7 ways to successfully manage conflict and how to remember them
[3 min read]
Use the GUIDE to turn dysfunctional situations into positive outcomes.
Unresolved (or badly handled) conflict situations in the workplace have an enormous negative impact on day-to-day operations and severely affect individuals on a physical, mental and emotional level. It is important for successful leaders to know how to de-escalate and successfully manage difficult situations.
No doubt you would have been in situations where you disagreed with someone’s point of view at work (or elsewhere) and got quite frustrated or even aggravated. Differences in thinking, beliefs, values or ideas often lead to defensiveness or withdrawal.
There are proven interpersonal communication strategies that give you the ability to disagree with someone without giving him or her the impression of disagreeing. This will allow you to keep the dialogue open and to achieve the best possible outcome for everybody.
Following are 7 ways to secure positive outcomes from dysfunctional situations.
1 | You cannot argue with a point you have not heard
People are quick to interrupt when they are in disagreement. Do not jump to conclusions and listen instead.
“We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.” Epictetus
2 | Is there really a disagreement?
After listening and considering what the other person has to say, you might find, that there is no disagreement at all. For example: John from Perth says, “I will call you tomorrow at 11am.” Peter from Melbourne replies, “You are not listening. I told you I am not available before 1pm.” If Peter had listened carefully and considered that John lives in Perth and has a 2-hour time difference, he would have realised that both were talking about the same time slot.
3 | Keep an open mind
Be willing and open to understand why and how the other person came to his/her conclusion. This gives you the opportunity to pick up on valuable insights you previously didn’t know or consider, which in turn will help you to improve your own ideas and find even better solutions to move forward.
Ask questions such as: “Walk me through your process and help me to understand why you are doing it that way” or “Have you considered doing it XYZ way?” or “How do you think this will impact our business’ revenue, cost and ultimately bottom line?”
4 | Have some popcorn
The more you can separate yourself emotionally from the disagreement the less defensive and the more productive and smooth the process will be from your end. As soon as you realise that negative feelings and emotions are creeping in, disassociate yourself with the situation. You can do this by visualising yourself sitting in the cinema looking at the event and yourself on the big screen from a distance (disassociated), rather than through your own eyes in the movie (associated). You will notice that through the different perspective you will see things clearer, and you are in a position for better questions and decisions. Have some popcorn!
5 | Avoid telling people that your opinion is “for their own good”
Basically, what you’re saying is: “You’re too dumb to know the best way to do things around here. I know it better and I’m going to impose my will on you whether you like it or not.” This just increases the disagreement rather than closing the gap. Instead, acknowledge how the other person is thinking, agree on the things they’re already doing well and replace the desire to impose your will with something like: “I admire what you do and I don’t want to rearrange what works well for you and the company. I just want to share my experience in case you might like to pick one or two of my ideas that might improve your work, if that is okay with you?”
6 | Communicate your objective
People need to understand your ideas and why some changes are required. Make it clear that you are interested in continuous improvement to build and not destroy the future of the business and each individual, and to make an idea better rather than sabotage it.
7 | Move on
Dwelling on past differences does not lead to productive results, in fact it will only hold you back and most likely create new differences and disagreements. You would have heard the saying “water under the bridge”, so once a disagreement is resolved, let it go and move on!
In addition to the acquired strategies that will assist you to avoid the common conflict traps, it is always handy to have a step-by-step reference to recall when needed. Familiarise yourself with the following guide and even keep a printed copy next to your phone to assist you next time you face a challenging phone conversation.
Step by step guide to manage conflict
G et into the right mindset
Stay clear of the drama cycle and be objective.
U nderstand the other person’s request
Gain clarity of what the individual truly needs and build rapport.
I nclude the other party
Collaborate through solution-based questions and include the person in the decision-making process.
D ecide on the way forward
Agree on specifics by clearly communicating the How, What, Where, When and Whom.
E valuate and follow up
Continuously communicate your progress to all involved parties until a win/win outcome is achieved.
If you are committed to develop your interpersonal skills and conflict management confidence, you set yourself up for successful de-escalation and management of those undesirable situations and behaviours. You will be able to turn dysfunctional and challenging situations into productive and positive outcomes in no time.
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