I was mean to the nicest person on the planet.

I hate DirecTV.  

It wasn’t Krishna’s fault, though, and I took it out on him.  

We’ll come back to Krishna.

First you need to know:

  • A year ago, DirecTV started calling me monthly.
  • Then they switched to weekly AND using recorded messages.
  • Finally, they decided that I needed three robo-calls per week.

I blocked their number on my phone.  They are the only number I have ever blocked in my entire life.

Last week DirecTV called me from a different number, effectively getting around my block.

Krishna was the poor soul who called. No recorded message this time.

I let Krishna have it.  I vented all my frustrations about DirecTV.  

I probably also let out a little frustration about covid, toxic politics, inflation, global warming, and the final season of Game of Thrones.

Then it happened…  

Krishna was nice.  

I mean REALLY nice.

I mean like “the nicest guy on the entire freaking planet” nice.

Suddenly it became clear.  Krishna had not caused my thrice-weekly robo-calls.  He was just a guy trying to do his job.  I hadn’t considered his perspective.

I had momentarily lost empathy for another human being.

The problem was the conflict between me and DirecTV.

The connection between conflict and empathy

According to psychology:

Conflict lowers abstract thought.  

Abstract thought is required for empathy.

Thus, conflict lowers empathy.

Basically:

  • More Conflict = Less Empathy.
  • Less Conflict = More Empathy.


This can create a cycle:

  • VICIOUS CYCLE:  Increasing conflict lowers empathy, which increases conflict, which lowers empathy, which…
  • VIRTUOUS CYCLE:  Lowering conflict increases empathy, which lowers conflict, which increases empathy, which…

Krishna masterfully used the virtuous cycle:

By being so darn nice, Krishna lowered the level of conflict.  

This increased my capacity for abstract thought, which—ultimately—increased my empathy.  

Increasing my empathy made me realize I was being a jerk.

Two options for deescalation

When you feel yourself trapped in escalating conflict, you have two options to stop it:

  1. Increase empathy – Look at the situation from the other person’s perspective.

  1. Lower conflict – Lower your volume.  Control your snarky tone of voice.  Stop aggressive body language.  

Either one works.

In my experience, it is easier to start by lowering conflict.

If you want to learn more about this idea, watch the above video from our core training.  The video also explains how conflict lowers problem-solving skills.

Have a fantastic week!

Ryan 

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