Founders are kind of like married couples in terms of the intensity and importance attributed to arguments, right? If you follow me on that point, then the forthcoming paper (working paper available here) “A Brief Intervention to Promote Conflict Reappraisal Preserves Marital Quality Over Time” by Finkel et al. could help you with conflict resolution.
Married couples that were tasked with reappraising a recent significant argument from a third party perspective reported significantly greater marital satisfaction than those that did not receive in the intervention.
The intriguing aspect is that the intervention was very brief—devoting just seven minutes once every four months. Additionally, the authors find the intervention was just as effective for newlyweds as it was for long-married couples, so it appears the intervention would be effective regardless of your business’s development stage.
Does sitting down to think about your feelings sound silly? Depends on the person. More importantly, does it work? It was highly effective in this study. I’ve adapted the prompts in the paper (pages 6-7), substituting startup terminology for original references to marriage.
Write down your most significant conflict from the past four months, or more specifically, provide a “fact-based summary of the most significant disagreement… focusing on behavior, not on thoughts or feelings.” Now, think about it again:
- Think about the specific disagreement that you just wrote about having with your business partner. Think about this disagreement with your business partner from the perspective of a neutral third party who wants the best for all involved; a person who sees things from a neutral point of view. How might this person think about the disagreement? How might he or she find the good that could come from it?
- Some people find it helpful to take this third party perspective during their interactions with their business partner. However, almost everybody finds it challenging to take this third party perspective at all times. In your relationship with your partner, what obstacles do you face in trying to take this third partner perspective, especially when you’re having a disagreement with your partner?
- Despite the obstacles to taking a third party perspective, people can be successful in doing so. Over the next four months, please try your best to take this third party perspective during interactions with your business partner, especially during disagreements. How might you be most successful in taking this perspective in your interactions with your partner over the next four months? How might taking this perspective help you make the best of disagreements in your relationship?
These directions really stress the importance and difficulty of taking on the third party perspective. It’s hard to do. We’re first person viewpoint people by nature. But if you can work on taking on that viewpoint, you could have much less conflict-induced stress.