From Jim:

Most people avoid conflict situations because conflicts hurt and very few people know what to do when a conflict erupts. I am not talking about a major conflict, a war or a terrorist attack, but the conflicts that happen every day: a surprising argument with your friend; a fight with your spouse; tension between you and a coworker or between you and your boss. The first response most people have is to defend themselves protecting their innocence.

What about you? How comfortable are you with conflict? That’s right I said, “comfortable.” Do the two words “conflict” and “comfortable” belong in the same sentence? They do. I assure you that a conflict well-handled is, or at least can be, a spur to emotional, intellectual, and even spiritual growth.

The first step to resolving a conflict is to ask the question, “What happened?” This does not mean you want to know what the other person did to create the problem. That would be about blame and a variation on the theme of maintaining your innocence. You want to know what you both did that led to the trouble, because no conflict is entirely one-sided---except if someone leaps out of the bushes and hits you, in which case it wouldn’t be a conflict but an attack.

What you need to discover is your contribution to the problem as well as the other person’s. You must have the details, the facts so that you can expand your point of view to include the other person’s and situate both of you in reality---as best as you can articulate it. This shifts your involvement from one of blame to one of responsibility and it leads the way to a possible real resolution.

Question---how many tough situations or conflicts have you been in when you were entirely innocent? Or entirely guilty? Relationships, whatever the form, are the product of all participants. I’ll stick to two people to make it easy. Both people have contributed to the relationship right from the beginning and over time the development of conflict tends to level out that both people contribute about 50% each.

Now, imagine a conflict between you and someone close to you. Imagine that the other person is insisting that he/she is utterly without fault. It’s entirely about you. You are the person who did wrong and the other person is the one who has been wronged. You and only you deserve to be held accountable and possibly punished. Is this credible?

When people are disturbed by another’s behaviors in order to keep their own sense of identity in-tact they will, mostly unconsciously, inflate the other’s flaws and inflate their own virtues. This is a ploy to justify their innocence and raise their hurt to the point of expecting to be acknowledged as the victim---exonerated, freed from guilt, and relieved of the burden of responsibility. Of course this only complicates the problem and creates a distance from the other that makes resolving the issue impossible. And if the “innocent one” holds his or her ground, the gap becomes entrenched and grows so intense that the “innocent one” becomes blind to themselves and the other.

Innocence is projected narcissism. That is, the innocent one demands that he or she constitutes the world without allowing any awareness of or responsibility for their contributions. They want the world to be the way they want the world to be without allowing for the mutuality that relationships in the world are built upon---and a conflict situation is necessarily part of that mutuality. However, the trap this creates is that the innocent one can suffer at another's hands, condemn the other for being at fault, all the while maintaining their righteousness without the authority to rectify the situation. Transactionally they have become powerless and psychologically they have become invisible.

A rigid claim of innocence can result in solipsism---the theory that only the self exists. Claiming innocence creates a singular isolated world in which the innocent one is much more vulnerable than when engaging in the conflict, because he or she is utterly dependent on the other to address the conflict and change. If you are not involved, if you did not participate, there is nothing you can do. But that leaves you in the hands of the one you accuse of wrongdoing.

There’s a lot more that’s hidden in the claim of innocence and I ask you to contribute to this post with your ideas and experience. How do you handle conflict situations and what were the consequences when you claimed unilateral innocence? What was your response when the other person claimed to be the innocent one? This will be very helpful readers.

Author's Bio: 

Judith Sherven, PhD and her husband Jim Sniechowski, PhD have developed a penetrating perspective on people’s resistance to success, which they call The Fear of Being Fabuloustm. Recognizing the power of unconscious programming to always outweigh conscious desires, they assert that no one is ever failing—they are always succeeding. The question is, at what? To learn about how this played out in the life of Whitney Houston, check out

Currently working as consultants on retainer to LinkedIn providing executive coaching, leadership training and consulting as well as working with private clients around the world, they continually prove that when unconscious beliefs are brought to the surface, the barriers to greater success and leadership presence begin to fade away. They call it Overcoming the Fear of Being Fabulous