I recently sat down with Michael Zacharia to discuss an upcoming workshop coming to Folsom on February 11, Great Tools for Managing and Resolving Conflict. Michael has been helping groups, individuals, and businesses manage and resolve conflict for over 20 years, and he’s the primary presenter in the workshop. I talked to him about the upcoming session and the potential for forward progress that is hidden in almost any conflict.
Director, Good Story Workshops
Scott Schafer (SS): So how did you come to work on conflict and conflict resolution?
Michael Zacharia (MZ): I’m a lawyer by trade, but my career led me to focus on individual and organizational development and coaching, especially in challenging situations. I do a lot of work as an executive coach for Fortune 150 companies; I’ve served as the general counsel for a Fortune 500 firm, worked in the US Commerce and State Departments, and served as a White House Fellow. Lots of interesting organizational settings and lots of conflict! As I gravitated towards conflict resolution, I started teaching it at a graduate level at Pepperdine University. I’m also co-director of the Pacis Project, a faith-based reconciliation effort in the Middle East, which was awarded the 2011 Peacemaker of the Year award.
SS: What was the genesis of the Great Tools for Managing and Resolving Conflict workshop?
MZ: We all have conflict – it’s part of the human experience. We learn a lot of things in school, but we’re not taught anywhere about how to approach and deal with conflict in a healthy fashion. We learn about conflict by how our family did or did not deal with it, or by common myths … but never by a well-thought-out approach that makes us confident and competent in managing the conflicts we will naturally face in day-to-day living.
Our conflicts are fertile ground for better relationships and even personal transformation, and there are very effective tools for managing conflict, and reducing the stress and cost of conflict. We wanted to build a workshop that teaches people how to use these simple, powerful tools.
SS: If there is one thing you would want people to know about conflict, what is it?
MZ: That conflict, if well handled, can be a very positive and even transformative experience for an individual and for the relationship.
SS: Where do you most usually see conflict? In certain relationships? Certain situations?
MZ: Conflict is found throughout peoples’ lives – family, work, friends – it’s all around us. And that’s why gaining some simple skills and tools for managing conflict can have a very big impact on your life. They’re usable in situation after situation.
SS: What are the misconceptions that people tend to have about conflict?
MZ: There are a number of misconceptions that people have, but each of these is actually an area of new possibilities. We work on each of these misconceptions in the workshop:
- People sometimes believe that they are absolutely right and the other party is absolutely wrong – this is almost never true
- People have lost hope, which is a huge mistake because progress is always possible
- People think that certain conflicts are unresolvable and that no progress can be made
- People think that their listening skills are good, but almost everyone can increase their listening skills
- People think that conflict is a very negative thing that must be avoided at all cost, and that if you avoid the conflict it will go away
SS: What surprises people about conflict management?
MZ: People are pretty surprised at how much is possible, how much progress can be made in a conflict situation, even when the other party in the conflict has no interest in resolving it. The tools available are simple and powerful.
SS: Who would benefit from this workshop?
MZ: Anyone would benefit. All of us, myself included, have things to learn about how to be a better listener and manage conflict well. Every time I work with a client on a conflict issue, I learn something new.
SS: Good Story Workshops are generally very interactive and deliver use-it-right-away tools. Are there things participants will walk away with that they can use Monday morning?
MZ: Absolutely. They’ll walk away with specific skills that they can use right off the bat. They’ll walk away with new ideas about their conflicts -- they’ll have new ways to tackle the conflicts that they are currently facing.
Entrigued? Register for the Great Tools for Managing and Resolving Conflict workshop happening on February 11!