Conflict is a predictable part of all working relationships. As we get busy in our daily and professional lives and strive to achieve greater internal success we find that those who embrace conflict as an opportunity to build understanding and better relationships experience greater personal and professional success.
Conflict is the root cause of stress and as a result, most conflicts ought to have resolution or closure. This requires a high degree of self awareness, self regulation, “over the top” communication and the internal motivation to resolve uncomfortable situations. Many of us have a tendency to suppress conflict and attempt to “go along to get along” and in doing so have others believe that all is well and say very little in the process. Many of us believe that by addressing the conflict we in turn are creating a new one. Conflict avoidance may be a great strategy to use if the conflict is relatively small in nature and the energy required to resolve the conflict far out weigh the benefits of a positive result. However, unresolved conflict will lead to resentment, negative relationships and greater unresolved future conflicts; not to mention the negative impact on your health and longevity.
No life, no relationship (professional or otherwise) and no person is perfect. The struggles that we face on a daily basis is real and more importantly very normal. However, that doesn’t mean we cannot use a few strategies to help navigate conflicts in a productive way. Here are a few strategies that you might like to consider; they are:
Recognizing & Expressing Your Feelings:
People can only feel angry, sad, happiness, scared, love, anxiety and contentment and these seven feelings are intrinsic. Knowing and understanding why you feel the way you do determines what you perceive; what you think; what you say and what you do in a conflict situation. We often take on the victim mentality in a conflict situation or feel guilty; we believe that the conflict exists because of us. In many cases, nothing is further from the truth. There are times when people don’t believe that others are reacting the way they expected, they don’t understand what is a reasonable reaction nor are they aware of their expectations of the other party.
Being in touch with your inner self provides a solid foundation in which to successfully resolve a conflict and leads to Conflict Internalization.
Internalizing conflict while articulating frustration allows all parties to avoid emotionally charged critical statements that cannot be retracted and places the other party in a defensive position. Rather than saying, “you frustrate the hell out of me when you say you are going to do something and then don’t do it” ought to be replaced with – “there are times when I feel frustrated by the fact that you do not follow up on your commitments”. Internalizing conflict allows us to recognize our feelings and strengthen compassion while providing a basis for empathy.
Honing Your Listening Skills:
Elizabeth Scott in her writings states that when it comes too effective conflict resolution, how effectively we listen is as important as how we express our feelings. In any successful conflict resolution, it is vital to understand the other party’s perspective even if it “rubs us the wrong way”. It isn’t personal, it’s respectful. Helping the other party feel heard and understood goes a long way toward successful conflict resolution because it enables us to understand where the disconnect lies. Active listening is a skill and we are only there 9 % of the time.
We are usually formulating next responses, thinking how wrong the other party is, getting defensive or doing things that aggravate the other person. Sometimes – our ego gets in the way. It is important that we hear the other persons point of view by strengthening our listening skill set, reading body language and calibrating voice.
Employ Assertive Communication:
Assertive communication is the ability to express positive and negative ideas and feelings in an open, honest and direct way. It recognises our rights whilst still respecting the rights of others. It allows us to take responsibility for ourselves and our actions without judging or blaming other people.
Being assertive means being confident, being clear and being controlled. Saying the wrong thing at the wrong time can be catastrophic to successful conflict resolution. Communicating your thoughts and feelings in a professional, clear and non threatening manner without putting the other person on the defensive is crucial in any successful resolution.
Some tips that can help in assertive communication are:
- be factual and non judgmental,
- be accurate about effects of the conflict and don’t exaggerate,
- use “I” messages – no “you or we”,
- remember facts and feelings are equally important,
- seek a workable solution with closure.
Seek Closure With a Workable Solution:
Once all parties have a solid understanding of perspectives the time for resolution is now. A workable solution is something that all parties can live with and provides systemic closure. Sometimes a simple and obvious answer is derived once all parties have an open and honest dialogue. This also brings people closer together. Other times, more work is required with a few options. Discovering middle ground and a place of understanding that is respectful to all is the only thing worth striving for.
About The Author.
Nicholas Pollice is President of The Pollice Management Consulting Group located in Southern Ontario, Canada. An international presenter and consultant, he is known as a leader in operations management and conflict resolution. A management consultant since 1989, Nicholas conducts programs in human behaviour, interaction management, negotiation, leadership and management. Author of several management and leadership publications, his presentations have been consistently ranked in the top10 %. See Nicholas’ bio and services on the PMCG. Website at www.pollicemanagement.com