Conflicts are inevitable whenever we have to deal with other people for extended periods of time. Sometimes issues arise which can catch us by surprise.
If we know how to respond to issues or conflicts, we’ll be in a much better position to affect the situation the way we want, while ensuring those involved achieve their outcomes as well.
The Risks of Not Resolving Conflicts
As dealing with conflicts can be uncomfortable or challenging, if left unresolved, we may experience:
- A loss of motivation to do our best work.
- Additional stress and mental turmoil.
- A loss of self-confidence.
- Some hesitation in asking for what we want.
- A deterioration in the quality of our relationships with others.
Whenever we’re interacting with people who have different beliefs, values, opinions or behaviours, chances are at some point we’ll experience disagreements and conflicts. Therefore, knowing how to deal with conflicts is a useful skill to have.
I remember once having a conflict with a team member, who I had worked with for over four years. During a normal work-related conversation, she suddenly became abrupt and snapped at me after I had asked her a question. Initially, I was taken back so I decided to walk away from the conversation as I observed she was under a lot of stress to meet certain deadlines.
I chose not to raise the issue that day so the next time I saw her, which was a couple of days later, I approached her and asked if we could talk. She agreed to have a discussion later in the day, which gave me an opportunity to prepare for the conversation I wanted to have with her.
At the start of our conversation, I went through the steps outlined below and also apologised for adding to the stress she was feeling at that time. The conversation went well and we were able to acknowledge how that situation could have been handled better and how we could move forward. I never had an issue with that team member again and we were able to work well together when we needed to.
Sometimes, conflicts can make a relationship better, therefore it’s a huge advantage to know what to do to resolve them quickly.
5 Things to do to Resolve Conflicts Better
- Pause and remove yourself from it. This is the first step. If we don’t allow ourselves to step out of the conflict, we’ll continue to operate from the same place as when we first experienced the conflict. By removing ourselves, we’ll be able to view the conflict from different perspectives and also see other people’s points of view, not just ours.
- Observe how you may have contributed to the conflict. If we’re involved in a conflict, at some level, we contributed to it in some way. We may not be the sole cause of the conflict but chances are, there was a misunderstanding or breakdown in communication somewhere. Sometimes asking ourselves, “How did I contribute to this conflict?” can make us own up to our part in it.
- Have a conversation and ask relevant questions. Without dialogue, it’ll be a challenge to come to a conflict resolution. When we start asking questions relevant to the conflict and what outcomes those involved want to achieve, it’ll lead to better understanding of where they are coming from and what they want. Sometimes conflicts are resolved simply because another person involved felt they were heard.
- Be flexible. Not every conflict is going to go our way all the time. Sometimes we have to be flexible and accept that in order to resolve it, there needs to be some give and take. Being flexible doesn’t necessarily mean we have to agree to something we don’t like or want. It means we’re focused on the big picture and willing to accept what’s best for all.
- Make a suggestion. Without action and agreement, there will be no resolution. In order to move forward, sometimes it’s as simple as saying, “Can I suggest we acknowledge what has happened, agree to put it behind us and move forward? Does that sound like a good suggestion at this time?” If we’re focused on our outcomes, it’ll be a lot easier to do what’s required to achieve them.
Being willing to resolve conflict takes courage and sometimes, a willingness to accept we made mistakes or did things wrong. If we’re able to focus on the benefits when we resolve the conflict, then it’ll be a lot easier to do the things necessary to reach a resolution.
Question: What is something else we should be aware of when resolving conflicts?
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