Gretel Killeen

About Gretel Killeen

Gretel Killeen is the author of more than twenty books. At various times she hosts radio and television programs across the country, works as a journalist, stand-up comic and voice artist, and writes and directs feature films and documentaries.

Gretel Killeen on how to resolve conflict (like a tradie)

We all face workplace conflict, but defeating it is often difficult – unless you’re a tradie.




Some people were shocked recently by something I said—one of those people was me! I heard myself saying, “I’d like to think like a man,” and I couldn’t believe my ears.

Why did I say this? What was I thinking? Was I inspired by Trump, a Hemsworth or Gandhi? I’ll tell you, my inspiration was two tradies, working outside my bathroom window.

One of them did something that wasn’t in his job description, i.e.; hit a nail through the other bloke’s hand. I became aware of this, not because I heard screams of pain, but because I heard a short angry verbal blurt interrupt the otherwise meditative Cold Chisel/AC/DC toons of the tradie soundtrack.

“Jesus mate are you a fucking idiot!”

“Sorry mate,” the other bloke replied. And then they downed tools and stopped for “a smoko”.

And that was it! So I don’t want to think like all men. I want to think like these two men. And I want to think like them in one particular realm: the area of conflict resolution.

How does one reach this perfection of communication? What level of intellectual and analytical self scrutiny is required to reach this profound level of time, notion and emotion efficiency?

Prior to my epiphany I would have resolved conflict in the workplace quite differently. If I had “a situation” with a co-worker of my gender I’d never be so blunt or immediate. I’d mull over it, for days if not weeks, and then talk about it. No, not with the person I had issue with, I’d talk about it with my friends, to get their perspective, validation and support. Then I’d invite the co-worker to discuss it over coffee with an email that utilised fluffy phrases like “sorry to bother you” and “when you have a moment”. Then we’d meet and I’d hedge around the issue, trying to say what I was concerned about, without actually saying it at all, because I didn’t want to make them feel bad…but in the process of obfuscation I’d make myself feel bad to the point of seasickness and self-loathing.

Do all women deal with workplace conflict like this? I hope not. I might just be a product of my generation. We are the generation who were encouraged to speak up…and then not listened to. We feared conflict, abandonment and self-expression because we were raised with one goal in mind, i.e.; to be liked at all costs (in the belief we’re fundamentally so useless that, if we’re not liked, the tribe will eat us should food supplies ever become perilous).

Oh to be free to say “Jesus mate, are you a fucking idiot” and then enjoy “a smoko” together. But how does one reach this perfection of communication? What level of intellectual and analytical self-scrutiny is required to reach this profound level of time, notion and emotion efficiency?

Of course I asked the tradies why they were so good at conflict resolution and they both denied they were. They told me men are unemotional (yet their spontaneous “Jesus mate…” interaction was far more sincere than the “overthinking” I would have done in the same circumstance). They told me they like to avoid confrontation (yet what these guys did was actually confront confrontation…and in the process, defuse it). And they told me they weren’t good at conflict resolution because they were insensitive to the needs of others and also not intuitive (yet their innate response was entirely intuitive, uninterrupted by judgement, self-loathing or a desire to be liked and not eaten). When it comes to the art of conflict resolution these guys accidentally nailed it (and not only in the aforementioned hand).

I’ve spent my life hearing men tell me that “things will sort themselves out” and I’d always imagined this meant that a woman quietly stepped in and fixed things. I thought men were lazy in not wanting to dissect issues, painfully, from every angle. I thought men showed a lack of commitment to the relationship when they didn’t want to bang on relentlessly about “the issues” until that very act of “banging” on actually killed the relationship stone motherless dead.

But turns out, in the case of conflict, the phrase “keep it simple stupid” really might just work…and I’m the “stupid” they’re referring to.


Gretel Killeen is a writer and performer and the host of the Handsome and Gretel podcast.
Facebook: Gretel Killeen Official.
Insta & twitter: @gretelkilleen.


Share via