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What Will You Learn In Today’s Episode

  • Conflict is not necessarily a bad thing; it doesn’t have to drag you down; it could challenge you to greatness.
  • Four factors can help you navigate conflict: decide what you want, know the risks, empathize with your adversary, and expect the win.
  • There’s always a chance for conflict when we meet people because people come from different perspectives; it’s up to us whether we want to escalate it or de-escalate it.
  • In a conflict, there is always a third option that both parties can agree upon; you don’t necessarily have to settle a conflict by giving up your choices.

Executive Summary:

Hey guys! Welcome back to yet another episode of the NegotiateX podcast. Today, we are honored to have Jay Payleitner with us. Jay is the author of Don’t Take the Bait to Escalate: Conflict Is Inevitable. Being a Jerk Is Optional. He has written over 25 books and sold over half a million copies.

Jay has also worked in market advertising for airlines and beer and has been a freelance producer for numerous radio stations, including Jesus Freaks Radio, Today’s Father, and Josh McDowell Radio. Apart from that, he has been a long-time affiliate with the National Center for Fathering and is a renowned motivational speaker.

Conflict Is A Good Thing

Jay suggests that conflict is good because it makes companies improve their products and people dig deep.

For instance, if a company sends a defective product out, that’s a conflict because it could make it lose a customer right there. However, if the company has a great customer service department and it fixes the problem immediately, it could gain a customer for life.

In marriages, conflict makes both partners come together and work their differences out, which leads to a stronger and happier marriage. Conflict can also help team members work together to accomplish the team’s goal collaboratively.

Another great example that Jay cites in this regard is that of an alcoholic. For an alcoholic, an intervention staged by their family is a conflict, but if the intervention is done the right way with empathy, it could actually make him quit drinking.

All in all, conflict doesn’t necessarily have to drag you down; it could challenge you to greatness.

Four Factors That Can Help Navigate Conflict

Next, Jay highlights the four factors that help navigate all types of conflicts, including family relationships and business conflicts.

#1 Decide What You Want

First and foremost, you need to decide what you really want. To help us understand this point better, Jay shares an example from his personal life where he and his wife had a conflict because they both preferred different types of peanut butter.

While his wife preferred the creamy one, he liked its crunchy counterpart. Now, even though he loves his crunchy peanut butter, what he really wants here is to start his marriage off right. So, he suggests we decide what we want and understand our priorities to navigate conflict better.

#2 Know The Risks

There are always risks to every conflict that we get ourselves into; we need to ensure that we are aware of those and act accordingly. For instance, had Jay been a jerk about the whole peanut butter conflict with his wife, it would have probably ended his marriage. So, the risk in this scenario was a failed marriage.

#3 Empathize With Your Adversary

It always helps to empathize with our adversaries and understand where they are coming from in order to navigate conflict. For instance, Jay realized the fact that his wife likes creamy peanut butter is not horrible or sinful; it’s just her preference.

#4 Expect The Win

After having empathized with your adversary and having understood their side of the story, you should work with them to resolve the conflict and turn it into a win.

Conflict Is Inevitable, But It’s Your Choice How To Respond To It

Moving on, Aram highlights that, more often than not, conflict comes out of nowhere and then asks if there’s a way to anticipate conflict. In reply, Jay explains that conflict is a part of life. Even though we might not go looking for it, there’s always a chance for conflict when we meet people because people come from different perspectives and problems.

Now, it’s up to us whether we want to escalate it or de-escalate the conflict. Make sure that you listen to the counterparty and empathize with them and then act accordingly. Sometimes when conflict comes up, we act too quickly without trying to solve it. And sometimes, we don’t act quickly enough.

The point that Jay tries to make here is that we need to listen and empathize with the counterparty and then find a way to de-escalate the conflict. You need to listen, forgive and apologize to bring calm to the situation.

A Compromise Is The Worst Thing You Can Do

Next, Jay talks about how compromise is the worst thing that you can possibly do when dealing with conflict. In a conflict, there is always a third option that both parties can agree upon; you don’t necessarily have to settle a conflict by giving up your choices.

For instance, if you love Italian food and your wife likes Mexican food, go to a Mexican restaurant for a few days. And then maybe, sometimes, she’ll insist on going to your favorite Italian restaurant.

Now, a compromise would be you go to a Denny’s and get either their Italian dish or their Mexican dish, and nobody wins in that one.

Jay, Aram, and Nolan discuss a lot more on this episode of the NEGOTIATEx Podcast. Write to us at team@negotiatex.com and share your thoughts on this very informational podcast episode.


Nolan Martin : Hello, and welcome to the NegotiateX podcast. I'm your co-host and co-founder, Nolan Martin, with me as usual is my good friend, Aram, the other co-founder, co-host of NegotiateX. And I'm pretty sure we got a pretty awesome guest for today lined up, Aram.

Aram Donigian : We do. I'm gonna jump in. So yeah, we absolutely do. You know, one of the things that Nolan and I pride ourselves on: bringing in people with different perspectives, different worldviews, being able to hear from a variety of folks and today I'm excited to introduce our guest Jay Payleitner. The author of Don't Take the Bait to Escalate: Conflict Is Inevitable. Being a Jerk Is Optional. You know, there aren't too many books with “Jerk” in the title, but especially from a Christian author. So, I'm excited to jump into this.

Let me say a little bit more about Jay and then I'm gonna, I'm gonna turn it over to him. Jay's a prolific writer. He's written more than 25 books, sold more than a half million copies. Now, Jay spent a decade in market advertising for airlines and beer. That must have been a lot of fun and along the way, he learned how people think while doing a lot of fun work.

He then felt a calling into Christian media and he became a freelance producer for Josh McDowell Radio, Today's Father, Jesus Freaks Radio with Toby Mack and Michael Tate, and Project Angel Tree with Chuck Colson. A long time affiliate with the national center for fathering, Jay is a nationally-known motivational speaker for Iron Sharpens Iron, Marriage Conferences, Men And Women's Retreats and Writers Conferences.

During the pandemic, Jay co-founded a benevolent think tank with eight fellow altruistic and creative partners, Jay and his high school sweetheart Rita live in Chicago where they've raised five great kids loved on 10 foster babies and are cherishing being grandparents. And if I'm correct, seven grandchildren, is that right, Jay?

Jay Payleitner : Uh, eight?

AD : Eight now! Congratulations, Jay. Thanks for being with us today.

JP : Well, Nolan and Aram, I got your email a little bit ago and it's like, man, this is a great organization. This is stuff that needs to be said. So, I'm privileged to hang out with you for a little bit here. Let's help some folks deescalate conflict and negotiate better. We can do that, I think.

AD : I hope so.

NM : Absolutely. So first I wanna kind of jump in here and talk about the book. Don't Take The Bait To Escalate, first off, phenomenal title, great job, but kind of what was your inspiration to really get into conflict resolution?

JP : Just look around man, there's conflict all over the place.

AD : Really?

JP : I am, you know, after writing a bunch of books, you start to talk to people and they are hurting. So many people are hurting in the middle of conflicts that they don't know how to deal with and they're frustrated by it. And you've got Covid, you got politics, you got racial unrest, you got family squabbles, you got Thanksgiving dinner tables where people just don't even show up anymore because it's so frustrating. You got Ukraine, although the book was written before that.

And I came to realize that there's so much of that even within my own extended family, my own, my core family is fine, but, and I wanted to use my gifts. I mean, we all have our gifts and I write books. It's like, I'm gonna write a book on conflict, kicking around with my publisher. They came up with a title, Don't Take The Bait To Escalate. I'm going, that's perfect, but it's like, what is it really about? So, we had to make the subtitles work pretty hard and be pretty clear. The subtitle was, conflict is inevitable and everybody, you know, is nodding their head. That conflict is inevitable, right? And then the second part of the subhead was, and we have to find a nice way to, to get through it. We had to find a nice way to deal with it, but instead we came up with “Being A Jerk Is Optional”, which says that exact thing.

So, all that to say, to answer your question, I saw a conflict. I know my gift is writing and, and doing some research and kicking around ideas. And so far I'm getting feedback from readers. Now, the book's been out just a few months and we're making a difference.

AD : So that's the important thing. And you know, it reminded me, as you were just talking about that. One of the heavy influencers on the work we do was a gentleman by the name of Roger Fisher wrote Getting To Yes, back in I believe it came out in 1980 or 1981, but Roger Fisher used to say, we've gotta find a way to disagree without being disagreeable. And I think that implies a lot of what your subtitle does, right? Conflict is inevitable. And we'll dig into some of how people feel about that. How we respond to it is a choice, you know, so.

JP : You know, I'm gonna even push back a little bit on that if I can. You know much of my book and much of my attitude is let's try to get people on the same side, listen to each other and have a little empathy. Empathy is so critical. So, it's like, we're gonna agree to disagree, and then we're gonna hate each other and go our separate ways. Let's see if you can help to understand each other, as I talk with my hands here.

Let's see, if we can, you know, you see my side, I see your side and we're not gonna agree, but you know what, maybe you could see where I'm coming from. That's gonna help a lot so that we can sit in a conference room together. We can, you know, be political leaders, and share ideas and come across the aisle and hang out and have a cold beverage sometime together and enjoy each other's company still. So, there you go. That's, that's kind of a….

AD : I like that. Thank you for the correction. I think that was, that's a, that's a good, that was a good way to tune what I was saying. You know, all our listeners have a diverse background of faith, Jay, and, and I think as I look across and Nolan and I haven't, haven't worked in the middle east and elsewhere, worked with, with folks of a lot of different faiths. Almost all faiths talk about conflict in some way, shape or form. You shared a number of ways. We see it in the world today from international to national, to the family, family table. What’s your take? Is conflict a bad thing, and should a person who considers themselves spiritual avoid conflict at all costs?

Jay’s Take On Conflict [7:15]

JP : I'm gonna set aside the spiritual question for a second and just come right down to the root of the matter and say, conflict is a good thing. Conflict is what makes products improve and people dig deep and do their best and such. I do marriage conferences, lead marriage conferences, and there might be 50 couples out there and an audience we're talking to. Maybe on the second day into the conference, I'll say, Hey, how many of you couples have hit bottom in your marriage? And about half of them will raise their hand.

And then I'll say, ain't it great? And they nod their heads. They know exactly what I'm talking about, because boy, if you've been married six or eight or 10 or 20 years, if you haven't had one time when you kind of hit bottom and were forced to look at each other and say, we gotta make this work. That's the way your strong marriages come from hit and bottom. So, in that sense, conflict is a good thing in marriage. If you come together and work it out. You think about a manufacturer who sends a defective product out that's conflict right there, because you could lose a customer right there.

But if you have a great customer service department and it takes care of that problem right away,you've got a customer for life then, and suddenly that conflict, it's almost like you wanna kind of plan to send out defective products once more.

AD :

JP : Then, if you can solve that crisis quickly, I'm not recommending that. That's how…..do they do that? They might do that. Some companies smarter than me might make a slightly defective product and nevermind! No, that, anyways, there are other examples. I'm just gonna jump to another one here. Think about the two best athletes on a high school baseball team. Those two boys, let's say they both wanna play shortstop. They both wanna be the heroes of the team and, and bad cleanup. Well, a good coach is gonna see that conflict and make the whole team better. Not just those two boys, but the whole team's gonna be elevated because they see how hard those guys are working to be the star of the team they're starting shortstop. And one will pitch in which play they'll figure it out. And then those two boys, and I've seen it in my own life cause I have four boys who played baseball. Those two, the two boys in the team. They're gonna be best friends because they're working with each other. They're so again, conflict, if you look at it from the other side, it doesn't have to drag you down. It can challenge you to greatness.

AD : I love all that. And my personal story from high school cross country, one of my best friends, even to this day, every practice was like the state tournament. And guess what? At state, he was fourth and I was fifth and our team won the state cross country championship.

JP : He was fourth and you were fifth? Aargh!

AD : But our team because we people, we are only one. I also listen to what you said about, you know, marriage and it does apply. I love how you talked about the application to business, but the strength of a relationship is really, you know how strong it's not by the fact that there's no conflict, right? Or there's no mistakes, but it's how you handle those things, right? And that tells you how strong things are.

JP : Well, another conflict, and this will hit, this will hit close to home with many of your viewers, listeners. You might have an alcoholic in your family. And that intervention that they recommend is the definition of conflict right there. But if it's done right with empathy, and a good leader in that situation. I mean, God's gonna come in, God is gonna enter that situation and work a miracle in that guy's life. But it takes that conflict to do that. And I gotta go to James in the New Testament that trials of many kinds test your faith and produce perseverance trials produce perseverance. So, again, conflict is a good thing if you approach it the right way.

NM : All right. So, I wanted to start jumping into the book, Jay and I wanted to kinda describe the four factors. How do they help someone navigate conflict?

Four Factors That Help Navigate Conflict [11:15]

JP : Well, even in some of the examples we just did, but yeah let me give you the four factors that work for in business and in family relationships, in any conflict, one would be: decide what you really want. If you're in a conflict, decide what you really want. And a good example of that would be early in my marriage, terrible, terrible, tremendously horrible conflict with my wife. She liked creamy peanut butter, and I liked crunchy peanut butter. Now, can you imagine?

AD : She's clearly wrong by the way!

JP : Well, I can't say that!

AD : Go ahead.

JP : So, what do I really want? I want my crunchy peanut butter, but what I really want is to start my marriage off right. I want some extra smooches from my new bride, that kind of thing, if you know what I'm talking about. So, decide what you really want. Cause it's not the crunchy peanut butter, it's the solid marriage.

And then second would be to know the risks. Again, the four factors: decide what you really want, know the risks and the risk would be if I'm a jerk about this whole thing and do: You're wrong. Yeah. Crunch, we only, we're only gonna have crunchy peanut butter in my house. God darn it.

JP : Well, then she goes home to mom and the marriage is over. Come on! I mean, there's, there's risk to any conflict and you gotta realize that. And then the third factor is: empathize with your adversary. Wow. You know what? The fact that my wife likes creamy peanut butter, that is not sinful or terrible or horrible.

As a matter of fact, I guess she likes that. So, I'm gonna empathize, see where she's coming from a little bit there. And then fourth is expect the win, which means that we're gonna take the, the long view and see that if we work in our marriage, if we work on our problem, whatever this conflict is that we should really be able to see how God uses it and how our relationships can be better and how we can, turn that into a win.

JP : But God, in a sense of humor in that particular example, our initial reaction was, well, we're going to, I'm gonna be very magnanimous and we're gonna go, every other jar is gonna be, crunchy and then creamy. And then when we run out of crunchy, we'll get a jar of creamy. So that'll be, that'll be the way that we deal with this huge conflict in our marriage. But God, in his infinite wisdom, we were in the grocery aisle, peanut butter aisle. And we said, oh, we still have a half a jar of crunchy at home, so we should buy creamy now. And then we came home and put two jars next to each other. So you can buy two jars of peanut butter.

AD : Crazy! That's crazy. So, Jay, I gotta tell you, so this example, sorry, this example resonates with me on multiple levels, okay? My wife and I will have been married for 19 years in October. I don't know where you were 19 years ago, but I really could have used your insights because one of our first arguments was when she brought home a jar of creamy peanut butter. Not because that's what she preferred, but she didn't know what I liked, okay? And we still laughed at it to this day. Cause I was aghast. I was, how could you get creamy peanut butter, that's not even real peanut butter if it doesn't have the nuts in it.

And so we laugh about it to this day, but, going further to your point, you just made. My grandparents, okay? For years, my grandmother and we, we heard this story after my grandfather had passed away, but we're, we're talking, I think we may have shared our story. So, it's just funny that all this seems to be around peanut butter. She said for years, my grandfather preferred smooth. So, she would buy smooth and it wasn't until one day the light came on as it did for you. She said, you know, we could have two jars

JP : Sometimes in your conflict, in any conflict that you're, that anybody's dealing with. The answer is just real easy. If you take a step back and again, you gotta do the four factors to decide what you really want, know that there are risks involved, empathize with the adversary and say, is there a way that we can make this work, often there's not. So you have to dig deeper and, and, and do some true negotiation, but, you know, be optimistic, expect the win and, be surprised how often you get that.

AD : So, Jay, part of what makes people uncomfortable with conflict is that sometimes it just feels like it comes out of nowhere and we're kind of being ambushed by it. Do you think we can actually anticipate conflict? And if so, how might being able to anticipate it, help us manage it more effectively?

Jay Shares How To Anticipate And Manage Conflict More Effectively [15:44]

JP : I think conflict, as we kind of already said, is part of life. We need to go into it and every time we meet somebody we're not looking for trouble, but we need to know that people are coming from different perspectives and problems. We don't want to, you know, you have a choice when you come up with a conflict, minor or large, to either escalate or deescalate.

Sometimes we assume the worst, you meet somebody. Ah, I gotta be a jerk about it. Or sometimes we assume that we have all the answers, and that’ll lead to conflict certianly. When we don't, we empathize and listen. Sometimes when conflict comes up, we act too quickly without trying to solve it. And sometimes we don't act quickly enough. I started a big campfire in my side yard and the wind took the smoke around the corner, into my neighbor's back porch, where they were meeting with friends.

And, my neighbor came over and said, well, Jay, what's going on. And we had little spar back and forth and he left and the smoke went away, but an hour later I went over and I apologized to him. I mean, sometimes you just act quickly. I went to apologize, it wasn't a big deal, but, and so, we're fine then. Otherwise, the next time I see him in the driveway, two days later, he's grumbling at me or I'm grumbling.

So don't act too quickly sometimes, but sometimes act really quickly and make a quick apology. It's amazing how sometimes that deescalates conflicts. So that's just one example, listen, forgive, apologize. You know, bring calm to the situation. There you go.

AD : Well, it feels like because in your book, you talk about these three mistakes that we often tend to make. And it feels like when we get kind of knocked off and we don't, we're not anticipating. And it catches by surprise. You know, these three mistakes you talk about are, you know, we start to cast blame. We make very snap decisions. And then the third one is really interesting, right? We insist on a compromise. And, and I don't know if you wanna say more about the kind of these mistakes that we kind of tend to fall into and why you think we just need to avoid 'em.

Why Compromise Is The Worst Thing That You Can Do [17:56]

JP : Well very interesting! We always think that in a negotiation that we have to find a compromise and many times when it comes to money or time or schedule. Money, it does, we need to think about a compromise, but in many other cases, a compromise is the worst thing you can do. He wants that and you want that. Oftentimes there's a third option that you can agree on. That's not in the middle, but it's an entirely different option.

But,you know what, let's say that you really love Italian food and your wife likes Mexican food. You know what I think, go to the Mexican restaurant, just be magnanimous, go to the great Mexican restaurant with the authentic Mexican food, do that. And then maybe, sometimes she'll say, Hey, let's go to your favorite Italian restaurant. Now, a compromise would be you go to Denny's and get their Italian dish or their Mexican dish and nobody wins in that one. You see the difference?

AD : Yeah. You might, you might be up all night too with that solution,

JP : I don't wanna offend any of your listeners here, but let's say he wants to live in Seattle and she wants to live in Miami. Well, you could compromise and live in Topeka, Kansas, and again, I'm sure you have some listeners in Topeka, I don't wanna offend. But the point is sometimes to look for the third answer. Don't insist on compromise. And again, my book kind of covers all that, but I'm not necessarily selling the book yet, but you gotta deal with these, all these kinds of things.

NM : So, I wanna kind of go back to something you had talked about, and that was the option to de-escalate or escalate a situation. Is it really that simple when we think about the kind of choices that we have during conflict?

Jay Shares A Story About Conflict [19:42]

JP : Well, you're making me think of when my mentor was a negotiator for the big three automakers back in the day, this is in the seventies. So, he's a, he's an older guy now, but back in the seventies, he was a negotiator for the big three automakers. And they knew that they had the contract up on a certain date and they would start negotiating. They would get in, they would rent hotel rooms and the automaker would have a representative over here. The union guys would have representatives over here and they would meet supposedly, but they didn't meet.

They would just kinda delay, delay, delay cuz they knew it would be the last few days before the contract was up that they would finally come to the table and negotiate. And my friend remembers this. Mike remembers this one time when they were supposed to meet every weekend. And they'd all be locked in these hotel rooms for, for a week, for every weekend. And at one point on a Friday morning, he said, you know what guys, to his team. You know what guys, let's just go home, spend the weekend with your family. The next morning the newspaper was: Mike Penny Canceled Negotiations!

JP : And he got deep weeds for that cuz his job was to stay in those hotel rooms till the contract was done. All that to say, back to the idea of conflict is gonna happen. We need to expect it to happen, if I'm making any sense here, that's just one of the stories that you brought to mind with your question.

NM : No. So that was a great story there, Jay, really interesting to see how that one played out for him. So what was the outcome? Did he get in trouble or did it all get resolved?

JP : His bosses at the big three automakers knew what he was doing. He knew that, that it was fine. There was later on actually there was in his career, there was at least one strike where he had to you know, dig deep and, and make concessions kind of thing.

But, no, that's all part of the game. It turns out to be all part of the game. Everybody knows what's going on. So, he didn't lose his job, but he got his wrist slapped because he had to get his wrist slapped and everybody knew what was going on. So that's all part of the negotiation dance sometime, which I'm sure many of your managers who are listening right now can negotiate. It's a dance. And, you kinda, it gotta expect sometimes going in that there are risks, but again, know what you want, decide what you really want, know their risks, empathize with the other side and, kind of expect the win because you know what the cars are gonna keep rolling off the line, they're not gonna stop making cars in, in, in, Detroit, at least back in the seventies.. Maybe they will these days. I don't know.

NM : Hey everyone, Nolan here. Please be sure to rate, review and subscribe to the podcast. I have to jump in and end it right here. So sorry, but please be sure to join us next week as we continue our conversation with Jay.

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