There are many ways to deal with conflict and some are obviously better than others. Below are some strategies that you might want to explore when you are facing conflict, especially if the outcomes of past exchanges have not usually been what you wanted. It is never easy to do this, however, the only way that the conflict can be resolved successfully is if you do face it and deal with it.
1. Choose the best time for the exchange
- When is the best time or place to tackle the issue?
- Check your emotions so that you can remain calm and in control.
- Better to get face-to-face rather than do this on the telephone.
2. Introduce the situation
- Explain the situation in a non-emotive way.
- Get across the effect of what has happened.
- Be positive in the introduction. For example:
“I do want a productive outcome for both of us”
“I really want to clear the air because it’s not good for either of us”
3. 3 Steps to an Assertive Approach
a) Challenging versus Confronting
Use step 1 sincerely to balance your thoughts and feelings.
- For example:
“I know we all get stressed….”
“I know you’ve been under pressure recently……”
“I understand you needed a solution to that issue……”
“You probably don’t mean to come across in this way…..”
- Avoid “You said”. Try “My understanding of our conversation was…..”
- Don’t say: “You’re wrong”. Try “You may have thought that…….”
- Avoid “Yeah, but…..” in response to the other party – it can say you’re not listening and you just discounted what the other person said.
- Beware of body language and avoid pointing or clenched hands
b) I statements
For example, when someone interrupts us, we could say: “I’m sick of you interrupting me” or “Whenever I start talking, you interrupt me and never let me finish”.
- Try the WHEN – I FEEL – WHAT I’D LIKE…….
- “WHEN I’m not able to finish what I’m saying, I FEEL frustrated and WHAT I’D LIKE to be able to do is complete what I want to say”
- When plans are changed at short notice:
- “I do appreciate we need to react to changes beyond our control, it’s just that WHEN the deadlines are changed at short notice, I FEEL annoyed at having to change my plans at home, and WHAT I’D LIKE is a bit more notice if at all possible”
c) The Broken Record Technique
• Useful when the person is aggressive in nature i.e. isn’t listening.
• The Broken Record technique means that one is simply repeating the same message, but using different words, during the conversation.
4. Reacting versus Responding
- Is it choice or habit – break the habit.
- Count to three to handle instant reactions – act not react.
- Delay the approach until you’re ready.
- Consider their motivations – put yourself in their shoes.
5. Self Disclosure
- ‘Self Disclosure’ is expressing how you (or they) are feeling.
- When we continually suppress our feelings, and then they finally emerge, very often we lose control. By actually saying what we feel, we can release the anxiety that interferes with clear thinking and communication.
- Recognizing the other party’s feelings can also be impactful.
6. Let go of the Past History
- Suspending how you feel about their past behaviour, or what was said ‘in the heat of the moment’ last time.
- Recognize that their poor behaviour last time was being driven by how emotional they were, and should be discounted.
7. Dealing with the other person’s anger
- Stay silent and let them ‘get it off their chest’.
- Use empathetic noises.
- Apologize for the situation or that they feel that way.
- Anti-mirror them e.g. medium volume voice or a reasonable pace of speech.
8. Avoiding absolutes
- Words like ‘always’, ‘never’ and ‘constantly’ are absolutes and should be avoided as they become confrontational.
9. Use of silence
- Keeping quiet for a few seconds after the other parties’ last response.
- Count to 3 slowly in your mind before countering with your response as it just may give an impetus to the discussion for the other party to give in to your request. You may think the silence is a little embarrassing, however skilled negotiators understand its value.
10. Staying Calm in any situation
- This involves training yourself to stay calm in the face of criticism and agreeing with whatever may be fair and useful in it. By refusing to be provoked and upset by criticism, you remove its destructive power.
- For example, if someone calls you stupid, you can agree that sometimes you are. After all, everyone does foolish things sometimes. If someone criticizes your work, you can probably agree that it could be better. Even if it’s already pretty good, there’s likely to be some room for improvement.
11. Look for a win-win approach and outcome
- Actively listen to the other party’s view.
- Remain open-minded as you listen and avoid judgments.
- Put yourself in their shoes.
- Consider what you both need from this situation.
- Voice positiveness e.g. “There must be a way to solve this”.
- Take time out to reflect on what they have said.
In conclusion, the next time you have to deal with a conflict you now have a number of different ideas that you can try that will likely give you a more positive outcome leaving both of you happier with the outcome. Remember, conflict does not resolve itself, it does need to be dealt with, so take the bull by the horns and face the situation, have the difficult conversation and you will truly feel better for it.