situation and to “take in” the strong feelings. This means that I feel that my pain goes beyond the current situation. My feelings may be appropriate, but their intensity is determined by early injuries. By acknowledging these old injuries I can see the situation in a new way. I am back in an adult consciousness. In adult consciousness we are relaxed, calm and humorous!

  • In coaching, Mrs X can feel the old wound of not having been seen and mourn about it. She feels that she reacted strongly and above all that she didn’t even ask the important questions anymore because she was so hurt. She feels that the old wound has little to do with the current situation. Questions are: What exactly are the tasks of the new colleague? Would it be possible to renegotiate the interests at this point? As an adult woman, she knows that getting older is part of life. She knows that she is doing a good job and has put together some great projects. She can appreciate that.

6. Feeling the beauty of needs

What need do I have in the situation? What would it feel like if they were completely fulfilled? What feelings would I have then? If I do not experience the need from a deficit feeling: How can I confidently stand up for this need?

  • Mrs. X. has the need to be appreciated and to be seen. If she imagines that she would receive the full appreciation and recognition of her boss and colleagues, then she suddenly feels how powerful she would be and that she would then be courageous enough to live out her need for further development and change. It becomes clear to her that the new colleague is actually reminding her that it is time to take a new step in her own career. She connects with the beauty of this new need for change.

7. Formulate a request

When I’m fully conscious as an adult: what will be left? Which questions still have to be clarified then? Are there concrete steps to be taken? A request to yourself? To others? To the person with whom I have the conflict?

  • Ms. X talks to her boss in a relaxed manner and asks about possibilities for change within the company. There is actually nothing to discuss with her new colleague.


Dipl. Psych. A. Wurst, Coach at dynaMIND

If you are interested in individual coaching or if you are a manager looking for support for conflicts in your team, please contact us. We are happy to support you.