Yes or No?

Conflict and the Burning Question

The answer – Yes or No – to our Burning Question shapes our moment-to-moment experience of life and conflict. Consider the Enneagram Chart.

Conflict seems to arise from people and circumstances beyond our control. Consider, however, that conflict – internal and external – is fueled by our perceptions, and our perceptions are shaped by our strengths and personalities – our superpowers, kryptonite and, most importantly, our core motivation: the Burning Question.

What is the Burning Question?

I believe each of us has an internal, subconscious question that has run the show since we were children. When the answer is Yes, all is right with the world, as if we’ve donned invisible “Oo-la-la” lenses. These rose-colored glasses show us a world full of possibility, positivity and invincibility.

For instance: My Burning Question is “Am I worthy and accepted?” When a meeting planner hires me to speak at a conference, or when I finish my to-do list and move Parillume forward – Yes! I am worthy and accepted.

But eventually, no matter the situation or circumstance, our lens shifts. When the answer to our Burning Question is No, we find ourselves critical, judgmental and indifferent– towards ourselves and others. We’ve replaced our rose-colored “Oo-la-la” glasses with the “Ew” lens.

When a client cancels a session, I don’t hit my KPIs, or I don’t get enough positive feedback about a presentation or training – No, I am not worthy and accepted.

Our Burning Question has us constantly scanning our environment, seeking a Yes to feel safe and loved in the world.

Imagine how that plays out in a family or on a team: When everyone’s answer is Yes, all is well. When anyone’s answer becomes No, conflict ensues.

When my son was young, the only way I knew to answer my Burning Question with a Yes was to have him adapt to external expectations: Show good manners, get straight A’s, be kind and polite to everyone.  He was a channel for collecting praise and assuring myself that I was a good Mom.

If he had the same Burning Question as me, that may have worked. But his Burning Question is “Am I unique and significant?” This meant he sought to stand apart from the group, to be completely honest and authentic – a stance which was in direct opposition to my desire to earn praise through his safe, “good” behavior.

This parental blind spot created conflict between us. I didn’t recognize his Burning Question – or my own – and so stifled his authentic expression.

It doesn’t have to be this way – in our families or on our teams. What if we could see and understand our Burning Question and the questions of those around us? What impact would that have on our lives, careers and conflicts?

The Burning Question Enneagram Chart

Currently, there are over 2000 personality assessments on the market – many of which provide valuable information. I integrate three of them in my work with teams, couples and individuals: CliftonStrengths, Myers Briggs and the Enneagram.

Of those three, only the Enneagram reveals our Burning Question, our unconscious core motivation.

The Enneagram is a growth tool that not only describes patterns of thought and behavior, but also reveals what’s underneath: the core fear, motivation and desire of 9 personality types.  And it’s one of the only prescriptive assessment tools, providing concrete tools to actively shift from habit to empowered choice.

The chart above reveals the 9 Enneagram types and their Burning Questions. Notice that when we are exercising our Superpowers – those natural strengths that energize and engage us – the answer to our Burning Question is Yes: We don the invisible “Oo-la-la” lens, and all is well.

When immersed in our Kryptonite – those activities or circumstances that drain and demotivate us and destroy our confidence – the answer to our question is No. We wear the invisible “Eww” lens, and find ourselves enmeshed in internal and external conflict.

How to Use the Chart

Look for your Burning Question on the chart above, and think about those times and places and people you’ve felt the best around. Were your Superpowers at play? Was the answer to your Burning Question Yes?

Now think about conflicts in your life. Were you experiencing your Kryptonite? Was your answer to your Burning Question No?

Now think about those people in your world you have the most conflict with. What do you think their Burning Question is? How has it impacted the conflict you feel with them?

As you begin to look through the conscious lens of the Enneagram and discover the Burning Questions of those around you, you’ve taken the first step towards transforming conflict into collaboration. 

In my next few blogs, I’ll teach you how to complete this transformation through a simple, three-step process I call Accept, Articulate and Apply™.

In the meantime, if you would like to learn more about how I can help you and your teams resolve conflict and communicate in ways that honor each individual, I’d love to hear from you!

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