7 Strategies for Conquering Conflict
Solutions to conflicts that really work and that build heart in relationships are fairly easy to implement. Our efforts start with an intentional decision to set personal pride aside and to take action to benefit all of the parties involved. In my practice over the years, I’ve discovered that most people want to improve the relationships that are important to them, whether personal or professional. However, despite the sincere desire for improvement, self-interest and self- protection are obstacles to healthy responses when engaged in conflict.
Here are seven specific actions to take when you want to build healthier relationships in the midst of conflict:
Keep a respectful distance. Often, when in conflict, people lean into others’ physical space. Raised voices, pointed fingers, and going head to head are just three ways that we violate personal space. The temperature of conflict often goes up when we intrude on another’s physical space.
Make it clear that you want to listen to the other point of view. Rather than insisting on having your point of view heard first, invite other parties to share their views and feelings. Make it clear by your body language and words that you are listening with care to the intent as well as content of their words. Consider taking notes to convey your respect and concentration on others’ points.
Maintain a focus on, “we can work this out”. In conflict, the language and the gestures used often prompt divisiveness rather than collaboration. A golden strategy for maintaining a focus on “we can work it out” is to think in terms of “yes, and …” rather than “yes, but …” as your conversation takes place. We so often think in terms of rebuttals as we make the effort to assert our right (and rightness!) to a point of view that we end up pushing others away from us with our communication rather than drawing them closer. A perspective of “yes and …” is a perspective of collaboration.
Speak in fair and specific language. Many times, to make our point, we go for the drama using exaggerations, sarcasm, embellishments and generalities. The result is that we diminish the power of our language. Our drama often confuses, confounds, and creates more conflict in the conversation as others hold us accountable to proving our statements. Our best bet for conversational sanity is to “check” our words for clarity, fairness, and relevance to the point at hand.
Refuse the temptation of Junk Talksm. When in conflict, most of us have a gift for jumping to junk talk. Yelling, swearing, accusations, recriminations, sulking, defensiveness– each of these is a form of junk talk. And you can probably think of many other examples. Junk talk obscures clarity. Junk talk diminishes trust. Junk talk hurts the goal of improving the relationship. Avoid it!
Give others a way out in conflict. Establish choices. None of us likes to be cornered. When in disagreement, speak in a way that invites resolution. Ask those involved for their ideas on resolving the issue or behavior. Avoid the use of commands or demands. Invite collaboration to seek resolution of the issue that shows obvious respect and concern for all of those involved.
Thank others for their willingness to work through a conflict. Many of us avoid conflict, and by our avoidance, don’t learn to manage it very well. When we make the effort to engage and work through disagreement, it is rewarding to have that effort noticed and appreciated. Whether with sincere words, a note, or a small token, show tangible gratitude of the effort to engage and resolve.
“Difficulties are meant to rouse, not discourage. The human spirit is to grow strong by conflict.” — William Ellery Channing