Self Help

Optimal Outcomes - Jennifer Goldman-Wetzler, PhD

Author Photo

Matheus Puppe

· 32 min read



The author discusses conflicting as an inevitable part of life that can be productive when dealt with properly. However, conflicts often become recurring due to the self-perpetuating nature of conflict. The author calls this the “conflict loop.”

The author proposes an 8-step method called the Optimal Outcomes Method to help people break free from recurring conflicts. The method involves two key elements:

  1. Pausing to observe: Taking a moment to mindfully notice what is happening in a conflict situation without judgment. This allows you to gain a new perspective.

  2. Taking pattern-breaking action: Creating a new response that breaks the typical pattern of interactions that keeps the conflict recurring. This helps move things in a different direction.

The pausing and observing helps identify the conflict pattern and habit, which then informs the pattern-breaking action needed.

An Optimal Outcome is the goal of this method. It is defined as an outcome that balances the envisioned ideal future with an acknowledgment of reality. It often differs from someone’s original goals for resolving the conflict.

In summary, the method helps people break free from recurring conflicts by first observing with mindfulness to recognize the underlying issues and patterns, and then taking new, pattern-breaking actions informed by this understanding to move toward an Optimal Outcome.

Here is a summary of the provided text:

  • Conflict is inevitable but recurring conflict makes it difficult to contribute positively.

  • Conflict tends to breed more conflict in a self-reinforcing loop.

  • Not all conflicts can be resolved neatly. The practices in the book aim to free you from the conflict loop.

  • Part I will help you notice the conflict pattern. Part II will help you pause and observe the conflict in depth then take pattern-breaking action.

  • Part III will help you imagine an Optimal Outcome - an ideal scenario that considers reality - to pull you from the conflict loop toward freedom.

  • The author advocates using neutral and informal language to lessen conflict-priming effects.

  • The author recommends choosing a recurring conflict situation in your own life to apply the practices to. It should be one where: you are directly impacted, resolution attempts have failed, and you can still do something to help.

-To start, consider: who is involved, what the conflict is about, and why you want freedom from this conflict. This will motivate you through the difficult practices.

  • Practice 1 will help you notice your conflict habits and patterns.

Here is a summary of the provided text:

The author states that conflicts habits are ways of dealing with conflict that we learn from childhood and carry into adulthood. Four main conflict habits are identified:

  1. Blame Others - Some people learn to directly and aggressively pursue what they want, blaming others when things don’t go their way. This often escalates conflicts and damages relationships.

  2. Shut Down - Some people avoid conflict at all costs, which allows issues to fester and flare up again later.

  3. Shame Yourself - Some people blame themselves too much when in conflict, getting stuck in shame rather than productively learning from the situation.

The author argues that recognizing your own conflict habit is the first step toward changing it and resolving conflicts more constructively. Acknowledging how you contribute to a tricky dynamic, even if it’s just a small part, can improve outcomes.

Does this capture the main points discussed regarding conflict habits? Let me know if you would like me to expand or modify the summary.

Here is a summary of the provided text:

The text discusses different common conflict habits and patterns. It identifies four primary conflict habits that people tend to fall into:

  1. Blame Others - People with this habit tend to blame others when conflict arises.

  2. Relentlessly Relentless Collaborate - People with this habit try to resolve conflict through endless collaboration, even when others are not willing to collaborate.

  3. Shut Down - People with this habit tend to avoid or withdraw from conflict.

  4. Blame Yourself - People with this habit internalize conflict and blame themselves.

It notes that understanding your own conflict habits is the first step toward resolving conflict productively. It also advises noticing conflict patterns between you and others based on your respective conflict habits. This can help you understand why certain conflicts arise and persist.

The text then outlines some common conflict patterns based on combinations of the different conflict habits. For example:

  • The Blame/Blame pattern occurs when two people with a Blame Others habit interact.
  • The Blame/Shut Down pattern involves someone with a Blame Others habit and someone with a Shut Down habit.

Finally, it notes that groupwide conflict habits and patterns can also develop based on shared backgrounds, skills, traits, or environments. Understanding these groupwide habits and patterns can provide insight into conflict dynamics at the group or organizational level.

In summary, the text advocates self-awareness of your own conflict habits and noticing patterns with others as a first step toward resolving conflicts more productively.

Here’s a summary of the key points:

• We try to resolve recurring conflicts through four conflict habits: Blame Others, Shut Down, Shame Yourself, and Relentlessly Collaborate.

• Each conflict habit interacts with the others to create conflict patterns that keep us stuck.

• The first practice to free yourself from conflict is simply noticing your primary conflict habit and the pattern you’re contributing to.

• Increasing clarity and complexity by mapping out the conflict can help break the pattern. This includes:

  • Looking at the facts objectively
  • Understanding each person’s perspective and interests
  • Seeing how your conflict habit interacts with others’ habits to form a pattern

• Mapping out the conflict provides:

  • Greater objectivity
  • Deeper insight into what’s really happening
  • Awareness of potential solutions that work for all parties

• However, mapping out the conflict can be difficult due to:

  • Defensiveness
  • Lack of will to understand others’ perspectives
  • Emotional reactivity

• The key is to cultivate curiosity, remain non-judgmental, and focus on interests rather than positions.

That’s a high-level summary of the key points regarding increasing clarity and complexity by mapping out the conflict to break the pattern. Let me know if you would like me to expand on or clarify anything further.

Here is a summary of the provided text:

The text describes how complex conflicts are often simplified into “us vs. them” dynamics. To overcome this, it recommends mapping out the conflict to gain a more nuanced perspective. Mapping involves identifying all parties involved and factors that shaped the situation.

Bob, who had a conflict with his colleague Sally over her compensation, created a conflict map. It showed that the conflict involved:

  • Bob and Sally themselves
  • Their respective teams and the wider organization
  • Investors who wanted Sally’s pay reduced
  • Their different backgrounds and family experiences

The map helped Bob see that the conflict was more complex than just him and Sally. It revealed levers for change he hadn’t noticed before.

The benefits of mapping can be:

  1. Broadening perspective - as in Bob’s case

  2. Clarifying a fuzzy perspective when the conflict seems overwhelming

Either way, complexifying one’s view at the outset and then narrowing the focus later provides a useful pattern break. The text recommends that when reflecting on a conflict, start by “complexifying.”

In summary, the key takeaways are: mapping conflicts can reveal their true complexity and open up solutions; and broader perspective achieved through mapping is crucial to effectively resolve conflicts.

• Mapping out a complex conflict situation can help you gain clarity and perspective. It can show you the “hot spots” and areas of leverage where you can focus your attention and energy.

• When mapping, start by identifying the key people at the center of the conflict. Then add other people, groups, events, issues, and factors - even those that initially seemed irrelevant.

• Notice what your map reveals to you. Does it show how you have contributed to the conflict dynamics? Does it give you empathy for others’ perspectives? Does it reveal new leverage points for change?

• Your map can help define your own role - are you part of the conflict or a neutral observer? Often you have elements of both.

• Try creating your own conflict map. Write the names of key people in the middle of a page and add circles, lines and other details to show how all the factors connect. Include at least one new aspect of the situation you hadn’t considered relevant before. See what insights your map provides.

The key takeaway is that creating a conflict map, however simple, can provide valuable perspective and clarity that allows you to craft a more effective response to even the most overwhelming-seeming complex conflict situations.

Here is a summary of the key points regarding emotions:

  1. The five universal emotions are joy, anger, fear, sadness, and disgust. These emotions exist on a continuum from low to high intensity.

  2. It is important to understand your own emotions before trying to understand others’. This helps you avoid projecting your emotions onto others or taking on their emotions.

  3. The most leverage you have for changing difficult emotional dynamics is by putting your own emotions to work, rather than trying to change others. This involves identifying, acknowledging, and using your emotions constructively.

  4. Both nature and nurture influence how you experience and express emotions. Biology shapes your emotional tendencies, and the messages you receive from others shape how you express emotions.

  5. Your emotional experience manifests physically and psychologically, from high to low intensity:

  • High intensity emotions involve strong physical sensations and focused thoughts.

  • Low intensity emotions involve subtler physical sensations and fleeting thoughts.

The key takeaway is that understanding and constructively harnessing your own emotions, especially anger, gives you the most power to break out of conflict loops. This starts with self-awareness of how you tend to experience and express emotions at different intensities.

Hope this summary helps! Let me know if you have any other questions.

• Gerard, the founder of a start-up, experiences his emotions with low intensity. He notices his feelings but they are muted and he does not dwell on them much.

• How we experience and express emotions impacts which “emotion trap” we fall into: the Knee-Jerk Reaction Trap, the Inaccessible Emotions Trap, or the Lurking Emotions Trap.

• Taking pauses, both proactively and reactively, can help us avoid the emotion traps by slowing down and observing our emotions.

• A reactive pause, where you stop and take a break when noticing you’ve fallen into an emotion trap, can be helpful. You can silently count to 10 and breathe to calm yourself.

• Asking for a break from the other person can also be an effective reactive pause. This gives both of you time for reflection before responding.

• However, reactive pausing is not foolproof, especially for people prone to the Knee-Jerk Reaction Trap or Lurking Emotions Trap.

The key takeaways are that how we experience and express emotions impacts which emotion traps we fall into, and that taking pauses, both before and during emotional situations, can help us avoid those traps. The story of Gerard and the example of Wendy illustrate these points.

  1. When you experience intense emotions, it can be very difficult to take a pause. The stronger the emotions, the more you could benefit from pausing but also the harder it is to actually pause.

  2. Developing a proactive daily pause practice, even for a few seconds, can make it easier to pause when intense emotions arise. This could be simply gazing at an object, taking a walk, or sitting quietly. Frequency is more important than duration.

  3. Use pause times to acknowledge and name your emotions. Many high achievers need dedicated training to slow down and reflect.

  4. After acknowledging your emotions, let them settle on their own. Don’t try to change or examine them. Usually something more constructive will emerge in their place.

  5. Ask your emotions what they are trying to tell you. Anger may indicate something needs to change. Fear may warn of danger. Sadness signifies a loss.

  6. Get to know your emotions like old friends. Ask them what their message is, and listen for an answer. This can provide insights into what is triggering your intense feelings.

The key takeaway is that developing a daily pause practice and tuning into your emotions can make it easier to navigate intense feelings when they do arise. Simply acknowledging and allowing emotions to settle, without trying to change them immediately, can diffuse them over time.

Here is a summary of the provided text:

The woman, Briana, received negative feedback in a 360-degree review at work. This made her question if she was in the wrong career.

Her friend listened to her concerns gently. She asked Briana if the 3-month maternity leave she took was enough time to grieve the loss of her daughter, who passed away.

Briana realized the leave was not enough time for her to grieve properly. She asked for additional unpaid time off from work to recuperate fully before returning. This ultimately helped her and her relationships at work.

The key lesson is to acknowledge your own emotions and take constructive action. Anger does not have to be bad, it can motivate positive change like Martin Luther King Jr. did.

You don’t have to be a revolutionary, just take pattern-breaking action by articulating the issue, committing to the cause, and making a clear request. This is what Gerard did when an employee received an offer from a competitor.

Remember others’ emotional expressions are rooted in their own experiences, not necessarily about you. Distinguish between your emotions and theirs. Reroute their emotions back to them by making observations and asking questions in a constructive manner.

  1. Each person develops a unique set of values over their lifetime, influenced by both explicit and implicit lessons.

  2. Some values are pushed into the “shadow” due to receiving mixed messages about them. These shadow values can lead to conflicts when expressed unconsciously.

  3. What constitutes a “good” or “ideal” value varies from person to person based on social conditioning. A value one person is proud of can be shameful for another.

  4. To overcome conflicts, we need to identify both our ideal values and shadow values, as well as those of the other person involved in the conflict.

  5. Honoring both ideal and shadow values in ourselves and others allows the shadow values to come into consciousness and be accepted, which can help heal conflicts.

The main practice presented is to identify:

  • Your own ideal values: Values you are consciously proud to hold and openly express

  • Your own shadow values: Values you were pushed to hide or feel ashamed of for some reason

  • The other person’s ideal and shadow values: To understand their behavior and develop empathy

Honoring both types of values in yourself and the other person can help break old conflict patterns by creating more openness, self-acceptance and understanding between you.

Does this look like an accurate and relevant summary of the key points? Let me know if you’d like me to expand on or modify anything.

Here is a summary of the key points in the provided text:

  1. Identifying your values can help break conflict patterns by providing clarity on what you want and need. The Values Inventory can help you articulate your top 10 ideal values and 2-6 most important ones.

  2. Your shadow values, which may cause conflicts, are things you value but are not comfortable admitting. Reflecting on times you felt wrongly accused can reveal shadow values.

  3. Tensions between shadow and ideal values often prevent clarity, which fuels conflict. Owning projections, noticing the tensions, searching for “both/and” solutions, and honoring shadow values can help address these tensions.

  4. Honoring a shadow value means acknowledging it consciously so you can properly address it. This could mean articulating what you need related to that value.

  5. Tensions within your ideal values themselves can also be difficult to handle. Multiple values you are proud of may seem at odds.

The key takeaways are that identifying your values provides clarity, tensions within and between values fuel conflict, and strategies like honoring all your values can help resolve those tensions. Awareness of both ideal and shadow values is important for addressing conflicts effectively.

Here is a summary of the key points in the text:

  1. Values clashes happen when one person’s ideal values conflict with another’s. This can be due to differences in backgrounds, identities, and life experiences.

  2. When ideal values clash, it helps to honor the other person’s values. Even if you disagree, they have a right to their values.

  3. Try to find a “both/and” solution that honors both sets of values, rather than choosing just one.

  4. Look for overlaps between your values and the other person’s. There may be more in common than you realize.

  5. Be careful not to assume you know someone else’s shadow values. Avoid projection and attribution bias when evaluating others’ actions and motivations.

  6. While you may not know someone’s full background, noticing factors that shaped their worldview can help you relate and empathize.

The takeaways are that values clashes are common, but by honoring others’ values, looking for overlaps, and being mindful of biases, we can navigate these differences with more empathy and understanding. Focusing on commonalities and finding compromise solutions where possible can help bridge divides.

Here’s a summary of the key points:

  1. Trying to understand others’ perspectives and values, even if you don’t agree with them, can help build empathy and break conflict cycles.

  2. People often behave in ways that not even they fully understand, driven by shadow values and upbringings they may be unaware of.

  3. To identify others’ shadow values:

  • Consider what background factors may influence their behavior
  • Reflect on what exactly triggers you about their actions
  • Think about what fears or needs may underlie those actions
  1. Mapping your own ideal and shadow values alongside others’ can reveal:
  • Tensions between your values
  • Overlaps in values that can build common ground
  • Surprising insights
  1. Honoring your shadow values means:
  • Seeking to understand where they came from
  • Acknowledging they coexist with your ideal values in a “both/and” way
  • Finding constructive ways to express them

The key takeaway is that developing empathy for others by trying to understand their perspective and values, even if you don’t agree, can help break conflict cycles and create space for more constructive dialogue and common understanding.

Here is a summary of the key points regarding discussing values with others in a constructive way:

  1. Ask yourself if a values discussion is truly necessary. Often, changing your own perspective and behavior is enough without involving others.

  2. Make sure you are in the right mindset. Can you discuss values kindly, without resentment or anger? Practice role-playing if needed.

  3. Gauge the other person’s readiness. Wait for a clear signal that they are open to the discussion.

  4. Build a “scaffolding” by scheduling the conversation in advance at a good time and setting. Somewhere neutral that signifies a fresh start.

  5. Prepare how you will maintain an empathetic, composed presence during the discussion. Have notes if needed.

  6. Highlight any values you have in common to start the conversation on a positive note. Honor the other person’s values, even if they are in the “shadow.”

  7. Let the other person know about your relevant values in an appropriate way and make any necessary requests of them in a respectful manner.

The key is to approach the discussion with empathy, kindness and an eye towards understanding the other person’s perspective, rather than trying to “win” the argument. Having the right mindset and setting the stage properly can make all the difference.

Here is a summary of the key points in the text:

  1. An Ideal Future, or prototype of an Optimal Outcome, can pull you out of a conflict loop from the outside. It acts like a magnetic North Pole that pulls your compass needle.

  2. We often get stuck in conflicts because we focus on what happened in the past and who’s to blame, rather than envisioning what we want to happen in the future. Our future hopes tend to be vague and focus on what we want to stop, rather than what we want to happen.

  3. Brainstorming solutions alone often does not address the emotional and unconscious sources of conflict, so imagination is needed.

  4. You need clarity about what would truly satisfy you to take targeted actions and communicate to others so they can help you achieve it.

  5. At first, don’t worry about the reality or feasibility of your Ideal Future - we’ll make sure it fits reality later. For now, imagine your desired future in as much detail as possible.

  6. To gain clarity, use all five senses and imagine what your Ideal Future would look, sound, taste, smell and feel like to be truly satisfied. This will provide needed detail and emotion.

The key takeaway is that imagining an Ideal Future in vivid sensory and emotional detail can provide the “pull” to exit a conflict loop, by clarifying what you truly want and need to be satisfied. Theprototype can then be refined to fit reality and other people’s needs.

Here is a summary of the key points regarding the importance of senses beyond sight and hearing:

• Our overreliance on sight and hearing has limited our ability to use our imaginations fully. We tend to prioritize visual and auditory input over the other senses.

• Engaging all five senses can help us develop a more comprehensive understanding of the world. This includes taste, touch, and smell in addition to sight and hearing.

• John Paul Lederach stated, “We necessarily must engage the fuller range of senses, which includes but goes beyond the world of words.”

• Martin Luther King Jr. skillfully utilized all five senses in his “I Have a Dream” speech to help people imagine and feel his vision of an ideal future. He painted not just a visual picture but also created:

  • Sounds - by describing the “song of freedom”
  • Feeling - by describing the solid ground and touching the cool waters of the oasis
  • Smell - by mentioning the “heat of oppression” and the aromas of fellowship
  • Taste - by whetting our appetite for the feast at the table of brotherhood

• Imagining the ideal future using all the senses can make it seem like we are already there, engaging us more fully and inspiring action.

• To conceive your own detailed ideal future, try imagining specific events and interactions that will help you achieve it. Describe what you would see, hear, feel, taste and smell to bring that vision to life.

Here’s a summary of the key points in the chapter:

  1. A Pattern-Breaking Path (PBP) is a simple, linked set of action steps that can help you exit a conflict loop and move toward your ideal future.

  2. Successful PBPs have three characteristics:

  • They involve doing something surprisingly different from what has been done before. Just breaking patterns randomly won’t work.

  • They’re simple. Complex, convoluted plans are hard to implement.

  • Each action step builds on the one that comes before it. The actions build momentum.

  1. Obama’s response to the Henry Louis Gates Jr. arrest demonstrated these characteristics of a PBP:
  • He did something surprisingly different by holding a “beer summit” with Gates and the police sergeant, breaking racial conventions.

  • The action was simple - just inviting them for a beer in the Rose Garden.

  • The meeting allowed Gates and the sergeant to get to know each other personally, building the foundation for resolving their conflict.

  1. In summary, a PBP provides the “push” needed, along with the “pull” of your ideal future (from Practice 5), to exit a conflict loop. It involves simple, linked steps that build momentum and do something surprisingly different to break patterns.

Does this accurately cover the key points about Pattern-Breaking Paths discussed in the chapter? Let me know if you need any clarification or have additional questions.

Here is a summary of the key points regarding designing the steps of a Pattern-Breaking Path:

• Build each step upon the one before it. Progress sequentially from simpler to more complex actions.

• Keep the actions simple, especially at first. Avoid overcomplicated plans that are hard to implement.

• Start with yourself. Begin by focusing inward through practices like meditation, visualization, or making commitments. Build outward from there.

• Connect with one person. Involve just one other person who you have a trusting relationship with or who you think could help.

• Meet people one-on-one first. Discuss your plans privately before making broad announcements. This allows for feedback and concerns.

• Take a leadership role by communicating the idea to others and hosting or organizing events. But have realistic expectations that change will take time.

• Design each step based on the unique details of your situation. Don’t try to force your situation into a preset framework. Choose actions that make intuitive sense.

The main ideas are to build your Pattern-Breaking Path sequentially, keep things simple, start with yourself and then selectively involve others, but ultimately tailor each step based on the specific context of your situation and what intuitively feels right. Does this look like an adequate summary? Let me know if you’d like me to clarify or expand on anything.

Here is a summary of the key points in the text:

  1. A Pattern-Breaking Path (PBP) is a series of simple, surprisingly different actions that can help you exit a conflict loop and move toward your ideal future.

  2. It is important to keep the actions in your PBP simple. The simpler the actions, the easier it will be to track their impact and ensure the intended results.

  3. The steps in a PBP can include: starting a solo practice, interacting with one person involved in the conflict, involving a small group, engaging a larger group, and extending the work over time through continued interactions.

  4. Letting others know your intentions can help by giving them support and feedback. However, surprising people with your new behavior can also be effective.

  5. When developing a PBP, you have to avoid two pitfalls: acting recklessly without thinking through consequences, or failing to act at all due to anxiety about potential consequences.

  6. The story of Jimmy Carter’s involvement in the Camp David Accords illustrates the pitfall of inaction. Carter helped turn the situation around by suggesting a simple action: extending the summit by one more day to give the talks a final chance.

In summary, a well-designed PBP based on simple, surprisingly different actions can help you exit a conflict loop. But you have to think through the potential consequences to avoid pitfalls of either inaction or reckless action.

Does this cover the main concepts in the text? Let me know if you have any other questions.

Here is a summary of the provided text:

The text begins with an example of President Carter helping Prime Minister Begin of Israel see the unintended consequences of failing to make peace. Carter gave Begin photographs of his grandchildren, helping Begin realize how his actions now would impact the next generation. This act helped convince Begin to return to the negotiating table and make a historic peace agreement.

The text then argues that when we are in conflict, we tend to focus only on the present and how our actions impact ourselves now. We often fail to consider how they may impact ourselves and others in both the near and distant future.

To correct for this, the text recommends thinking about the impact of your potential actions:

  • On yourself now
  • On yourself in 10 minutes
  • On yourself in 10 months
  • On yourself in 10 years
  • On obvious others now
  • On obvious others in the future
  • On non-obvious others now
  • On non-obvious others in the future

This process can help you think ahead, anticipate unintended consequences, and optimize outcomes. The text uses the example of Bob and Sally to illustrate how thinking ahead about the impact of bringing up compensation with Sally could help Bob avoid a negative confrontation.

In summary, the text argues that thinking ahead about unintended consequences can help you design a more effective Pattern-Breaking Path that will actualize your Ideal Future in a conflict situation.

  1. Before implementing a Pattern-Breaking Path, anticipate possible unintended consequences. Think through how others may react in unexpected ways.

  2. Once you identify possible unintended consequences, find ways to prevent them or prepare for how to respond if they occur. Develop plans to mitigate the risks.

  3. Conduct mini-experiments in a safe environment, like with friends or family, to practice new behaviors. Learn from the results and refine your approach.

  4. Running mini-experiments gives you practice and immediate feedback. You can adjust your behavior based on how others react and what you learn.

  5. Mini-experiments work best in a “safe laboratory” - with people who will forgive missteps and help you improve.

  6. Use mini-experiments to work on new habits, like putting a pause between triggers and your reactions. Start small and experiment often to build “muscle memory” for the new behavior.

The key takeaway is that by anticipating risks, making plans to mitigate them, and practicing new behaviors through experiments, you can increase the chances of success for your Pattern-Breaking Path and modify your approach as needed along the way.

Here is a chapter summary of “Choose an Optimal Outcome”:

• There are four common sources of hesitation that keep you stuck in the conflict loop:

  1. Your Ideal Future is not feasible but you fantasize about it anyway. You have unrealistic expectations that cannot actually be achieved. This provides a sense of psychological safety but does not lead to progress.

  2. Your Walk-Away Alternative is not feasible but you fantasize about it anyway. Fantasizing about completely walking away from the conflict provides temporary relief but is not actually a viable option.

  3. You fear negative short-term consequences of taking action, even if it leads to positive long-term outcomes. You focus only on potential risks and obstacles.

  4. You lack confidence that your Pattern-Breaking Path will succeed. You have doubts and insecurities that prevent you from taking action.

• To move past hesitation and choose an Optimal Outcome:

  • Align your Ideal Future with reality by making it specific, measurable, and achievable.
  • Consider realistic costs and benefits of different alternatives to determine a feasible Walk-Away scenario, if needed.
  • Weigh potential short-term negative consequences against likely long-term gains.
  • Build self-confidence in your abilities by taking mini-steps and reviewing your progress.

• By addressing sources of hesitation, you can take that first step toward achieving an Optimal Outcome through pursuing your Pattern-Breaking Path. Taking action is what allows dreams and reality to combine.

Pay for Sally

Costs: Benefits:

• Discomfort of • Keep Sally’s expertise changing behavior and client relationships

• Effort required
to communicate • Rebuild friendship and better trust

• Risk of Sally’s

• Uncertainty
• Extra work



• Friendship harmed

• Overpay Sally

• Poor results for business/clients

• Awkwardness




• Lose friendship

• Lose Sally’s expertise
and client relationships

• Pay to replace Sally


• Pay lower salary

• Not deal with Sally’s


• Relief from discomfort

• Same old routine

Given this analysis, Bob decided that pursuing his Ideal Future, though difficult at the moment, was a better Optimal Outcome than either Staying in Conflict or the Walk-Away Alternative of firing Sally.

Conducting a similar analysis for herself, Roxanne decided that her Walk-Away Alternative— leaving her current company for a new executive role elsewhere—was her Optimal Outcome. It was more feasible and involved lower costs than either her Ideal Future or Staying in Conflict.

Define Your Optimal Outcome

What is your Optimal Outcome?

Here is a summary of the key points in the text:

  1. When stuck in conflict, people often hesitate to take action due to discomfort and fear of change. However, staying stuck can be more uncomfortable.

  2. Doing a “Reckoning” by writing down the costs and benefits of various options - Ideal Future, Staying in Conflict, Walk-Away Alternatives - can help clarify the Optimal Outcome, the lowest-cost, highest-benefit option.

  3. If an Ideal Future turns out to be the Optimal Outcome, embrace it. If an unfeasible Walk-Away Alternative has been distracting you, let it go.

  4. If a Walk-Away Alternative turns out to have lower costs and greater benefits, recognize it as your Optimal Outcome.

  5. Revise options and Pattern-Breaking Paths if you find ways to lower costs.

  6. Facing your discomfort and building up “courage muscles” is key to pursuing your Optimal Outcome and breaking old patterns.

  7. The story of Nico, the CTO, shows how taking courageous, pattern-breaking action can lead to a turnaround, even when initially uncomfortable.

How does this summary capture the main points you were trying to convey? Let me know if you’d like me to clarify or expand on anything.

Here is a summary of the provided text:

The passage discusses how courage is needed to overcome fear, make difficult changes, and resolve conflict. It gives examples of individuals mustering the courage to:

• Nico, who initially struggled with feedback about his leadership style but then chose to action a plan to improve. His courageous approach led to a turnaround.

• Roxanne, who moved her family to a new city and struggled at first but found her way through courage.

• Tara, who ceded a role to Akiko and created a new role for herself, using her core strengths.

• Bob, who ended his silent standoff with Sally by meeting with her and acknowledging his mistake. His honesty and willingness to understand her concerns led to resolving their compensation issue.

The key takeaways are:

• Fear is natural, but the best way to deal with it is to muster your courage. Courage grows from overcoming fear.

• Identify the sources of your hesitation, talk back to your fear, and take constructive action to feel the discomfort and move past it.

• When you practice these things, you will free yourself from conflict and reap the rewards of an optimal outcome. An optimal outcome can then become contagious.

Does this cover the essential summary points? Let me know if you would like me to modify or expand the summary.

• Instead of getting mad again at your spouse for leaving dirty dishes in the sink, you will choose to respond differently than you have in the past. You will take a deep breath and respond in a calmer manner.

• Instead of hiding whenever others get angry at you, you will start asking what upset them.

• Rather than offering people options endlessly when they have rejected them, you will realize sooner when to give up and save time and energy.

• Instead of taking all the blame and stewing in shame when criticized, you will bounce back more quickly and recognize the criticism is not entirely your fault.

• Taking a Pattern-Breaking Path will require courage to try new things, possibly fail, but try again. It will be a rewarding journey.

• Once you break free from the conflict pattern, others will naturally become free from it too. Your actions are a contagious form of leadership - when you free yourself from conflict, you help free others.

The key is to choose an Optimal Outcome by assessing the feasibility, costs, and benefits of your ideal future, staying in conflict, and any walk-away alternatives. Choose the feasible option with the lowest costs and greatest benefits. Then follow your Pattern-Breaking Path to achieve that Optimal Outcome, mustering your courage along the way.

Let me know if you would like me to expand or modify the summary in any way.

Here is a summary of er for early advice and inspiration. Gratitude to my agent, Lisa DiMona, for unwavering support throughout every part of the process and for introducing me to my editor, Stephanie Hitchcock, and my publisher, Hollis Heimbouch. Lisa, Stephanie, and Hollis together expertly guided me through the publishing experience and helped make it an enjoyable adventure! Thanks to the entire HarperBusiness team, including the extraordinary Leslie Cohen, Penny Makras, and Hannah Long.

Thank you to Sara Grace and Emily Loose for their expert editing, and to graphic facilitator Tamra Carhart for her beautiful illustrations in the introduction and chapter on mapping.

Gratitude to friends and family who took the time out of their own busy work and family schedules to offer helpful feedback on drafts of the manuscript, in some cases multiple times. Thanks also go to collaborators on the University of Chicago’s Defining Wisdom grant, which formed the seed of this work.

The author expresses deep gratitude to mentors, coaches, and communities over many years that gave these ideas roots and wings. Thanks are also offered to everyone who reviewed and provided feedback on the author’s original TEDx talk about optimal outcomes.

The author acknowledges her husband and children for their love, support and patience throughout the writing process. She is grateful to the divine presence within all of us and to the readers for being part of this journey.

In conclusion, the author pays tribute to the many people who helped make this book possible through their advice, collaboration, feedback and encouragement. The journey to publication is described as an enjoyable adventure made so through the support of family, friends and team.

Here are some highlights from the summary:

• Sheila Heen’s book Difficult Conversations focuses on how to have constructive discussions about important issues.

• The book emphasizes practicing skills like active listening, owning your own attributions, and dealing productively with emotions like anger.

• Heen provides tools to map out conflicts, identify values underlying disagreements, and develop pattern-breaking paths to overcome typical impasses.

• These skills aim to help readers move past conflict habits and traps like anger, blame, and avoidance, and choose optimal outcomes based on shared interests and mutual values.

• Practicing the strategies in a structured and reflective way can improve one’s ability to have difficult yet meaningful conversations that lead to better outcomes.

Does this look accurate? Let me know if you’d like me to expand or modify any part of the summary.

• The author discusses several conflict habits like Blame Others, Shame Yourself, Shut Down, and Relentlessly Collaborate. These habits can form patterns of interaction that perpetuate recurring conflict.

• Emotions like anger, disgust, fear, joy, and sadness contribute to conflict by triggering conflict habits. The author recommends acknowledging emotions, asking what they are trying to tell you, and taking constructive action instead of falling into “emotion traps.”

• The concept of an Ideal Future is used as a way to break free from recurring conflict. By envisioning a detailed, feasible ideal outcome of the current conflict, one can communicate that vision to others and determine actions to work toward it.

• Mapping a conflict situation can help clarify perspectives and reveal insights into the conflict. The mapping can become more complex as more factors are considered.

• The author refers to Abraham Maslow’s “both/and” principle, shadow and ideal values, and courage as concepts to navigate tensions and change recurring conflict patterns.

• Techniques like pausing, deep breathing, listening actively, and mindfulness meditation are recommended to achieve change and an Optimal Outcome of the conflict.

You summarized the key ideas about Optimal Outcomes. Here are the main points:

• Optimal Outcomes involve applying 8 practices to identify and combat recurring conflicts. The practices help you pause and observe your reactions, map the conflict situation, acknowledge emotions, discuss values, envision an Ideal Future, design a pathway to achieve it, anticipate unintended consequences, and ultimately choose an Optimal Outcome.

• The practices help you identify your primary conflict habits and patterns, understand where they come from, and develop new responses. They acknowledge inhibiting factors like fear of change, comfort in conflict, and hesitation.

• Choosing an Optimal Outcome involves assessing realities, costs, benefits, and courageously acting. It may involve redesigning your Pattern-Breaking Path.

• You can apply these practices and methods at an individual, team, and organizational level to overcome conflict and achieve greater personal satisfaction.

The key takeaways highlight the role of exercising mindfulness, acknowledging emotions constructively, discussing values openly yet sensitively, envisioning an inspiring future, designing creative action plans, and choosing outcomes that balance ideals with realities. Does this cover the core lessons effectively? Let me know if you’d like me to adjust or expand the summary.

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About Matheus Puppe