Pollack Peacebuilding Systems’ founder, Jeremy Pollack, was recently interviewed on The Ty Brown show. Here, he discussed how martial arts led him to peacebuilding, and he explained some of the most common communication breakdowns he encounters and how to solve them. Read our summary below and check out the whole interview here.
Stop Hitting Yourself
Ty explained that when in conflict, people tend to draw out behavior from the other party which aggravates them further. As an example, the two briefly discussed the most common communication breakdown that Jeremy experiences in his work: one person’s communication style kind of goes around the point, and is “softer”, while the other person has a more direct communication style. The more direct person begins to communicate in a way that the non-direct person considers an attack, and so the non-direct person begins to shut down. The direct person then thinks the other person isn’t hearing them, so they become even more direct, maybe even becoming intense. The other person then shuts down further, and thus the cycle continues. As you can see, both parties end up reinforcing the behavior they don’t want from the other person.
On this same topic, Ty posed a real-life scenario that he witnessed and asked for Jeremy’s input. Ty explained that his house is surrounded by hills, so when it snows it all gets trapped in front of his house. This means a lot of cars also get stuck on his road. One day, Ty was outside playing with his kids in the snow when a couple slid off the road and their car became stuck. The man was visibly upset and declined Ty’s initial offer to help. The man asked his wife to get in the driver’s seat so he could push. She was resistant but eventually agreed. The man was barking orders and began blaming her when his plan didn’t work. The man asked “why don’t you listen to me?” to which the woman responded, “I never wanted to do this in the first place.” The woman eventually stopped trying. The situation eventually resolved with Ty’s six-year-old son going over to the couple and saying to the man, “your instructions are hard to follow” then turning to the woman to say, “ but you still need to try.” The wisdom of the child softened the couple, and Ty was eventually able to assist them in freeing their car.
Ty and Jeremy then used this story as a way to breakdown this very common communication issue. Jeremy explained that when people are in a place of pain, their emotions take control and they’re not able to communicate effectively. The husband in this scenario may have been feeling embarrassed about losing control of the car and being stuck, so he became angry and demanding. The wife, who had probably seen this pattern many times, already knew what was coming next, so she immediately shut down.
Jeremy suggested that there are tools both of the people in this conflict could have used to avoid escalating the situation. The husband could have used emotional intelligence skills by taking time to walk away and take deep breaths in order to calm down and get out of his emotional reaction mode. The wife could have used a tool that Jeremy calls “generosity of the heart” in which she recognizes her husband is in an upset state and coming from a place of pain, and she gives him the space to express his emotions while remembering his reactions are not about her, but about his pain.
Martial Arts and Mediation
Switching to Jeremy’s background, Jeremy came to peacebuilding through what may seem on the surface to be something totally unrelated: martial arts. He explains that while people might not see the connection at first, there is actually a huge parallel between martial arts and peacebuilding. He explained, “I believe that in order to be a person who successfully resolves conflicts peacefully, you have to have enough confidence to hold space for someone’s feelings and emotions when they come out and not be so defensive and feeling attacked. Learning to be humble and confident at the same time is the peacebuilding mindset.” When you have the right martial arts teacher, humble confidence is exactly what you will learn. You will also learn that physical confrontation should be the last resort, instead, finding ways to resolve the conflict peacefully is the most desirable outcome. Jeremy followed up with the idea that “confidence without arrogance can lead to kindness.”
Pollack Peacebuilding Systems
Jeremy summarized the core idea of his company, Pollack Peacebuilding Systems: “We help companies navigate challenging interpersonal situations, as well as optimize culture, and we also train employees.” As you can see, Pollack Peacebuilding Systems (PPS) has many facets, so here they are broken down a little further:
- Acute conflict resolution: peacebuilding services that focus on 2-3 people in conflict, focuses on rebuilding relationships by figuring out underlying needs.
- Culture optimization and intervention: peacebuilding services for a larger number of people, departments, or companies experiencing low morale, high turnover, or other negative effects of conflict. PPS does an assessment, then holds a dialogue about the assessment where different interventions are offered that are carried out by PPS, including coaching, training, consulting, and facilitating meetings.
- Training: PPS offers communications training, conflict resolution training, and mediation training.
Jeremy’s Mediation Process
Jeremy uses an acronym for his peacebuilding mindset: C.A.N. C.A.N. stands for curiosity, alliance, and needs awareness. What do these mean, exactly?
Jeremy knows he needs to stay curious while working with conflicting parties. He may know the general story going in, but not all of the details and perspectives. Staying present and interested is the key to deeply understanding each story and perspective.
Jeremy makes sure each person he’s working with knows he is their ally. This means not picking sides. It also means not seeing an individual as the problem, but rather seeing the problem as the problem; the individual becomes an ally in solving that problem.
There is some suite of underlying needs or interests that motivate every conflict. Some of the most common core workplace needs Jeremy encounters include needs for: respect, identity, safety, control.
Ty explained that when one party feels like the other party doesn’t know or care about their needs, it is easy to begin to see them as an adversary instead of an ally. People in conflict often feel alone, so Jeremy reiterated the importance of the mediator being an ally to every person involved. This is vital because when people feel alone, their defenses naturally go up, making the resolution process much harder.
On ending the interview, Ty asked Jeremy to share the one core bit of advice he hopes everyone takes from the interview. Jeremy shared, “remember that everyone needs to feel they matter. Feel listened to, heard, attended to; so take time, be generous with your time and your heart.”