Browsing thru my old journals and found this gem. Hopefully, it would remind me and anyone else interested on how to manage conflicts. My experience in the past tend to make me very “flammable” and confrontational. But the ‘fire’ can be use for good, if I know how to control it.
1. Acknowledge the Conflict
If you have a problem, but you don’t know you have a problem, is a much bigger problem. The same goes to conflict. For example, I have a problem when dealing with fools, most of the time, I tend to let go. One of my colleague once feared that I might have a heart attack.
If you do not accept that a dispute exists, you risk letting it grow more severe. You can question yourself to see if you have accepted the existence of a conflict.
In order to find out if you do have a conflict, try asking yourself these question –
- Do you find yourself worrying about the situation at night?
- Do you find yourself seeking to avoid someone?
- Do you find yourself gossiping about that person?
If you find yourself answering yes to any of these questions, you could be embroiled in a conflict. It also important to know just knowing that you’re in conflict doesn’t mean that you need to solve it immediately. Solving conflict would require courage, therefore, we need to respond in a mature way. Time your response well.
Oh yes. There’s also “internal conflicts”. This might be a struggle for us everyday. For example, young people have aspirations for their lives. However, in time, these objectives can seem unrealistic because they conflict with demands such as earning money and supporting a family. This generates internal conflict. When you encounter a problem in the outside world, your internal conflicts can surface and determine how you respond. Once you begin to understand your own conflicts you can make more sensible decisions.
2. Take Control of Your Response
When you feel emotionally overwhelmed, try to control your reactions, especially if they begin to lead you in a harmful direction.
Take a step back, and breath. Take a deep breath in, hold for 7 seconds, and the release it slowly. Repeat for 3 times. That what I did, and it work for me. Although, there’s one problem with that technique, my friends tend to notice it.
Most people react instinctively and that typically means that they do not think through how they respond. And that may mean they will not act sensibly.
So, if you decide to take action in your conflict, think clearly about what confronts you, your emotional predilections and the choices before you. First take a break. This gives you a moment to evaluate your position and decide how to act.
In Eric Berne’s book, Games People Play, he sets out his ideas about “transactional analysis.” He describes the “ego states” of “parent, adult and child” that people pass through in dealing with others. If you can move into an adult state in a conflict you can see its issues in context and make the most thoughtful choices. But, simple breathing technique before is easier to me.
If you have any other technique which could help, please do share 🙂
3. Apply the Resolution Framework for Difficult Conversations
Sound complicated, but it kind of simple actually.
Take these steps for your communication during a conflict:
- “Manage your physical and emotional response” – By focusing on your bodily feelings, you can manage the situation you encounter advantageously. Listen to your breath and heartbeat. Breathe slowly to calm your body.
- “Write down your initial fears, wants and needs” – If you write down your apprehensions about a situation you reduce the need to discuss it with anyone else.
- “Change perspectives and see the bigger picture” – To deal with a difficult situation, accept responsibility for how you act and respond. That means accepting the consequences of your actions, so consider how you might act and what consequences your actions might provoke.
- “Get your facts straight” – Prepare yourself with correct information so you do not err when you enter into a conversation. Make sure your emotions don’t lead you to distort the facts of the situation.
- “Identify and think through outcomes and options” – A challenging situation could open up new territory. Think through the options that await you and the other person.
“The most effective agreements are generally those that have been carefully constructed rather than imposed.”
You never know what you will encounter in a conversation. In the second stage of applying the resolution framework, practice expansive listening to make sure that you give the other person a chance to speak before rushing to premature judgment. I typically use the 30-seconds rule, I gave them at least 30-seconds to explain themselves before interrupting.
Use “summarizing and paraphrasing techniques” to clarify the situation. This means saying back to other people in your own words what you think they just said. Then, if you misunderstood, you give them a chance to clarify. This also demonstrates that you are paying attention.
You can also attempt “reframing.” Try to present the situation using a new perspective. Inevitably, your own values could influence how you reframe. However, those who are listening will know if you distort what they intend to say. Go beyond listening and heed the words people use. Watch their body language and whether they seem uncomfortable about certain subjects. Give them time to reveal whatever is on their minds.
4. Manage the Resolution – the Soft Mediation Assignment
You can act as a “resolution agent” in situations where the conflicting sides have not become unwilling. A resolution agent undertakes many of the same activities as a conflict coach or a mediator. Unlike other roles in conflict resolutions, the resolution agent has an interest in helping the conflicting sides come to an agreement.
The resolution agent needs to construct an environment in which the opposing sides can trust each other and the resolution agent.
“When we are empathizing with someone else’s feelings it is much harder to feel like a victim to them. They stop being a tyrant and become a human being.”
Deliver a speech to the discordant parties that sets out your approach. Explain your perspective and reinforce your neutrality. Set out the options you see so the parties to the conflict know what to expect from you. Help them set boundaries, set an agenda and arrange joint meetings. Help create “SMART agreements,” which are “Specific, Measurable, Agreed, Realistic and Time-bound.” The parties will then subscribe to the agreements rather than accept terms under duress.
5. Build a Culture of Early Conflict Resolution
Context is very important. Out of context statement can make a political party to win or lose an election. Ahmed Deedat used to ask, “what’s the context?”, and I tend to do as well, I find it to be very helpful to understand the full picture.
So, create a context in which people can accept their role in a conflict and use the situation to educate themselves. With this approach, you can add versatility and efficiency to your firm and reduce emotional and legal conflicts. Implementing such an approach calls for organizational culture change. It means adopting new ways of thinking and new processes.
This takes time and generates resistance.
6. Walk the Walk
Or is it “Walk the Talk”. Not sure anymore. My handwriting could be terrible at times.
As you learn more about conflict resolution, consider how you deal with conflict in daily life.First you can become conscious of conflict, then you can acknowledge it and then you can act to resolve it. Encourage your colleagues to learn to manage conflict resolution as a way of strengthening their leadership skills.
7. Engage the Safety Net
You may encounter situations where “informal conflict resolution” doesn’t work. Evaluate your options before you act. Get the best legal advice about the strength of your position. Consult with subject matter experts. Reevaluate your business objectives. You might decide to take legal action to reinforce the impression that you plan to take a tough position.