4 Tips to Resolve Unwanted Conflict So You Can Focus on Your Business


4 Tips to Resolve Unwanted Conflict So You Can Focus on Your Business

As much as we avoid conflict, it happens and it can even happen in a healthy way, but often it becomes disruptive and takes a lot of mental energy away from our work. Sometimes it can even rob us of sleep when we ruminate and keep going over it in our minds. I can think of far more productive, not to mention pleasant, ways to use the power of our mind.

Inevitably, there will be a time when differences arise to the point where the tension gets really uncomfortable. Don’t wait until it becomes a conflict, nip it in the bud before it becomes destructive. The last thing you need in your business is unresolved people issues.

In a study by Accenture, despite difficult economic times, 35% of employees leave due to office politics. Tension and disagreement that becomes office politics can be resolved when we stop avoiding difficult conversations and learn to be proactive about resolving conflict.

Before I share a few handy tips for resolving conflict, let’s get one thing clear. When conflict escalates we stop thinking rationally. It’s one of the reasons we avoid conflict in general. We might try to reason with someone we’re in conflict with and it simply doesn’t work. We’re not in a mental space to be able to make rational decisions.

Sometimes the best thing to do when things get heated, is withdraw from the conversation, let things cool down. Address it once the heat is gone, or at least simmered, and a rational conversation can be had. If you choose to withdraw and the heat has subsided, notice if you’re putting it off, catch yourself, and stop avoiding it, muster the courage, get some support, have the conversation before the moment is lost or it starts to fester.

Here are my top tips for resolving conflict:

1. Remember to ‘KISS’

This principle goes a long way in both preventing and resolving conflict. Keep it short and sweet. When there are elaborate explanations for why something happened or an attempt to make the other person understand where you’re coming from, it can just make things worse.

Aim for simple and succinct when it comes to dialogue around conflict. Make sure you’re taking time to hear and understand each other. Which brings us to the next tip.

2. Listen for Understanding Instead of Agreement

Most of the time when we are listening to someone, we are assessing how much we agree or disagree with them instead of making sure we understand what they are communicating. We assume we know, when in fact we are hearing what’s said through our own filters.

When we’re on the same page as the person we’re listening to, our filters don’t have a negative impact as much. However, once we stray from a common understanding, that’s where assumptions can lead to  misunderstandings and conflict.

When you take the time to make sure you get what they’re saying, you can prevent or resolve conflict more easily. Think about how it feels to be really listened to, really heard and understood. Imagine how giving that to someone can help reduce conflict and ease tension. This also offers the best chance to actually address an issue before it becomes a problem.

3. Take Responsibility

This can be counter intuitive for many of us, especially if you believe you’re right and the other person is wrong. For the sake of moving beyond the conflict, loosen up on the whole ‘right/wrong’ framework. As yourself what matters more, being right or the relationship that’s not doing so well at the moment?

In The Big Leap, Gay Hendricks talks about both people taking 100% responsibility as the best way to resolve a conflict. You can’t control how much the other person will take responsibility but by steering the conversation toward what you recognise you can be responsible for in the interaction, it makes room for a greater possibility of resolution.

It takes two to tango and although it can be hard to see sometimes, there is always something we could have done differently to prevent a conflict. There is always something we have done to contribute to it, the sooner we can take responsibility for that, the sooner the conflict will de-escalate.

4. Invite Cooperation

Another way to steer the conversation toward resolution, especially after taking responsibility, is to ask the person you’re in conflict with if they are willing to work together to resolve the issue. This is another thing we easily assume at our peril.

Being explicit about seeking cooperation toward resolving the conflict can bring the focus away from the problem and toward a solution. As an act of good faith you might say what you can do to address the situation. This is a great way to get people onside when they’re upset with you or with a situation.

So remember, when it comes to looking at how to resolve conflict: keep it simple; listen for understanding; take responsibility and invite cooperation.

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