Monday, March 31, 2014
Who’s afraid of conflict?
Unresolved conflict represents the largest reducible cost in many businesses. Yet, in many organizations, conflict remains largely unrecognized and un-dealt with. At the same time, too many people do not realize that tension and conflict, if you can prevent intense emotions and animosity, carry the seeds of new perspectives, innovative thinking, and better decisions.
Why are we so afraid of conflict and so unsuccessful or clumsy at best at dealing with conflict? Upbringing, personality, societal norms, organizational culture – I’m sure we can blame them all. But rather than wasting time defining, over-analyzing, and psychologizing the world of interpersonal conflicts, I prefer to focus on practical tips: how to prevent unnecessary conflicts from arising and how to benefit from the conflicts that are part of life. Once you know ways to effectively deal with conflicts, there is no need to be afraid of them.
Here are 15 tips:
1. Be aware: Often your assumptions about others' intentions are wrong. Check them. Ask clarifying questions and, the hard part, really listen to the responses.
2. Basic but often neglected: Make sure everyone agrees on what the problem exactly is.
3. Know that every behavior serves a purpose, regardless of whether this purpose is shared and whether the behavior is deemed acceptable by all involved.
4. So step back and ask: What am I and what is she/he trying to protect, avoid, accomplish?
5. Be the first one to verbalize commitment to resolving the conflict.
6. Be aware in the present moment: Pay attention to your own body and emotions and those of others.
7. Analyze and manage expectations on both sides.
8. Be ready to be wrong. If you are, admit it graciously without undermining yourself.
9. De-escalate by eliminating exaggerations, premature conclusions, and condemnations - instead ask questions, listen, and tell your version respectfully.
10. Make sure not to confuse assertive communication with aggressive communication.
11. State things openly and directly rather than implying them indirectly.
12. Filter out unproductive feedback. Ignore it and focus on relevant content.
13. Focus on interests, not positions.
14. Focus on common ground while also exploring differences with genuine respect and an open mind.
15. Ask yourself which of the many thinking distortions might be hindering you: fanatic perfectionism, disaster thinking, low frustration tolerance, wishes-turned-demands, love addiction, the blame game, generalizing, taking things personal, black-and-white thinking, exaggerating the negative…
Seeking self-interest and clashing wants, needs, and expectations will lead to conflict. Conflict develops where people’s lives, jobs, children, pride, ego, and sense of purpose is at play. Don’t obsess with keeping everything as even-keeled, nice, and smooth as possible. Learn to recognize and manage conflict. Use conflict as an opportunity to gain new perspectives and make better decisions.