What is conflict? (or how big are your balls)

What is conflict?

Conflict is universal.  It’s something we all face in our personal and our professional lives.  It’s something we all face in training and development.  Show me a trainer who hasn’t faced a conflict and I’ll show you a moon made out of mocha.

All conflicts have three balls.  The balls are different sizes in relation to each other, depending both on the particular conflict and depending on you.

How big are your balls?


Ball number one: Anxiety

All conflict produces some level of anxiety for the conflictees.  For some, given the choice between facing a conflict head on or having a Brazilian wax, they choose the latter.  For some the idea of getting up in front of a group to teach a workshop means having smelling salts (or today’s version, Rescue Remedy) handy. In both cases the anxiety ball is BIG.

Others are known as sh$t disturbers – in fact they’ll provoke a debate for the rush it gives them.  For some the idea of getting up in front of a group to teach is a thrill, a distinct pleasure.  In both cases the anxiety ball is small.


Ball number two: Suck

All conflict involves stuff we don’t like, things we’d rather not do.  Some people have a tremendous ability to hoc pati filias regis (Latin for ‘suck it up princess).  Others have little ability to face what they’d prefer to avoid.

A conflict may involve a morass of mess – working with an entire group of training participants who are there against their will and who are not happy about it.  Or in the case of my friend & colleague Dyana Valentine, showing up recently to speak to 500 conference participants and realizing 15 minutes before taking the stage that the organizers copied the wrong handouts.  In this case the suck ball is BIG.

A conflict can also involve minor irritants – like a slightly cold workshop room, starting a couple of minutes late etc.  In this case the suck ball is small.


Ball number three: WIIFM

What makes you motivated to resolve the conflict, dig in your heels, hesitate, stall, procrastinate, move towards resolution, back off, back up or back in?

Ahh the taste of personal motivation.  In every conflict our brains seek out ‘what’s in it for me’ (WIIFM).  Sometimes it’s not about the anxiety it’s about there not being enough in it for me.

Your answer(s) to the above questions will decree what size your WIIFM ball is.  Big motivation = big ball.  Little or no motivation = small ball.

Next time you face a conflict consider what size your balls are.  They can be a handful (or a mouthful).

What is conflict?  Look to your balls to tell you.


Hats off to the fantastic team at Cameray for this concept.


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3 Responses to “What is conflict? (or how big are your balls)”

  1. Dyana Valentine Says:
    July 18th, 2011 at 2:21 pm

    great article–balls! also, fyi everyone, the talk for 500 worked out wonderfully–and inspired a whole new series of activities that came through the suckball into my brain in the four minutes they were letting folks into the room. Went great. Trust your balls, even if they seem scary–well, if you don’t trust them, at least play with them.

  2. Lee-Anne Ragan Says:
    July 20th, 2011 at 11:08 am

    I’m laughing out loud at your comment Dyana! So inspiring to hear how you and your balls stepped up to the plate and knocked it out of the park. You certainly have the ability to laser focus my friend! Cheers to you!

  3. Training & development learning well July blog post round up - Rock Paper Scissors Says:
    June 25th, 2018 at 3:33 pm

    […] What is conflict? (or how big are your balls) […]

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