Conflict is unavoidable.
It’s all around us. It happens every day. And, if you are like most of us, you try hard to avoid it. Most of us aren’t comfortable dealing with conflict when it happens. We remain silent and hope it will go away – letting a small thing eventually turn into a bigger one.
Others like to jump to anger right away. Recently I backed out of a parking lot and “almost” scrapped a really nice convertible. In my defense, he was parked crooked. As I started to pull away a man came running towards me yelling at me about how I almost hit his expensive car. He said some things that weren’t very nice and I immediately felt my heart beating faster. Fortunately, his friend came out and calmed him down. But this guy was clearly a “jump to violence when you are in conflict” kind of guy. So, what should I do?
When conflict happens, do you jump to silence or violence? Neither are very good options.
When you find yourself in or near a conflict situation, you always have three ways you can respond.
1) Avoid it and hope it goes away,
2) handle it poorly, or
3) handle it well.
Most of us don’t always handle conflict well. And by handling it “well” I mean handling conflict in an assertive, productive, respectful way.
Do you handle conflict well? If you could brush up or use some new conflict management skills, here are 6 steps for you to practice and follow.
1. Stop, breath, and think.
Stop whatever you’re doing, take a couple of deep breaths to control your tension, and then think about exactly what you need to do and say next.
2. Acknowledge the conflict.
Say something like: “I’m sensing that there are some issues between the two of us that we need to talk through,” or, “I’m feeling that getting so close to your nice car upset you. Can we talk about it?”
3. Use your active listening skills.
Don’t interrupt or try to defend or convince. Listen to their side of the story first! Say, “Tell me more.” or “I understand you are feeling angry”. Resist the urge to interrupt to defend yourself. Always Listen first!
4. Stick to the issue, not the person.
When responding: focus on the issue at hand instead of how you feel about the person. Focus on the unwanted behavior or the issue in the core of the conflict. Be gentle on the person and tough on the issue:
• Be specific and descriptive. Describe what specifically happened? Describe the Gap: “Here is what I was expecting; here is what happened. Let’s talk about the gap.”
• State your thoughts, feelings, and wants. What are you thinking and/or feeling? What do you want to have happen?
• Focus on the actions and behaviors, not the person. Don’t blame the person; describe the actions or behavior that caused the conflict.
• Pause and check for understanding. Say, “Do you understand what I mean?” and “Did I understand you correctly?”
5. Keep it respectful.
Do your absolute best to conduct yourself in a calm and respectful manner—regardless of how the other person responds. Be kind and keep a cool head.
6. Clarify your intentions.
What needs to happen next? What are the next steps that need to happen to resolve the conflict? Make a plan and agree on it. Set a specific action to happen by a specific date, then remember to follow-up.
Will it be easy? Of course not! However, that doesn’t change the fact that although you can’t control what others do, you certainly can (and do) control your own behavior.
By learning the communication skills you need for successful conflict resolution, you can keep your personal and professional relationships strong and growing.
Betty Lochner is the Owner of Cornerstone Coaching & Training. She specializes in personal and organizational transformation and is the author of Dancing with Strangers: Communication skills for transforming your life at work and at home, 52 Communication Tips, and Gladie’s Gift. All are available on Amazon.com. To find out more about Cornerstone’s services and offerings visit our website: www.cornerstone-ct.com
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