Three Hidden Dimensions of Conflicts

Robert Trajkovski
3 min readJul 29, 2021
Photo by George Milton from Pexels

While running this morning I listened to Esther Perel on Hello Monday podcast. She works with couples in therapy BUT I think our worlds have been transformed with working from home that the points she made are very valid for non-couples or work-couples(sex excluded).

At the end of the podcast, she talked about conflicts. She said that based on the work on Howard Markman (based on couples work)all conflicts in polarized relationships can be boiled down to:

Power & Control

Often times we are in relationships, whether home, friends, or work, where it is obvious that one side holds more power than the other. The narrative of the situation does not matter. That is hard to believe BUT true.

One of the things about power and control that matters is whose priorities matter in the situation? If it is always one-sided then over time this dimension will wear you down and create conflict. Even if it is with your boss, sometimes having control over little things goes a long way in building that dimension.

Another aspect of this dimension is whose opinions are taken into account? Again if it is your spouse's opinion or the highway then you are being controlled. You should be able to voice your opinion or you absolutely have no control.

In groups, another aspect comes to play. Who was included or excluded in the decision? Were you included but not heard? That would signal you have minimal power or control.

Care & Closeness

In relationships we often ask ourselves about others, “do they have my back?” We seldom ask it out loud? In close relationships, we assume that is the case BUT I can tell you from personal experience that the person we are with might not always have our back.

The back question really boils down to, “can I rely on you when things get tough?” Which is another form of, “can I trust you?”

Don’t assume that we are in this together and that we have a shared interest. We might be here together but our interests and closeness could be misleading.

Integrity & Recognition

This one can simply be worded as “do you value me? “ If you do then our relationship has integrity and we believe, do, and say what we truly mean to each other.

That is the introduction to these three dimensions. This is the theory.

How do you apply this?

Start by listening and looking for these dimensions. It is easy to mislabel these dimensions as similarities on issues. They are not. These dimensions are the fundamental needs that human beings use to get along.

I recommend that you evaluate these ideas on paper. Using the three dimensions, evaluate every relationship in your life. Use a 1 to 10 scale for each dimension. The max score is 30. Then pause and ask yourself, “How do I improve each of the dimensions with this person?” Allow yourself the time to come up with some answers. Be patient.

I think this exercise will be a game-changer for you. I typically do a similar exercise every 3–6 months BUT never drilled down into these dimensions. I often just holistically give the relationship a score. My matrix became multidimensional. By adding these three dimensions when I evaluate the relationship from me to another person and from that person to me I can see how to improve it a little better.

My four cents…

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Robert Trajkovski

I have led people and projects in Steel/ Power, Refining, Chemicals, Industrial Gasses, Software, Consulting and Academia. I have instructed 73+ courses.