Mastering Respectful Confrontation | Book Review

Joe Weston’s meditations on martial arts and confrontation, subtitled A Guide to Personal Freedom and Empowered, Collaborative Engagement, offer an opportunity for personal reflections which correspond well to Academy Leadership concepts of Knowing Yourself, and Energize2Lead,™ Communications, Personal Leadership Philosophy and Leveraging the Power of Conflict workshop modules.

Weston’s book centers on the concept of our personal core, analogous to martial arts and meditation, which may also be thought of as our own situational awareness, or ability to patiently observe. Each section and series of recommended exercises begin with this foundational principle.

Each of the four sections of the book: The Practice of Developing the Respectful Self, The Practice of Respectful Engagement, The Practice of Respectful Offense and The Practice of Respectful Defense, begin with a dilemma discussion and end with an improved discussion applying the lessons learned. One way to approach this book is to begin with the section one dilemma (page 43), focus on a solution while reading afterward, then comparing one’s thoughts with the improved discussion afterward. Each of the four sections of the book may be approached this way.

The Practice of Developing the Respectful Self

Pages 47-53 are useful in setting up a Personal Leadership Philosophy, in particular an exercise distilling a list of personal core values to an essential three. Page 62 introduces a process for improved active listening, valuable for dominant red temperaments. Pages 79-81, Pillar Two: Focus, combines the concepts of High Payoff Activities (HPAs) with our Personal Leadership Philosophies as a method for vastly improved effectiveness. A nugget on page 86:

“Keeping your promises and asking for help are important parts of building lasting relationships and require the power of strength”

Reminds us of the need for continued feedback for growth as a person and leader. Weston asserts (pages 89-91) Pillar Four: Flexibility as the most important of the four, and is analogous to finding win-win situations in conflict by focusing on compromise and collaboration.

The Practice of Respectful Engagement

Regarding terminology, Weston uses the term confrontation much in the way Academy Leadership uses the term conflict, opportunistically. A useful set of practice questions is offered on page 135, followed by five steps to clear communication (pages 142-144) which mirror our Communication Process workshop slide, especially the focus on receiving messages properly. Pages 147 and 148 introduce the Iceberg Principle, from Brent Ruben’s Communication and Human Behavior; with a useful diagram illustrating verbal cues are often only ten percent of communications, leaving the remaining ninety percent beneath the surface.

The Practice of Respectful Offense

Weston offers a structured process of giving feedback, or respectful offense, on pages 191-198. Much of the process focuses on identifying specific actions rather than the person, followed by candid feedback how another’s actions make us feel, and agreed upon follow up actions. This is a great process and checklist.

The Practice of Respectful Defense

This section opens with a tiered examination of aggression, followed by another useful checklist (pages 256-259), Eight Steps of Naming the Behavior. This process may be thought of as a way of slowing down and observing another’s action through the prism of their E2L profile, with emphasis on each other’s expectations and motivational needs.

Follow Up

Weston closes the book with two appendices (exercises): The first focusing on physical preparation, much like the martial arts; and the second synthesizing physical preparation, E2L and one’s Personal Leadership Philosophy.

In summary, an interesting read and deeper dive into core self-improvement and increased communication and conflict resolution (confrontation) skills.

JE | March 2014