Nate Regier knows how to take conflict, which can derail positive discussions and turns it into positive energy. Disagreements, tension and varying strong opinions, if dealt with properly can drive the discussion forward.
Many businesses environments, perhaps your own. These companies think conflict is always bad, and choose to avoid it. They do so by shuffling people around or simply telling people to just move on. It doesn’t work.
Nate believes companies must tackle conflict head-on, but he says it can be done without the drama. The way leaders do this is via a three-step process that includes openness, resourcefulness, and persistence.
Openness is about the emotional part of who we are, it’s about safety. Resourcefulness is about creative problem-solving That’s the head part where we where we are engaging curiously with other people. Persistence is more the body part of who we are, it’s about follow-through. It’s about behavior. It’s about keeping true to promises and living up to what we said we were going to do.
Learn More About Nate Regier
Buy Nate’s book, Conflict Without Casualties
Check out Nate’s company, Next Element
Full Transcript of Nate Regier Interview
This was automatically transcribed. Please contact me in the menu below if you find any problems.
Justin Brady 0:14
now, I wouldn’t have believed it. But negative conflict negative conflict, we just think it’s this thing we accept and we live with. But it drains the US economy $350 billion a year. That’s in lost productivity and wasted energy. And like I said, I accept it. But apparently, we can use that as an energy source. Or at least that’s what Nate Regier today’s host. Thanks, Nate. Thanks for coming on the program.
Nate Regier 0:43
You’re welcome. It’s great to be here. And welcome to all of your listeners.
Justin Brady 0:46
So you are the CO founding owner of next element. And I guess we’ll start there, you’ve been all over the place your advice on cons, I guess I’ll just call it how to take conflict and turn it into energy has been in the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, entrepreneur all over the place. So what is next element? What is this company? What do you guys do?
Nate Regier 1:07
Well, next element is a training advisory firm. We we trained coach and certify other trainers to be able to use the tools and assessments that we’ve developed it to go out there and transform differences and conflict into creative resources. We specialize in working with leaders and companies. And we love to help other trainers, coaches, and consultants. He quipped them with these tools, so they can go make a bigger difference in the world.
Justin Brady 1:35
Now, it seems like a bill of goods, Nate, which is why you’re on here, because this is truly fascinating. But I want to start with what do you even mean by conflict? Let’s because, you know, maybe some people have the wrong idea of what this even is. I always think it’s important to define your terms. So what is conflict?
Nate Regier 1:53
Yes, let’s get it working definition. Because there’s a lot of different ideas people have there. No kidding. You know, when you when you if you google conflict, Google will awesome, often auto fill extra words and phrases that go with it. And one of the most common words you’ll see if you start typing in conflict is you’ll see the words mediation, management reduction. And isn’t it interesting, all of those words may conflict out to be the bad guy.
Justin Brady 2:21
Sure. Well, of course, and that’s what I think it is.
Nate Regier 2:24
Right? And so what I what I’ve noticed in our work with customers, and also in my growing up in a lot of different places in the world is that conflict, all it is, is is the energy created by the gap between what I want and what I’m experiencing at any point in time. You know, I want to be at work at eight, but what I’m experiencing is six people in front of me and Starbucks and three of their baristas called in sick, yeah, that’s conflict, we got a gap, we got a problem here. And one thing I know for sure is that that gap is energy, we feel it and everybody feels differently. But there’s a lot of energy there. So the real question is not whether the conflicts good or bad. The question is, what are you going to do with that energy?
Justin Brady 3:06
Okay, so I’m tracking with you, one of the things I would always tell my clients is, when we get started on a project, it’s going to be a mess, there’s going to be there are going to be very strong opinions, there’s going to be discomfort in that is totally normal. In fact, if we don’t have that, something’s very wrong with your team.
Nate Regier 3:25
Absolutely. If we don’t have those differences, and disagreements and strong feelings and passion, then we don’t have any energy didn’t make anything better. We need that gap in a way to propel us.
Justin Brady 3:36
So what exactly does this look like? I’m you know, because you’re a consultant, you’re you work with people in a corporate senses what it sounds like. Uh huh. So what is the what does this look like? Exactly? In a corporate sense? — I know that’s kind of broad.
Nate Regier 3:53
no, there’s no problem at all. Because the next question then is, the question is, how are we going to use it. So we won’t go into most culture, there’s most corporate settings, and we can see how they’re using the energy. And there’s really two paths. One path is drama. And drama is where we misuse conflict, energy, to feel justified about ourselves, and engage in these adversarial relationships. And that’s where all the trouble is. And there’s a great model that we teach on how to understand and see how that’s happening. And then the other way to use the energy is what we call compassion. And that’s where we use the energy to struggle with each other in a spirit of dignity. Because the word compassion actually means to struggle with calm passion, suffer alongside. So it’s really about do we want to use that energy to struggle against people to feel justified? Or do we want to use it to struggle with people to be effective?
Justin Brady 4:45
That’s fascinating. I like that. And I don’t think I don’t think that’s the first way people always think about conflict and drama. I think everyone hates drama, I think, can we do a hand raising? If you’re listening? Do you hate drama? Yeah, mine’s up to I guess we’re all in agreement. But I don’t I don’t think anybody likes drama. But I think what we want to know is how do we get from drama and conflict to what you just said, using these as tools and energy. So you’re telling me, we don’t necessarily have to accept this the way it is? It’s not, you know, conflict is not just this negative thing that’s going to hurt us, and we just have to try to avoid it, we can use it. So how do great leaders handle conflict? Are there any go-to strategies?
Nate Regier 5:33
Yeah, the first thing they do is they take stock of their own behavior and their own choices because even drama is a choice. Now, we may not be aware of it, because we’ve done it so much. But we people play one of three different roles and drama and we make choices about that, you know, we could play the persecutor where we say, hey, it’s everyone else’s problem. We could play the victim where we say, it’s always my problem, I’m always the problem, excuse me. Or we could play the rescuer and say, Hey, everybody, I’ve got the solution to everyone’s problems. And, and those three attitudes create these roles that we play. And then we’re motivated to prove that to be true. And that’s where the whole self-justification comes in. So great leaders become astutely aware of the choices they’re making to be justified about this negative behavior and play these roles. And then they that way, they can become aware and conscious, then they can make the choice to use that energy a different way. And that’s where we’ve developed what we call the compassion cycle, which is a constellation of three critical skills that can be applied in really specific ways to harness conflict.
Justin Brady 6:44
And again, I gotta ask what those three, three skills are, of course,
Nate Regier 6:47
I’m so glad you asked. Those three. So three skills are openness, resourcefulness and persistence. And these relate to three universal aspects of human interactions. Openness is about the emotional part of who we are, it’s about safety, it’s about transparency, and about the courage to be who we are, and let people know what’s really important to us and what we care about. And how we’re feeling resourcefulness is about creative problem-solving. That’s the head part where we where we are engaging curiously with other people. And we actually care about gathering information and learning about what’s going on and finding options. And coming to a point where we can make decisions on what to do. Persistence is more the body part of who we are, it’s about follow through. It’s about behavior. It’s about keeping true to promises, and living up to what we said we were going to do, and holding each other accountable for that. So openness, resourcefulness and persistence are all critical skills that are necessary, but they’re not sufficient by themselves to be able to navigate conflict so that it can do something positive,
Justin Brady 7:53
right, because we have a process going here, we have take stock of our own behavior, we have the compassion cycle. And then what’s next,
Nate Regier 8:01
that leads to what we call the formula for compassionate conflict. And it’s a it’s a simple formula, not always so easy to execute. But it’s a simple formula that says, when we detect drama in ourselves, or other people, or when we detect a gap that we want to close. And we want to deal with the way to approach it is to do to, to be open, resourceful, persistent, and then open. So the formula for compassionate conflict is ORP. And so we work with people on how to live this out. But also how to make simple statements where they walk into conflict, saying something open, resourceful, persistent, and then open again, to set the stage and begin navigating that happy to share an example or two if you’d like.
Justin Brady 8:46
Yeah, I mean, my, I immediately start to think of another leader I was speaking with yesterday, who was wondering if he was being far too open and too vulnerable with his staff. Because in that case, you start to be Come on buddy, and people start to want to commiserate and just said, this guy’s an idiot, and then they get almost to open so that I mean, is there a threshold,
Nate Regier 9:12
people worry about that a lot. And I, and a lot of people, leaders will say, Well, if I’m open, then people walk all over me, I’ll lose credibility, we’re going across boundaries. And I don’t think the problem is the level of openness. The problem is, if that’s all you do, and you don’t have resourcefulness and persistence to counter it, and balance it and compliment it, that’s when the problems come in.
Justin Brady 9:35
So okay, that I like that a lot. It’s not the openness is the problem. It’s the fact that if you’re only open and being transparent with everybody, and not offering solutions or leadership, then that’s when it develops into a problem,
Nate Regier 9:47
right? openness has a really important role. That the purpose of openness is create a safe place where the real stuff gets out on the table, like emotional motives, you know, the stuff we don’t like to talk about, right? But it’s what’s really driving, that’s its purpose. But that’s it’s limited resourcefulness. The purpose of resourcefulness is to problem solve and learn. So that’s also important. And then persistence, its purpose is to uphold standards and boundaries and get clear about what’s most important. So think about a process of conflict, where first we get the real stuff out on the table, we get safe, and we get we get open, then we problem solve, what are we going to do to deal with this gap? And then we check in with what commitments are we making to each other? Why does this even matter? And what’s it really about? And then we go back to open and we check back in and say, How we doing with each other? how we deal with ourselves now,
Justin Brady 10:39
and I think you’re terrifying a lot of people, but I think it’s good terror. It’s something we need to address. What when we when we enter into this kind of relationship with our staff, when we’re really open, which I agree we should be absolutely there. There do come times when we need to disclose information of a more sensitive nature. And do we just do we stop short and we don’t disclose certain things? Again, this is similar to the you know, how open guess this is similar to the how open should we be question, but is there certain information that should not be shared? Is there certain information that’s too sensitive? Or is there a way to we can share that
Nate Regier 11:19
great question. And this, this raises a great a great distinction, sharing information, you might be hearing a train, that’s where I am, I actually work in a train station. And as well, as much as I try to Buffalo it, it’s there,
Justin Brady 11:35
that’s okay. So texture conflict, but it’s not not a lot of drama. So I think we’re good.
Nate Regier 11:42
Usually, there’s a gap between what I want and what the train conductors doing, though,
Justin Brady 11:47
I used to live by train tracks. But uh,
Nate Regier 11:49
so this distinction between there is a big difference between sharing, disclosing information and disclosing emotions and emotional motives. And people often get those confused. So when you’re talking about sensitive information, my guess is you’re talking about maybe confidential information or, you know, private information or something that maybe isn’t ready to be disclosed, your that’s that happens, that resourcefulness. That’s where we’re exchanging data at openness is where we disclose emotions and emotional motives. And that’s a very different thing that most people are not familiar with. And it’s, it’s different. And the other thing I want to I want to say too, is openness. disclosing what’s true for me is only a third of openness. Creating a safe place for myself and others also includes things like empathy and validating another person. And both of those have to do with the other person not with me, right? So we can be open we can practice openness and create a safe place without wiways disclosing our own stuff.
Justin Brady 12:52
So what about individuals, when individuals push against or try to break the system? They do, I do come across people. Now, I’m in the general mindset that most people are great workers, almost everybody is a great work or they’re just misunderstood. They’re mad, or they’ve been treated unfairly, or they just or there’s a communication barrier barrier there. But occasionally, we do get to some people who just are irrational, they’re mean, they’re manipulative, they’re jealous. And I mean, do we just fire them? Do we get rid of them? Or can they be can we take those behaviors, no matter how negative and turn them into something good make energy out of that,
Nate Regier 13:31
I’m amazed how often people that use the tools that we teach are able to really make a big difference in in a relationship. And absolutely, when we’re seeing behavior that we don’t like, the first question to ask, I would say is, what is this person not getting that they need, because when human beings don’t get positive attention, they will get negative attention. It’s, it’s, it’s interesting, the sun coming up in the morning. So most of us see this negative behavior, we think we need to try to manage it or control it, but that’s like seeing your gas light come on in the car and thinking that the gaslights the problem, and like oh, yeah, I’m not gonna, you know, I’m not going to put gas in the car, because that would just rewarded for that negative behavior. And then it’ll just think it can do that anytime it wants to, we need to tell that light that that’s that kind of behavior is not allowed around here, it’s ridiculous. So the first thing we do is look for what is that negative behavior, telling us about what that person really needs and wants. And then we can offer that then the second thing is, is, is where this positive conflict, I think, very often healthy, positive conflict can actually break through some of those facades and actually increase connection and increase trust and increase accountability in ways that you’d never expect.
Justin Brady 14:48
So if someone’s acting out negatively, in many cases, it It might be that we’re just not complementing what they’re doing, giving them the tools they need, giving them the support, they need, they made feel strangled,
Nate Regier 15:03
it could be and, and we we teach a model of communication that has six different personality types. Each one has very specific psychological needs, and very specific distress, kind of negative attention behaviors that they exhibit when they’re not getting their needs met. So the behavior really tells us what that person needs. And very often people are have these emotional motives that are not being spoken. They’re not coming clean with people, and they’re trying to get those needs met. But they’re not telling anybody about it. So nobody can help them an example. Here’s a personal example. Yeah, me. Okay. What when I feel like I’m not using my time, effectively, I feel like I’m losing time and therefore losing the opportunity. Yeah, I do not. Yeah, so I don’t do well with loss. So I have a very hard time experiencing the sadness of losing something, and that I lost control, I can never get it back. I can never fix it. And I can actually, I can’t control anything. Really, if I can’t grieve that loss. What I’ll do instead is try to over control and micromanage everything and everybody. And now I become a workaholic, that is yelling at everybody for being late. And nobody’s ever working good enough. And I’m working 20 hours a day, and I’m having heart disease. And I think the whole world would go to an end if it wasn’t for me. So underneath all of that is, I’m a really sad person. And I’ve never given myself permission, or found a safe place to just grieve the loss of things that I can’t control.
Justin Brady 16:35
Sure, because you’re accepting that while you’re not accepting those, you’re there, they’re out of the ordinary, they’re incorrect, they shouldn’t have happened. And if you’re just coaching yourself to say, Now, this is just, this is the way it happens. Sometimes we do lose things becomes more accepted, you’re able to deal with it easier.
Nate Regier 16:52
Yeah, you know, in a way, I’m a I’m a recovering psychologist, I come from a clinical psych background. And one of the things about CD and these anxiety and these obsessive compulsive disorders is what they are, is there a behavioral effort to feel in control to try to manage anxiety. And so I do these things, whether it’s turning the light on and off, or what these rituals or whatever I do that are really weird to the outside world, but all they’re trying to do is help me feel like I’m in control of something, because I don’t want to feel the alternative.
Justin Brady 17:24
Sure. So what about the cases then were two parties simply can’t be moved? And it you know, there they have two totally different visions, and it’s just not going to work? Is there anything we can do to break through? Is there anything we do we move them into a different department, what do we do in that case?
Nate Regier 17:44
It’s a great question. And this is where leadership really matters, because a leaders job is to provide a safe, supportive environment for people to be transparent, to help them problem solve, and become more capable, and to be crystal clear about what what is okay, and what isn’t. And uphold that. And when those three things when any one of those three fall apart, things can become chaotic. And so usually, the first thing we do when we’re working with companies where people just can’t seem to get along, is we look at the leadership and look at the people around them and say, is it a safe, curious and consistent environment? Because without that, we know kids fall apart, adults fall apart, too. Then the second thing we ask is, have these people been given a really clear in feedback about their behavior? And how it’s affecting people? And have they been given opportunities to change? If the answer to that is yes, as well, then, then it’s it’s time to go if they don’t change and moving people around from department to department, I think leaders who do that should be fired.
Justin Brady 18:50
Nate Regier 18:52
Absolutely, because I get the whole idea of, you know, maybe this job isn’t a good fit for your strengths. But if it’s not about that, if it’s about interpersonal skills, and drummer that’s going to follow them anywhere they are. So if you just keep moving somebody around, hoping it’s going to go away, I think the leader should be fired.
Justin Brady 19:08
That’s interesting because there are some people and it’s sad. But there are some people, they don’t want to get along. They don’t want to help. They just want to be vindictive, and they’re angry. And it’s not going to change if that’s the way they really are. It’s not going to change them by simply moving them around.
Nate Regier 19:24
No, it’s not. They need a much different environment, and a much different set of rules to play by. And the thing about drama, is it self reinforcing and feeling justified, and being able to say, See, I told you, so where I got you or I was right, being able to see that is intoxicating drug. And so while people, while people may say why don’t like drama, it’s addictive. And so it’s very hard to break away from that addiction to feeling justified and spending our energy that way. So people often need a lot of help to get out of it.
Justin Brady 19:55
So it’s Paramount then to address these things quickly. Because if drama, you know, that’s a good point. I mean, think about that. But drama and conflict are kind of addicting, you kind of in this sick, twisted way, like to see things that way. Some sometimes, I don’t know, I don’t know where that comes from. But, you know, they are kind of addicting. So it’s probably very important to leadership to address the stuff immediately, as soon as you smell it, and don’t let it get out of control. Because if it gets out of control, people get addicted to it becomes a bigger problem, I’m assuming
Nate Regier 20:25
Absolutely, and, and smells fit out, nip it in the bud. And then offer an alternative because it’s not about trying to just stop the conflict and get everybody to behave. It’s about giving them a different way to leverage that energy. So that’s why Oh, Rp. Oh, it not. It not only interrupts the cycle of drama, it also offers bridges for bridges for someone to come on, and join me in a process of struggling with while preserving their dignity.
Justin Brady 20:54
And I think the two solutions one ignore it, hope it goes away, or to just tell people Hey, guys, the drama just get along. What I’m hearing you say is both of those solutions, which I think are the two most popular solutions are both wrong. Neither one of them will ever work.
Nate Regier 21:12
No, because nature hates a vacuum. You can’t just remove something that has been so serving a need for somebody and not replace it. And I think the need to be justified is one of the strongest human urges mean, how many times have either of us in a day spent energy just so that we could say, See, and I just did it earlier, today’s somebody I emailed somebody and said, Hey, you know, I sent that email last week, did you get the proposal like, Oh, I didn’t see it. Immediately, I started spending mental energy to prove that I said, Yes, I will prove that they know that so that I could be right there. The problem See, and every ounce of energy that I spent there is achieving nothing except for me to feel justified. it accomplishes nothing effective. And yet, how many times a day do we try to prove that we are right,
Justin Brady 22:04
but it feels so good when you find it though, right?
Nate Regier 22:07
It’s a shot of adrenaline.
Justin Brady 22:10
But the but you’re absolutely right. It never does anything at all. It never helps this very fascinating. Nate and we ask a few things to every guest. We get on here we have as you all know, sitting at home or work or commuting listening. We get the best guests on the planet Earth. And because of that, because we get some great guests. We like to ask them all a series of two questions. And one of those questions is people look at yourself, they look at, you know, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Entrepreneur Magazine, you work with all these cool companies. This guy doesn’t understand failure. He’s never failed. So we always like to ask, what’s one major failure, maybe some time you were humiliated to fall on your face? And how did you use that to get where you are right now?
Nate Regier 23:02
Oh, man, trying to pick the most spectacular failure among
Yeah, I can, I can think of one that one of the most spectacular failures was early on in our company. And next element, it was about 2009, 2010.
And we were just coming out of the recession and really struggling and we took a client that our gut, there were red flags everywhere. And we took the client anyways, because it was going to be good pay, we needed the money and it things just didn’t seem right. And they invited us to come to this big team, staff retreat. And we’re going to work with the leaders. And it’s going to be a big, great rah rah event. And then, and then it was really going to help turn their culture around. And that all seemed fine and good. Until a week before we heard from the CEO, that he had just hired a new HR director, and that she was going to sit in and observe our retreat.
Justin Brady 23:58
I already like where this is going…
Nate Regier 24:00
was like, yeah, you know, come and sit in and observe will show you how it’s done. Right. And so we went up there we traveled like three hours to this remote big retreat place me and one of my partners, and we had it all planned, it was gonna be great in… it was a cluster, you want to talk about a catastrophe from the very beginning, this HR director, who we affectionately named Cruella deVil, she was felt so threatened by our presence, because she was brought in to try to build relationships. But we’re the ones that are making friends with all of her people was a total setup to see I mean, as a setup, and nobody saw how bad it could become. And so she progressively started trying to undermine us in front of the group. Oh, my, yeah, we tried to resist it. We tried to use it. We didn’t see the writing on the wall. And by the end of the second day, we It was such a disaster. We just drove home in this snowstorm thinking, I don’t know what’s going to happen. So we get a call the next day. And she is like, Hey, come on back and come back to my office. We’ll talk about what happened. So we drove two and a half hours back, we walked into the office. And she proceeded to yell at us for 10 minutes straight without ever sitting down before she told us to get out of her office, or she was going to call security.
Justin Brady 25:17
Nate Regier 25:19
And so we drove another two and a half hours home in the winter, kind of saying, what just happened here. And I call it our most spectacular failure, because we didn’t, we compromised our own standards to do the gig. We didn’t see the writing on the wall. And we just kept going forward for the wrong reasons. And we learned a lot from that. And we still we still reminisce about it to help remind us to stay humble, and to do our due diligence.
Justin Brady 25:45
I love that story. And I’ve been there too. I I even remember telling my wife, I see the red flags there waving in my face. But I need the funding right now. And oh, what a stupid decision that was.
Nate Regier 26:02
It never ends up well.
Justin Brady 26:04
So I do have another question for you. before we let you go. Obviously, I appreciate your time. But you’ve worked with a lot of great individuals. A lot of people have taken notice of your hard work, what is one little thing and now everybody on the podcast, you understand that the these podcasts, these guests, these tips can’t work in cultures that hate their own employees. It just it just doesn’t work. So with that in mind, what is one little strategy used to help people problem solve, get around their problems, work through things. What’s one strategy that is kind of your go to what’s one tip you can leave with everybody.
Nate Regier 26:40
My tip is about simple thing ever. And that is when in doubt started open. When in doubt, disclose what you what is really going on with you. And it could be something as simple as before, asking a an employee to run those financials again, for you for us for a board meeting. Tell them why tell them that you’re nervous about something, tell them that you want to be prepared for the meeting before you ask him to do that. It is so simple. Just disclose why it matters to you and what you care about. So people can actually help you instead of just execute your commands.
Justin Brady 27:19
I think that’s really great advice. I think it’s also people don’t want to be vulnerable. I can think of people in my own head they don’t want to do that because it makes them vulnerable. But man when you do see people open up like that it helps a lot. Nate Regier is the author of conflict without casualties is that one can I get that is that on sale, now
Nate Regier 27:38
it is on sale. Now on Amazon and other booksellers. You can also get it through our website at next dash element calm.
Justin Brady 27:46
Nate, thank you so much for coming on the podcast today. A lot of really great advice. And I know that drama and conflict is just one of those things we want to shove off our plate. And like we talked about earlier, you know, one of the two solutions, just ignore it, or just tell people just work it out. just just just just be friends. And that’ll be fine. Those are the two big solutions. And clearly they’re not working.
Nate Regier 28:09
Yeah, it’s costing us like you said $350 billion a year. I think we can do better because the best use of conflict energy is probably the biggest energy crisis facing our world. And the opportunity is incredible.
Justin Brady 28:21
Nate, go ahead and give your website out before I let you go
Nate Regier 28:25
and angry gear. My website is next to dash element.com. And you can connect with me in a lot of different ways. From there.
Justin Brady 28:32
Awesome. Thank you so much. Native Pleasure to meet you. And thanks for being my guest today.
Nate Regier 28:36
You’re welcome, Justin. It’s a pleasure.