I was working with a client recently who is responsible for a few teams in her workplace. In one of the teams, there have been multiple conflicts.

What I know for sure in those situations is that conflict is not my problem, even though I’m called in to help with it.

What I’ve learned over the years, is my job is to help up-level the skills, knowledge and confidence of the leaders in charge, so they can deal with the conflicts in an ongoing way. It’s their problem to solve, as conflict won’t go away and will come back again in another form.

That’s been my orientation and philosophy for many years now and what inspired me to co-found the On Conflict Leadership Institute. I love to work with enlightened leaders who have the interpersonal and emotional intelligence skills, but don’t yet know the nuances and crevices of conflict.

This leader took my one hour online, self-directed course on  How to Have Difficult Conversations . We then worked together to apply the concepts from the course to his real-live situations.

Many of the things I teach and share these days are not rocket science. I repeat themes and skills. They are foundational and simple but not necessarily easy.

Pinch theory is one of those conflict concepts that seems easy and yet is easy to miss.

After the leader watched the videos in the course, he realized there were signs much earlier on that there were tensions on the team. But at the time, he didn’t realize these were signs like a canary in the coal mine. The tensions were signs to give more attention and not to think it’s not a big deal or it’ll take care of itself.

In hindsight, he can see now that what appeared as little pinches were building up into what resulted in a few crunches. These were situations where team members were so inflamed they didn’t want to talk with each other anymore.

Crunches of some sort exist every time I’m called in to help. The little stuff built up into an avalanche of misunderstandings, demands, hurt feelings and unclear communication. Once we’ve reached that stage, it takes a lot of investment of time, money, effort to start to unravel, repair and heal from the damage.

Not everyone has the stamina either to keep in the game to make it to the other side.

Pinch theory is a useful reminder that what seems small must be attended to.

The challenge is most of us don’t bring up an awkward subject because we’ve tried it before & it didn’t go well.

That’s where education comes in. We need the right skills to navigate conflict well. There are tried & true ways that help navigate the small stuff before it becomes the BIG stuff. As it’s true – if you navigate the small stuff poorly, it can make things worse too.

It’s so worth learning  How to Have Difficult Conversations  in a good way and it starts with acknowledging the importance of having the conversations in the first place.

Never underestimate the power of a pinch!

“All conflict can be traced back to someone’s feelings getting hurt, don’t you think?” … Liane Moriarty, from her novel “Big Little Lies”