What you need to know:
- Most people talk far too much during an argument, and work on their replies rather than listening.
- Most people only really hear what matches their point of view, so instead try to understand everyone’s perspective.
Conflict is almost inevitable at work, and not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it can be intensely interesting. The best workplaces aren’t conflict-free, they just handle it constructively.
So don’t avoid arguments, and instead develop good conflict management skills.
Start by hearing everyone out. When people are upset about something, they need to get their story out, so resolving conflicts can be as simple as letting people express their views.
At the same time ask yourself if you’ve contributed to the dispute, and apologise if necessary.
Most people talk far too much during an argument, and work on their replies rather than listening.
So learn to listen carefully to what everyone’s saying.
Show you’re paying attention by nodding and saying things like ‘OK…’, ‘Go on…’
Most people only really hear what matches their point of view, so instead try to understand everyone’s perspective.
Ask clarifying questions, repeat the argument back to check you understood everything, identify the facts of the situation as well as you can, and don’t make any assumptions about what other people are thinking.
Show empathy, and avoid making judgemental comments. Because resolving conflicts well is all about solving the problem rather than pointing fingers.
Keep your focus on what can be done to do things better in future so that the discussion is on the issues, rather than a personality clash.
Choose your words carefully. Because saying someone ‘always messes things up’, will escalate the tensions, while ‘Let’s take a closer look at why this keeps happening’ might actually find a solution.
Questions like ‘Why’s that?’ make people defensive, and ensure that you’ll only get what you want to hear, rather than what they want to tell you.
And open-ended questions like ‘Can you tell me what happened?’ mean that they’ll tell you what they think is important about the situation.
People often have very different perceptions of what has occurred, so try to understand everyone’s individual viewpoints and find common ground.
Ask yourself what’s really motivating things.
For example, why won’t someone agree to a particular solution?
Summarise the key issues once you have heard from everyone, and encourage them to discuss possible solutions.
Alert management immediately if you realise you’re dealing with a serious issue such as sexual harassment. Follow your organisation’s formal procedures, and document the problem in writing.
It’s particularly difficult to resolve a conflict with your boss. Because you can never win in that situation.
Often the only solution, however unfair it seems, is to start networking to find another job.
After a conflict’s been resolved, consider how you managed your own emotions. How does stress or anger affect you? What triggers set you off? What coping mechanisms do you use? Use your answers to create a plan for handling yourself better next time.
Most people are afraid of confrontation and shy away from it. But develop really good conflict management skills, and you’ll begin to stand out from the crowd.