Why does conflict arise in discussions

“That’s not what I meant!”… “Will you please let me complete!”… “Don’t put your words in my mouth!”… “That’s not what I said!”… “This is going nowhere!”… “It is nothing but a figment of your imagination”… “You are impossible!” – Eavesdrop on any meeting or discussion in the closed conference rooms and either you will hear these words or will hear their undertones in the sophisticated versions spoken. So what’s going on here! Is anyone listening for real?                                    

Well! With an endless supply of information and far lesser attention-span, now most of us sit in meetings & discussions with ‘preassembled answers’ and only wait for any question that even has a ‘resembling relevance’ to what we have. Now it is less about questions begetting befitting answers, and more about replies fitting the questions. And that’s where the roots of conflicts are. Before we discuss this point in details, watch this video to get the gist of what we are discussing, why it is important, and how it is relevant in professional and personal context…



Yup! To listen well, you have to resist the temptation to preempt or intervene. Often, while listening to someone, rather than attuning with someone’s point and the emotions behind it, we either get distracted or begin to prepare our response on the basis of incomplete listening. This leads to preconceived notions, incorrect inferences, and above all a trust deficit in our relationships and associations. Well, like for any behavior, the root of this point lies in neuroscience.

If we will look at our brain then we will find that actually our brain is a predicting machine. It keeps scanning the environment all the time, for any cues that can hurt or aid our evolutionary goal of ‘survival & procreation’. Like for any other animal, even in our brain, it is a pre-installed feature. As famous developmental biologist Dr. Bruce Lipton says, our brain, at a time, can consciously pay attention to around 40 environmental cues. Subconsciously, this number goes to more than 2 million, which is huge. This thing is advantageous for survival, but not for interpersonal dynamics.

With so much information to process, there is a problem called attentional blink. Attentional blink is the time gap required between identifying different stimuli. Normally, attentional blink is of around half a second, i.e. you need half a second before mind is free to think about something new. So, after listening to first few words of someone, if your attention then turns inward towards your own thinking process, you can’t listen to next few words said to you. Due to this predicting tendency and attentional blink, ‘listening well’ requires ‘conscious effort to suspend judgment’ and ‘extra persistence to stay tuned’. Well, but to appreciate this fact, social & emotional intelligence is needed.

This ‘emotional & social intelligence’ is about one’s understanding of the design and functioning of human brain, and how they have the all-important impact on our behavior and decisions. This coming together of neuroscience and psychology sets the base for developing emotional & social intelligence – the skill of managing self and connecting with others. Yes, this all-important skill of all intrapersonal & interpersonal skills can be learnt, practiced and mastered. However, it all begins with some important realizations like…“ To listen well, you have to resist the temptation to preempt or intervene”.


Dr. Sandeep Atre

‘Emotional & Social Intelligence’ Expert

Founder – Socialigence

Note: Socialigence (www.socialigence.net) offers self-paced video-based online course on ‘Social & Emotional Intelligence’ with content that has relevance across the globe, and delivery specifically customized according to the work-scenarios in India.