Dealing with Conflict: What Are We So Afraid Of?
When I ask clients what their top issues are within their organization, inevitably the inability to deal with conflict effectively is on that list. What are we so afraid of when it comes to dealing with conflict, particularly in business?? Let’s face it conflict isn’t fun, and at times it can be uncomfortable. No one rolls out of bed and says, “Can’t wait to get to the office this morning to deal with this conflict!” As a result, most of us put off having that difficult conversation longer than we should. Conflict does not age well. The longer you take to deal with the issue the more pent up the frustration gets and the higher the likelihood is that it will not be managed well. Envision a pop can getting shook, eventually it will blow. The truth is there are ways to lessen the angst that will help you to deal with conflict in a constructive and effective way.
1. Think of conflict as just a problem to solve. Rather than get uncomfortable look at it as a challenge to work through.
2. Don’t go into a conflict without planning first. You can’t shoot from the hip and manage conflict well. Map out what you are going to say and anticipate their potential response.
3. Consider the personality of the other individual. Their style may be different than yours which will require you to flex or frankly you may have the same style and you are pushing each other’s buttons.
4. Ground yourself. Before you deal with the situation come to terms with the baggage that you are carrying around about the individual in question. If you go in with a negative mindset it is very likely you won’t come out with a positive outcome.
5. Words matter. You can say anything to anyone, it’s all in the tone and the words you use to convey the message. Understand that relationships do not have to be harmed just because you have to deal with an issue.
6. Don’t talk in absolutes. Saying “You always… or “You Never…” automatically creates a defensive posture.
7. Paraphrase back what you think you heard. It is amazing how many times we are off on our perception of what has been said.
8. Stay calm. Getting emotional NEVER improves the situation.
9. Know when to call a time out. If tensions are rising know when to say, “Let’s pick this up tomorrow when we are both in a better place.”
10. Never get personal EVER! You should only talk in terms of the behavior’s effect on you and not about the individual personally.
Recognize that conflict on teams is inevitable and actually a good thing if managed properly. When there is no passionate debate between team members that could actually be a sign that people have “quit and stayed”. This means they show up every day for work but have mentally quit. As a manager you don’t want to put the lid on good constructive conflict because it shows passion and investment on the part of your employees.