Conflict is becoming an ever more present reality in our lives, yet most of us try desperately to avoid it. The widening gap between the world in which we live and our lack of ability to navigate conflict, is showing up in our personal and professional spaces. Given our discomfort and conflict avoidance bend, how do we address this? Is there a way back? Can we face conflict head on, hash it out and be stronger for it?

Our guest this week, Buster Benson, believes navigating conflict is an achievable “meta-skill” that allows us to integrate the differences we encounter in the world. In his book, Why Are We Yelling?, Buster reveals that conflict can serve as a valuable tool, that when channeled properly can be leveraged to deepen our relationships, strengthen our problem-solving skills and stimulate our creativity.

As the mastermind behind highly successful teams at Amazon, Twitter, and Slack, Buster Benson spent decades leaning into and facilitating difficult conversations in high stress environments. Buster exposes the psychological underpinnings of awkward, unproductive conflict and the critical habits anyone can learn to avoid it.

Buster Benson is an entrepreneur and a former product leader at Amazon, Twitter, Slack, and Patreon. This is his first book.

For a complete transcript of this episode, click here.

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Episode Takeaways

  • Fruits of productive disagreement: Buster reveals a few key fruits of productive disagreement, 1) Security, 2) Growth, 3) Connection, and 4) Enjoyment.
  • Take the temperature of the environment into which we are entering the conversation: Is the stage preset with “goodwill”? Does the temperature signal a welcoming and conducive environment? If not, take a step back and focus on the relationship.
  • Buster deep dives into many of the concepts discussed in his book:
    • Curse of knowledge
    • Survivorship bias
    • Confabulation
    • Bizarreness effect
    • Sunk cost fallacy
    • Bias blind spot (which Buster’s calls the “Meta Bias”)
  • Biases and their relationship to the s-curve of learning: What biases do we need to be aware of? What biases can we leverage?
  • Steps for developing honest bias:
    • Acknowledge my limitations and unique perspective.
    • Invite diverse perspectives to the table.
    • Listen generously when others point out my blind spots.
    • Be willing to accept the discomfort that this inevitably brings as a welcome gift.

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