We all experience conflict in one way or another. Think of the times when you were party to a difference of opinion or the times when you were responsible for guiding a conversation to an agreeable resolution.
Conflicts can be as small as deciding what colour to paint the walls in your new home — you like a calming gray while your partner prefers a bold burgundy. Who wins? Maybe you were on a family vacation and the decision to go snorkelling or horseback riding divided the family. How did you work through it?
A conflict can be defined as a disagreement between people with differing opinions, ideas or principles.
These disagreements can sometimes be uncomfortable. I recall a situation when two co-workers felt strongly about a decision to remove copy from a monthly publication. One agreed it was a good idea to remove the feature and hold it for a later publication date, while the other felt strongly that the copy should remain in order to meet a looming deadline.
They stormed into my office to express their concern. They had conflicting opinions and it was my job to diffuse the situation and lead them to a healthy discussion.
Listen to understand
Conflict resolution tests your communication skills. It requires listening to understand and respecting the sensitivities and opinions of each party.
Each person involved should have a chance to express their thoughts. This helps ensure everyone has a clear understanding of the conflict. By listening, you’ll quickly identify where communication may have broken down and where you might pick up the discussion. Chances are, you’ll hear details you may not be aware of.
In my example, the feature being pulled from the publication was about career opportunities within the organization. Had we not listened to hear the concerns, we would not have learned that the subject of the story was leaving the organization — not a good candidate for the article!
This tidbit of knowledge helped move the conversation along. Now we could focus on coming up with solutions to address the looming deadline.
No one wants to feel like their ideas are not as important as the next person’s. We all come with different perspectives, experiences and skill sets. We can all learn from each other. While listening shows you care, it’s also important to express empathy and understanding.
Share healthy conversation
Once there’s clarity on what the conflict is all about, it will be easier to work together to come to a resolution. Healthy conversation and sharing ideas will help diffuse the situation and put a focus on finding a solution. Engaging others to provide their input goes a long way to breaking down walls and problem solving. You’ll promote a team effort and we all know teamwork will get you there!
Capture your agreement
Once you’ve come to a resolution, confirm agreement wth the team. Is everyone onside? Is everyone willing to support the recommendation? Take the time to summarize the consensus and share it with the group. Follow-up again with a written summary and your appreciation for the outcome.
Conflicts can be uncomfortable, but they don’t need to be. You’ve got this! Give it a try.