23 Apr Managing Conflict
How to manage conflict
When you actively listen to others, you manage conflict by making them feel heard. Active listening is a process of hearing and attending to what people tell you, then repeating what they said in your own words. Effective active listening involves some back and forth, but reduces space for misunderstanding. By repeating others’ words, you show them you are paying attention and give a chance to correct your interpretation based on their perspective. In the end, you create a less defensive and more accepting atmosphere conducive to resolving conflict.
Define Acceptable Behavior
You know what they say about assuming…(ass/u/me) Just having a definition for what constitutes acceptable behavior is a positive step in avoiding conflict.
Hit Conflict Head-on
While you can’t always prevent conflicts, it has been my experience that the secret to conflict resolution is in fact conflict prevention. By actually seeking out areas of potential conflict and proactively intervening in a just and decisive fashion you will likely prevent certain conflicts from ever arising. If a conflict does flair up, you will likely minimize its severity by dealing with it quickly. Time spent identifying and understanding natural tensions will help to avoid unnecessary conflict.
Understanding the WIIFM Factor
Understanding the other professionals WIIFM (What’s In It For Me) position is critical. It is absolutely essential to understand other’s motivations prior to weighing in. The way to avoid conflict is to help those around you achieve their objectives. If you approach conflict from the perspective of taking the action that will help others best achieve their goals you will find few obstacles will stand in your way with regard to resolving conflict.
The Importance Factor
Pick your battles and avoid conflict for the sake of conflict. However if the issue is important enough to create a conflict then it is surely important enough to resolve. If the issue, circumstance, or situation is important enough, and there is enough at stake, people will do what is necessary to open lines of communication and close positional and/or philosophical gaps.
View Conflict as an Opportunity
Hidden within virtually every conflict is the potential for a tremendous teaching/learning opportunity. Where there is disagreement there is an inherent potential for growth and development. If you’re a CEO who doesn’t leverage conflict for team building and leadership development purposes you’re missing a great opportunity. Divergent positions addressed properly can stimulate innovation and learning in ways like minds can’t even imagine. Smart leaders look for the upside in all differing opinions.
Limit Stress’ Impact
Conflict can naturally induce a state of stress, so get a hold on it to help you manage conflict. Stress impairs your ability to think clearly, understand your and others’ emotions and effectively listen to others. Reduce the impact of stress by taking time to breathe and clear your mind, then notice any spots of tension within your body and relax. Keeping your emotions grounded means you can more efficiently communicate with others to manage conflict.
Understanding your emotions during conflict will help you communicate better. If you are unaware of your feelings, you create the capacity for them to influence more of your thinking and communication. During conflict, take a moment to assess your feelings. By working to understand your feelings, you are able to think more clearly but also communicate better. Keeping your emotions in check begins with knowing them and ends with more effective conflict resolution.
I statements allow you to manage conflict by holding yourself accountable for your feelings and stating why they occurred. I statements begin with you stating a feeling, the event that prompted the feeling and why you feel that way. For example, an I statement you may use with a colleague can look like: I felt disappointed when you left me out of the meeting. Instead of blaming others, I statements shift the perspective to you and how you feel, a beneficial tool for working through conflict.
ACE – Anticipate, Create and Evaluate
1) Anticipate when the next time a conflict will arise. Identify how you will recognize it. This may be because of some response in you or it may be because of some specific behavior on the part of the other or it may simply be because a certain time has come.
2) Create a new way of addressing the conflict. You can remember what you did last time and what affect the choices you made then had on you and on the relationship. How do you want things to be different next time? This step has two parts to it:
a) Plan for what you intend to do.
b) Implement the plan.
3) Evaluate how well the plan worked. In what ways did it move you toward what you need and in what ways did it fall short? How well were you able to do what you planned to do and how were you acting differently than you expected to act?
Then, trusting that the pattern will reappear, begin the process again by anticipating the next occurrence.