MF 149 : Reshaping Conflict to Move Forward, with Karen Valencic
Updated: Jun 17, 2022
Karen Valencic is a communication and conflict resolution specialist. Today, Karen will share how you can reshape conflict as an opportunity to move forward.
Successes at a glance:
Founder, Spiral Impact.
Conflict resolution specialist.
Leadership and team communication.
Author, Spiral Impact.
Karen started her life as the middle daughter of two brothers and their Dad. From a young age, Karen had an innate curiosity about how things work. This led to Karen studying mechanical engineering in school; becoming one of the first female engineers at Delco Remy (now Remy International) in Pendleton, Indiana. While grateful for her education and early career, Karen missed out on learning communication and conflict resolution skills. Specifically, Karen struggled with how to get her ideas heard and how to deal with people who don’t agree with you. Things were so bad that when Karen would get to speak in front of a crowd, she would start to shake.
The “aha” moment that sparked a pivot:
Karen’s husband at the time had a dental practice. While attending a dental conference, Karen met one of her future mentors, Thomas Crum, an Aikido practitioner and conflict resolution specialist, who wrote the book, ‘The Magic of Conflict.’ Karen began studying Aikido and conflict resolution under Tom. She shares that the content was so influential to her that she decided to make a sharp career pivot. Karen left her engineering career behind and started Spiral Impact.
A moment that started out as a conflict that turned into an opportunity to move forward:
When Karen began her new business, she was very clear on her purpose. However, the people closest to her had “zero support” for what she was doing. Karen’s decision to leave behind a very successful engineering career to become a conflict resolution coach baffled many. What kept Karen moving forward was the personal clarity she had for her direction, her vision, and her purpose. Karen shares how her training in Aikido instilled in her the mindset of moving thru a difficult situation or obstacle without giving yourself away – engage and exchange while maintaining your center.
Karen’s philosophy for conflict resolution:
Karen’s study of the Aikido martial art has greatly influenced her philosophy for conflict resolution. Embrace your opponent’s position as well as your own. Leverage that position, as opposed to applying blunt force, to meet and resolve that conflict. Learn how to move within.
Remember, “conflict is where all innovation begins” – it’s necessary for moving forward. If you don’t have any conflict in your life, you’re not pushing the edges enough to make any forward momentum.
Karen’s biggest tip to be better communicators and see conflicts as opportunities in 2018:
Start by looking at what is conflict: the root of the word means to strike together.
Next, recognize when do you have a conflict, what reactions do you have. Does your temperature rise, does your heart beat faster? Your mind and body have early warning systems in place for recognizing pending conflict.
Spiral: move into the problem. Karen uses this analogy (an exercise she has her students do). Push your fist against someone else’s fist. In that state of conflict, you’re at an impasse. If one person opens his or her fist into a palm, this creates a new situation by shifting the orientation and power dynamic without using brute force.
Understanding the four quadrants of conflict resolution:
Knowledge: know yourself and your triggers.
Focused energy: be calm, deliberate.
Support: from people, programs, books.
Intention: rather than focus on what someone did (the act), look into the intent of the person and ask what is it you want that the other person has and can give.
How Karen recharges when facing a roadblock or challenge:
Work on staying centered by connecting with people. Stay in the space of curiosity and delight in deciding the next project or priority for her business.
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Advice to past self while going thru a difficult time:
“Listen to that voice inside of me rather than all of the noise around me.” This is advice that Karen has come back to throughout her career. Finally, remember that no one knows your business or dreams as well as you do.
Parting wisdom (in a few words):
“Keep moving and bend your knees.”