Conflict is inevitable. If you aspire to achieve anything of value or significance in life, you will encounter situations where people disagree with you in an emotional or even disruptive way. The great news is, if someone is so emotionally invested in a subject you disagree with them on, it means they are passionate and willing to commit to an ideal.
Those are the types of people we want to surround ourselves with, not marginalize or shutdown. They challenge us to entertain alternate viewpoints and consider our perspectives in a different light.
Some people are so terrified of these types of interactions that they avoid conflict altogether. This is a recipe for disaster, as time and experience will show when the heated pot of their frustration inevitably boils over. This may be the most commonly (and inappropriately) implemented conflict resolution strategy in the world. Let me be clear, this leads to individual and group failure, every time. If this is you, you need to stop. Right now.
To achieve the best results from conflict resolution strategies, first agree to observe a few ground rules:
Avoid Universal Statements. Every, all, never and always are not productive terms in conflict resolution. Even if your perception urges you otherwise. Can anyone honestly say something always happens? So, don’t say it.
No Personal Attacks. Use possessive “I” statements instead of accusational “you” statements. Make sure you let the person know how you feel. For example, “When you don’t take the time to listen to my input, it makes me feel like my professional opinion doesn’t matter. I feel unheard.”
Listen. When one person speaks, the other person should listen with an open heart and mind. Rather than plan your rebuttal while the other person is talking, be sure to actually listen to what they’re saying and understand their feelings.
One Problem at a Time. If the interaction is extremely heated, it’s likely that there is more than one underlying issue that may need resolution. Don’t jump from one to another but do consider whether there is a root cause issue that has created the current situation.
Get a Moderator if Needed. If you’re still having issues, ask an impartial friend or someone close to both of you to come over and moderate so they can keep you on track. Nothing hinders conflict resolution more than repeatedly getting sidetracked with petty details.
With the ground rules in place, let’s consider conflict resolution strategies:
1. Commit to Deprioritize Winning. Both sides have to agree that resolving the issue (and any other root cause problems) is more important than “winning” this argument. Team success, whether at work or at home has to take priority. If the emotion of the moment prevents anyone from realistically employing this strategy, try strategy three first.
If that doesn’t work, an impartial mediator may be necessary to deal with the underlying root cause issue before the current urgency is addressed. This is exactly the type of problem that happens when conflict goes unaddressed for long periods of time.
However, if even after a cool down period, one or neither side will commit to deprioritize winning and focus on the greater good, then they may not be right for your team. Consider whether they are fit for the role they are in or if they need to be somewhere else within or outside of your organization or social circle.
2. Sit Facing One Another, Knee Pointing to Knee. Adjust this strategy as appropriate for work or home. Be careful to not invade someone’s personal space. Sitting with your knees pointing toward each other is a powerful way to restore the humanity of the situation. Our anger tends to reduce our perception of the offending person down to the behavior vice the individual. We need to remind ourselves; they are vulnerable complicated and flawed, just like we are.
Place two chairs close together without a desk or other furniture in the way, have a seat and start talking about the issue. Knee to knee proximity forces you to pay attention to each other, which is one of the quickest paths to success. Remember, the most recent events may or may not be the actual issue, so dig a little deeper. Don’t look to critique, look to find common ground and respect.
3. Cool down. Sometimes just stepping out of the situation or location allows both people to cool down. One of the biggest problems with conflict is many times, people feel like they are being attacked, instead of focusing on the problem or situation. You can take a time-out and set an appointment to discuss the problem when both parties have cooled off.
By taking time to cool down, both parties can come back together and attack the situation instead of each other. There is one extremely important caveat here: you have to set a time limit. Don’t wait weeks or even days, discuss with each other that you both need to commit to prioritizing a resolution and make specific time for it to happen.
Additionally, Sometimes, just changing where you are can disarm the volatility of the moment. Go outside, sit down on a bench or go grab something to eat together.
The rest is up to you. Remember the ground rules you agreed to and get to work. By taking ownership of the outcome you create the greatest potential for success. And at the end of the day, isn’t that what we all want?
Living Every Minute,