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  • Writer's pictureRobert Davies

Conflict at Work: Part 2- Using CIT - Cognitive Interpersonal Therapy

Updated: Nov 22, 2019

Ray examines his role in the conflict and learns about the 3 tenets of conflicts. He also learns the 5 Secrets of Communication by which means he learns to communicate better. Nevertheless, he also decides that it would be best to end the relationship.

Making Waves Isn't Always a Pretty Thing

Robert Davies © 2018

Mr. Jenkins, Bob-the-counsellor, looked over the criteria for good and bad communication according to Dr. David Burns.

Good Communication

E = Empathy 1. You acknowledge the other person’s feelings and find some truth in what he or she is saying.

A = Assertiveness 2. You express your feelings openly, directly, and tactfully using “I feel” statements.

R = Respect 3. You convey caring and respect, even if you’re feeling frustrated or annoyed with the other person.

Bad Communication

E=Empathy 1. You don’t acknowledge the other person’ s feelings or find any truth in what the or she is trying to say.

A = Assertiveness 2. You argue defensively or attack the other person.

R = Respect 3. You belittle the other person or treat him or her in a cold, competitive, or condescending way.

“Okay, Ray, according to the criteria, how did you do?”

“Well, Bob. I didn’t do so well. I didn’t show empathy. I didn’t assert myself.”

“Did your boss pass?”

“Well, no. He did not show respect. He attacked me and belittled me. He didn’t pass either.”

Ray, lets look at what communication errors you both had. You mark 'X' for you and mark 'O' for your supervisor. ”

Ray checked off the following:

1. TRUTH? I’m right; you’re wrong! X O

2. BLAME? It’s not my fault! It’s hers/his! X O

3. DEFENSIVE? You argue and admit no imperfection. X O

4. MARTYRDOM? You play the innocent victim. X

5. PUT-DOWN? You imply the other is a loser! O

6. SELF-BLAME? You act as if you are terrible

7. HOPELESSNESS? You claim nothing can be done. X

8. DEMANDINGNESS? Others must be as you expect! X O

9.DENIAL? You pretend you are not upset. X O

10. LABELLING? You call the other a “loser” or worse! X O

11. SARCASM? Your tone of voice belittles or patronizes.

12. COUNTER-ATTACK? You respond with criticism.

13. SCAPEGOATING? You imply the other is defective. O

14. DIVERSION? You change the subject or list past grievances.

15. HELPING? Instead of listening, you give advice.

16. PROBLEM SOLVING? You ignore feelings and offer solutions.

17. MIND-READING? You expect others to know how you feel? X

18. PASSIVE-AGGRESSIVE? You say nothing, pout/slam doors.

“Well, Bob, using the ‘X” I’d say numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 7, 8, 9, 10, and 17.”

“Good, Ray and your boss – Using ‘O'?"

“My boss, had lots of errors, too, 1, 2, 3, 8, 10, 13, maybe 17.”

“What were the consequences of these errors for you both?”


“Well, I got immediately on the defensive. The boss had showed his game plan which was to have me retire. Yet, I did not assert myself or reveal my feelings. This would lead perhaps to my boss not giving up and maybe even upping the ante. After all, I did not tell the boss that I felt disrespected.”

”Ray, you could have done a better job?”

“Exactly, Bob”

“Well, can you think of a better way of approaching the situation.”

“I sure can.”

“Let’s try writing it out first. It takes a bit of practice to get it right. It might take a few attempts. You will be using the 5 secrets of effective communication.”

Five Secrets of Effective Communication

E = EMPATHY - You Acknowledge the Other’s Feelings

1. The Disarming Technique DT. Find some truth in what the other person is saying.

2a. Thought Empathy TE. Paraphrase the other person’s words.

2b. Feeling Empathy FE. Acknowledge how the other person is probably feeling, based on what she or he said.

3. Inquiry IN. Ask gentle, probing questions to learn more about how the other person is thinking and feeling.

A = ASSERTIVENESS - You express your own feelings.

4. “I Feel” Statements IF. Express you own ideas and feelings in a direct, tactful manner. Use “I feel” statements, such as “I feel upset,” rather than “you” statements, such as “You’re wrong!” or “You’re making me furious!”

R= RESPECT - Your attitude is respectful and caring.

5. Affirming AF or Stroking ST. Convey an attitude of respect, even if you feel frustrated or angry with the other person. Find something genuinely positive to say to the other person, even in the heat of battle.

Ray wrote up a better response than he had initially. This took him several attempts. It is always best to practice on paper what you'd like to say using the 5 Secrets of Communication. The following was Ray's final response after many attempts at incorporating the 5 Secrets of Communication.

“I am feeling anxious and frustrated, Mr. Boss. I can certainly say that you are probably right based on the number of sick days. I can appreciate that you are responsible for the operation of the business, and that you have high expectations for your staff. Clearly, I have let you down in this regard having lost almost 20 days due to sickness. There is no question of my being sick. I feel vulnerable and helpless as a result of these sick days and as a result of your mentioning them. Still, I work very hard, rarely taking coffee breaks. Please tell me a bit more of what you are thinking so I understand your vision for the business and how I might do a better job of fitting in.”

Mr. Jenkins then checked the level of Ray’s negative emotions. They had all dropped considerably. Ray had given up trying to exert power, demanding fairness, staying on his high horse (pride), saying he was right, blaming the boss, trying to win over the boss and self-pitying.

In conclusion ...

Ray had recognized the three tenets of CIT, Cognitive Interpersonal Therapy.

1. Ray had, indeed, provoked and maintained the exact relationship problems about which he’d complained. He didn’t seem to realize that he was doing this, so he felt like a victim and told himself that the problem was entirely the boss’ fault.

2. Ray had denied his role in the conflict because self-examination was so shocking and painful, and because he was secretly rewarded by the problem he was complaining about. “Woe is me,” he could sigh, “I am so innocent here! I am being so wronged here!” In this way, Ray realized that he wasn’t really being just. He wanted to do his dirty work of not cooperating/not communicating with his boss so he could maintain a façade of innocence.

3. Ray finally realized that we all have far more power than we think to transform troubled relationships – if we’re willing to stop blaming the other person and focus instead on changing ourselves. We also have the power to leave a relationship and to give up on maintaining the status quo. This is what Ray decided to do.

“Well, thank you, Bob.”

“Listen, Ray. I only coached. You did the changing, which takes courage and humility. But note there are always three choices in relationships: 1 – make it better, 2- op out or 3- maintain status quo. You are choosing to opt out and move on.”

“Bob, it feels good to say I’m ready to accept my responsibility in what happened and to leave this troubling relationship and move on.

A few weeks later, Ray surprised Mr. Jenkins. Ray had chosen to retire. Well, not exactly, he'd retired to have some income in which to start his own business. He had loved his place of work so much that he doubted that he'd be happy elsewhere within the organization. It had been an organizational problem he'd concluded. He'd be happier working for himself and mentioned "and using the 5 Secrets of Communication!"


Ugly Relationships Can Be Transformed or Maintained Willingly or ENDED


Most people like stories, and therapy is all about stories. Telling stories about powerful techniques used in TEAM CBT therapy demystify this therapy one story at a time.

Yet, confidentiality is a cornerstone of all counselling. Without confidentiality, clients wouldn’t feel safe going to therapy to divulge the most painful areas of their lives. To safeguard clients while illustrating TEAM CBT techniques, confidentiality is kept by either having the client’s consent or by distorting the facts, making the client unrecognizable .

Robert Davies

Counselling Therapist

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