A lot of people cringe when they even hear the word “conflict”, especially at their workplaces. But the truth is, conflict is a natural part of human interactions, and it won’t go away even if you close your eyes and wish really hard!
The good news:
There are techniques and ways of thinking everyone can learn that help you manage and even resolve conflict with co-workers, bosses, or employees. It can take practice, support, repetition and willingness to integrate and use these approaches well, but my clients, and I vouch for their effectiveness.
Here are a few effective strategies and mindsets to get you started:
- Accept that conflict happens.
Conflicts will arise. You don’t need to blame yourself or someone else if you disagree. Instead, you can keep an open mind to focus on solutions.
- Manage your own emotions and responses. Are they saying or doing something that makes you want to explode or hide? Chances are the intensity of your reaction has to do with past experiences, not just the current problem. Becoming aware of what is getting triggered, and then separating the past from the present situation, will help you stay calm and present.
- Make the first move. Be willing to make the first move toward resolution, even if you think it is their fault and they should be the first to act. Do it anyway, and you will get the benefits.
- Be willing to listen. Each of us has our own way of framing and describing our experience. When we recognize that they have a different story about what happened, and become willing to listen to and understand their perspective, we can see more clearly how we got embroiled and how we might resolve the conflict.
- Take responsibility for your part. Did you do something wrong that affected someone else, lose your temper, or hurt someone’s feelings? Making mistakes is human and inevitable as well. I know I make mistakes every day. If you are willing to acknowledge your part, instead of reacting defensively, it can defuse conflict. This not does mean taking all the responsibility, but sincerely recognizing what you did that contributed to the problem.
The rewards of mastering conflict skills
It takes a lot of practice and willingness to become aware of your assumptions about the other person, and to change your behaviors and ways of thinking about conflict. But if you make these changes, step by step, you will reap rich rewards—including peace of mind, more energy for your work and your life, and better interactions with those around you.
Get good enough at it, and you may be seen as the “go to” person for helping others with their disagreements, an excellent way to demonstrate leadership abilities. Individual or group communication/conflict management coaching can offer you support, rehearsal, and guidance for strengthening these crucial skills.