Conflict resolution is, in theory, quite simple and one of the most essential soft skills that can be developed in the workplace. Yet who among us hasn’t experienced times when our common sense flies out the window and even the most basic skills desert us. Those times demonstrate that conflict resolution may be simple, but it is far from easy.
This seems pretty basic and logical, yet conflict often can turn into one of two scenarios: a rage fueled argument that is super unproductive or the discussion is avoided at all costs due to our fear that it will not end well. Even conflict resolution professionals will admit to “losing it” from time to time in the heat of the moment or choosing not to address the “elephant” in the room.
We are constantly telling ourselves stories about the facts we are observing in our life. It is important to be aware that the same set of facts can lead to several different stories. This is the origin of the phrase, “A picture is worth a 1,000 words.” For example, your colleague is late for an important client meeting. There could be several different stories you could tell yourself. Your colleague doesn’t care about the client, they have poor work ethic, they don’t respect the time of others, etc. It could also be that your colleague was in a major accident, with life threatening injuries, and the client meeting was no longer the top priority at the present moment.
The challenge is that in these situations, we don’t do a very good job of staying neutral until we engage in dialogue to understand the entire situation. The stories we tell ourselves cause us to filter out data that might help us resolve the conflict. We fail to notice how much influence our stories have on our emotion, and we are quick to blame others for how we feel. If our story "makes sense" to us, we stop examining it and get too confident about it. When we fail to notice our story, we can jump to conclusions and take action that we often later wish we hadn't.
When there are extreme emotions, strong opinions and opposing points of view, we also tend to reduce the amount of time we communicate with one another, which means our stories are not being tested. In these cases, our stories take hold of us and become even stronger. It takes a lot of practice (including a lot of mistakes) to get great at defusing conflict and building relationships, but it's worth it. Strong working relationships are essential in order to meet the intense challenges organizations are facing today.
Skills and knowledge are necessary to resolve conflict, but will be useless unless we remember to employ them. So next time you find yourself in conflict, take a deep breath, focus on the facts, check your motives and ask yourself what do you want most. If you would like assistance in fine tuning your conflict resolution skills – I can help. My virtual workshops are super interactive, practical and highly effective. www.pennvieau.com