What I learnt from watching The Block

I like to think of myself as a discerning, intelligent consumer of media, but to be honest I just can’t help myself when it comes to reality TV.

I watched ‘Search for the Next Pussycat Doll’. Loved it! I still watch ‘Survivor’, which based on its programming (Thursday nights, 9:30pm on Go) clearly no longer has mainstream appeal. And then there is ‘Big Brother’, let’s just say I’ve not only watched, but auditioned!

All this sad and sorry reality TV consumption rarely leads me to anything other than a short period of entertainment and the occasional reflection on some individual characters.

However, this season of ‘The Block’ I found myself thinking about how some people simply thrive on conflict. I’ve known for a long time, I am not one of those people.

Don’t get me wrong, I am happy to debate a point, or harbour an alternative point of view to others, and still get on with the job at hand. But I’m not one who looks to pick an argument, stomp out of a meeting or ‘shirt front’ anybody – ever.

‘The Block’ actually got me thinking about the workplace, and community engagement, and the fact that many of us work in teams or on projects that have characters who love conflict, thrive on drama, and perhaps even do their best when in conflict mode.

How can we peace-loving types might make the best of it?

Give the conflict lover the benefit of the doubt – so your angry co-worker, or vocal NIMBY is trying to manipulate the whole room. Just because these people are doing something that is bad at that point in time, doesn’t mean they are bad people. By first giving the conflict lover the benefit of the doubt you will be able to re-engage with them outside of the conflict environment and perhaps get to the bottom of their feelings.

Reduce or minimise the sense of conflict – the way you respond to the conflict lover will either increase or decrease their natural instinct to fight (versus flight). Think about your own body language, tone and choice of words, to help prevent the conflict from escalating.

Set boundaries and limits in advance – if you know you have serial offender on your hands you can work with the team or the community to collectively set boundaries and limits for any interactions. This technique utilises the collective power of the group to help manage the behaviour of the conflict lover. The group might decide that individuals won’t interrupt others, won’t raise their voice or be aggressive, won’t blame or accuse others. If this behaviour is then displayed, you have the opportunity to address it for the benefit of the group.

Don’t take it personally – the conflict lover is not angry with you, they are simply angry or quick to become angry. Perhaps take a short period of time to reflect on whether there is anything you could have done differently, but if you come up with a blank, take a note to yourself that while you are working with the conflict lover there will be extra drama.

Would these tips have worked for ‘The Block’s non-conflict loving couples? – I think so. Would they work for shows producers? – Absolutely not. Those clever TV producers know that we at home love watching the drama, even if we don’t seek it out in our lives! Happy viewing.

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