Sometimes when there’s a conflict, the best thing to do is say nothing and just drift away. Or to say firmly, “Let’s not take that on right now. ” If you’re good at selective conflict avoidance, you will have a greater sense of order and control in your life.
This post is the first in a series to help you expand your skill with the five styles of conflict interpersonally or in leadership. In each post I’ll show you several transition phrases for one particular style – in this post that style is Avoiding. Each of the five styles of conflict in Style Matters – which are similar to those found in the venerable if now out-dated Thomas Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument – will feature in posts that follow.
Not everyone needs this post! It’s especially useful for people who find conflict Avoiding difficult or scored low in Avoiding in their score report. If you scored high, stay tuned for future posts on styles you are under-using.
Why Transition Phrases?
But that’s easier to say than to do. Frustration and rising anger handicap our rational, choice-making upper brain and activate the reactive lower brain. By the time we pause and pay attention to what’s going on, we may already be pretty far down the path of reptilian brain takeover.
In these moments, it helps to have a few transition phrases on the tip of the tongue to help transition to a different conflict style. If you prepare now, in a time of calm, you will be more successful – and graceful – in deploying the conflict style of your choice in storm.
A transition phrase empowers your rational brain with key words that help it maintain control in dicey moments as the lower brain gets activated. With a little practice you’ll soon express the intention behind the phrases spontaneously.
Transition Phrases for Avoiding
Avoiding has huge benefits and huge weaknesses, summarized below. This post is for those situations where you’ve thought it through and decided Avoiding is the right response.
Of course, an easy way to avoid is to say little or just disappear.
But sometimes that’s not an option and you have to say something. This is especially common if you’re leading or coordinating a group of people.
Metaphors useful in constructing an avoiding response include: set aside the issue, not go into that, maintain focus on (something else), give priority to (something else) delay or postpone discussion; wait until the time is right (or we have the energy required, the time needed, etc.), think things through, agree to disagree.
Sample transition phrases:
Let’s set that issue aside for another time. (Or similarly: Let’s save that for another time.)
I’d rather not open that up right now.
Sorry, I’m not ready to discuss that right now. I think we’d better stay focused on (whatever other task or topic is in play) for now and deal with this (contentious) question later.
I’d like to give priority to (some other task or activity requiring attention) right now and not start a discussion of that at this moment.
I agree that we need to discuss that, but I’m too (tired, stressed, distracted, upset, anxious, etc.) to take it on right now. Could we agree on another time to discuss it?
I will be a much better partner in discussing that if I take some time to think it through. Could we put it aside for now and discuss it later?
Maybe we just need to agree to disagree on that.
Whatever transition phrases you choose, they should roll easily off your tongue and feel natural to you. From the words and sentences above, pick those that seem most useful. Edit and change them to fit you. Then memorize and review them so you can use them without hesitation when Avoiding seems like the best response.
Soon the concepts behind the phrases will take root in your brain and you’ll find your own spontaneous words for a request to Avoid without a second thought.
All the above are equally useful in group leadership, by the way. It’s impossible to facilitate group discussion without using conflict avoidance from time to time. And the same goes for all the other conflict styles. Every ounce of grace that you master in use of conflict styles interpersonally will serve you well organizationally!