What to Watch for In The Presidential Debates— How They Handle Conflict

The presidential debates are getting more and more interesting. However, in my opinion, there’s just one thing to be watching for at this point—how the candidates handle conflict, as conflict resolution skills is job one for anybody who would even think of pursuing that job. As the election gets closer, I’ll revisit this and break down each candidate by the stages. For now, let’s just observe the patterns of each one.

So here’s how conflict is typically handled, by the stages:

  • Stage One―By doing what is easiest, such as latching on to, surrendering and/ or allowing some stronger or “more capable” to take over the situation, thus allowing you to disown the conflict.
  • Stage Two―By using some form of deception or strong-arm tactic (or doing whatever you have to do, (sometimes even without limits) to assure that you get your way. Thus, to get what you want at Stage Two, you might be extremely charming to manipulate someone, and extremely brutal to bully, manipulate, or force them, or any unique combination thereof―that is whatever it takes to control, overpower and win.
  • Stage Three―By following a set of black-and-white rules that clearly dictates who or what is right and who or what is wrong. Ideological extremism to please “the base” often drives a candidate at this stage.
  • Stage Four―By taking the road that produces the most validation from others and the least anxiety (no matter how things shake out).
  • Stage Five―By evaluating whether or not and how the source of your conflict is related to your bigger picture, then by taking the action(s) that come as close as possible to rebalancing things.
  • Stage Six―By doing what feels consistent with your own core principles and purpose on a heartfelt level.
  • Stage Seven―By carefully listening to all points of view, considering each possibility, then making the decision or taking the action(s) that comes closest to best serving everyone involved―then staunchly standing by your decision or action, if necessary.

I won’t attribute default stages to any of the candidates yet, but wouldn’t it be nice if we could see more action at Stages Six and Seven? Watch how this crucial trait plays out in the candidates as the campaign gets more and more intense.