If your work experience is clouded with more than the creative-difference type of conflict, if you have experiences of anxiety or anger, there is an effective, healthy approach to work through it and feel more at peace and strong.
Work is often a stressful environment of different personalities, unexpressed and varying expectations, personality conflicts, territorial mindsets and aggravation over a lack of support and sometimes, resources. That’s a common landscape and often a toxic and costly one. Yet, long periods of time transpire with these characteristics with relational, production and financial costs.
What’s unusual is that most people or departments, because they are at work, voluntarily respond (choose) in a way that keeps them mired in the muck. They avoid, accommodate or compromise (none of which is value creating).
The other usual suspect is competition.
None of these paths serves the business, small or large group or important interdependent relationships.
So what do you do to function at a higher level professionally and personally and enjoy your work more?
Realize the need to learn satisfactory proficiency of healthy conflict management skills
We know we have to learn technical skills to get jobs, manage or build a business yet what percentage of people think about the conflicts inherent in the workplace and are proactive about acquiring those critical success skills? If we’re going to excel and rise through the organization or create profitable businesses, we have to work with other people, people who don’t always see decision-making as we do. Now you have a challenge. How are you going to handle it effectively, consistently without education and training? Colleges and training companies offer these high-return-on-investment skills.
Be courageous in the face of conflict
Neither avoidance or compromise help parties feel good about a relationship nor move it forward in a positive manner. Usually these approaches only create resentment, dysfunction and unnecessary expense.
Most people don’t like conflict. Yet if we run from it because of past negative experiences, then what changes for the better? If we give in to others, we’re accommodating and again, the negative status quo rules. If we compromise, we’re not as mature as we think because compromise rarely helps anyone feel happy. You’ve just changed the conflict, we didn’t manage or resolve it.
Competition is throwing gas on the fire. It creates more problems.
Listen more, listen smarter and listen with perspective taking in mind
As human beings the general truth is we prefer talking over listening. Communication is necessary. As much as we like to express our feelings and goals and want others to hear them and work with us or move out of the way, the recipients of those messages also want their messages heard, respected and supported.
Listening with focus, listening without thinking about what we want to say next and remaining patient to let the other person speak is smart business. It lessens tension. Keep eye contact and acknowledge their views, even if you disagree, and take part in perspective taking – working at seeing why they feel so strongly about their views, coming from their experiences and respect those feelings as you want yours to be felt and respected.
This approach is emotionally intelligent and much more influential than an egocentric method of talking more, listening less, caring less about others as fellow human beings with the same basic needs.
Discover how each of us thinks, acknowledge how important those stances are and get creative
Do you know what conflict really is? It’s an expression of differences that shows problem solving, creative problem solving, is in need. Conflict should just be a think tank of creativity and collaboration and can be once the emotions are acknowledged and respected.
Once you have a diffused emotional atmosphere there is likely a higher degree of receptiveness to problem solving, a higher degree (or at least a sliver) of trust and the world of possibility in working together to find solution “packages” that address each parties priorities. Lecturing and demanding breaks the peace, helping others get their needs met and being assertive (not aggressive) helps you claim resolution actions as well.
When doing this, always go back and forth and ask “if”, as in “if we do this for the mutual goal, will be be doing this too for it?” Find a way to satisfy as many critical needs as possible for one another, impress the other person and hold firm, respectfully, on receiving reciprocation. This concession method is called principled negotiation. Concede to serve the process of collaboration with reasoning and logic, with the expectation of receiving concessions back.
Ask if they are comfortable committing to implementation and further meetings if necessary
Once you have ideas (written down), ask if the other person (or department) feels comfortable with how this plan looks and the likelihood it will be improvement. Look for what’s right, compliment them on their effort and contribution and see if there are still areas of concern. Address those. You don’t have to all this in one meeting. Just make sure to set a date and time to follow up again in short order.
This all might sound convoluted, time consuming and too much work but it’s simple practice, requiring belief, courage, sincere and sustained curiosity and empathy, repetition, instinct, flexibility and it results in power that will change your work life forever.
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