I want you to think about all the conflicts you have dealt with, so far in your life.
How did you handle them?
Do you look back at them with satisfaction, shame or regret?
If it’s satisfaction then you know that you had complete control over those situations and handled them the best way you could. If it’s shame, then you know that you had no control over those situations. You probably reacted based on what you were feeling at the moment. You’re glad they are over and you don’t ever want to face those situations again! And if it’s regret, then you know that you had some form of control, you know you could have handled them better and, you know you tried but then you gave up and gave into your emotions.
I’ve been part of situations too, that I look back with satisfaction and regret. But no shame! Before you jump to conclusions, let me tell you why. You can’t accomplish anything without facing conflicts! Choosing not to face them is delaying the inevitable. Eventually, you’re going to have to deal with them. So forget shame! Let’s focus on regret.
HANDLING THE CONFLICT:
- Picking Your Battles: If you look around yourselves you’re going to find enough conflicts to be a part of. But we’re looking for conflicts that can give us productive outcomes! Which is why it is always important to have an objective before getting into a conflict. More precisely your objective, which can help you grow or accomplish something.
E.g Let’s say you’ve been working at a firm for x number of years. You believe you deserve an increment in your salary or a promotion. In some cases, firms will reward their employees for their loyal services. But, most of the time you’re going have to get it on your own. And let’s face it, your boss is not going to just hand it over as soon as you walk into his/her office. You’re going to have to communicate, listen, negotiate, be patient (I’m saying these things from my personal experiences). This would be a productive conflict – initiated by you- to get what you want.
Now let’s say a particularly annoying colleague (I guess we all have someone) says or does something that you believe ‘diminishes your value’ in front of others. Are you really going to get into a conflict over that? (I’m not judging. I’m asking you what’s important to you). Personally, I’d smile at that person and thank him/her for the unwanted but flattering ‘attention’. (Nothing would piss them off like the idea that they can’t get to you). And then I’d just walk away non-verbally communicating that he/she is unworthy of my time. Useless conflict handled before it has a chance to begin! (Just think about that from the other person’s perspective, how worthless he/she is going to feel.) When you start achieving success, you start gaining attention and there are always going to be certain types of people who are going to want to put you down.
At the end of the day, every conflict holds your time, energy and reputation at stake. So learn to pick your battles!
- Taking Control: Probably the most challenging part of any conflict. It’s the moment you recognize what’s going to happen and before you let your emotions take control, you take control of the situation. By addressing the matter at hand. What you have to understand about this is, the person who takes control is asserting himself/herself in a position of authority to effectively lead the conflict in the direction of a preferred outcome.
E.g. If you initiate the conflict, then don’t waste time by indirectly addressing the matter. That’s what usually leads to arguments, at the risk of the conversation getting side-tracked. Instead, address the issue right away. The good thing about you initiating a conflict is that you can plan for it and be in control. Now if another person is the one who’s initiating it, don’t respond to a snarky comment, jibe, and especially a public outburst. Stay calm and ask, ‘What’s the problem?’ (Again, you’re addressing the issue, taking control and asserting authority by not following the other person’s line of questioning.)
DIFFUSING THE CONFLICT
- Listen, quietly and patiently: Okay, so you’ve taken control and you’ve addressed the matter, now let the other person say their peace. However, he/she might not be as quiet and patient as you. Yelling, ranting, swearing, blaming or a combination of all could be the response. But by remaining silent, you’re letting the other person justify the cause. Let me reiterate, you’re putting the other person in a situation where he/she has to justify himself/herself, to you (establishing your authority)!
Emotions are high during conflicts. By choosing not to interrupt the other person’s justification, you’re providing him/her an opportunity to speak or vent his/her emotions.
-Immediately resonating as a point of relief, which can cause him/her to calm down.
–By not interrupting, he/she would feel like they have won against you, making the person less defensive and more responsive to you.
–By being patient, you’re conveying tolerance and understanding, causing the other person to feel ‘safe’, about continuing the conversation with you.
No matter what happens, be calm, listen and don’t react until he/she is done. What you have to keep telling yourself during this is, “I’m in control – I’m bullet-proof!”
- The Calm After The Storm: He/she is done speaking/justifying/venting. And you’re standing there having listened to everything, had not reacted, still calm and patient as ever. It’s needless to say at this point the other person is going to feel a little embarrassed. He/she is probably going to direct a question your way, as a defense mechanism. Whatever the reaction is, your response should be, with a look of concern, “Are you okay?”.
It’s THE most powerful response you can give at that moment. A genuine act of empathy and concern.
A few weeks ago I was in a situation where I had to deal with a difficult person. The second I asked ‘are you okay?’, the embarrassment was gone, the hostility was over and they were all replaced with looks of surprise, then gratitude and openness (in that order).
Of course, the person is going to say, ‘Yeah, I’m fine.’ (sometimes accompanied by a ‘thanks’) He/she might quickly collect himself/herself and sometimes offer a quick explanation for what they said or the way they acted. But the most important thing to understand, by asking ‘are you okay’ you’re non-verbally communicating that you’re not here to fight – this is not personal- effectively diffusing the conflict.
RESOLVING THE CONFLICT
- Get The Other Person On Your Side: The hard part’s over. You’ve addressed the issue, got the other person to justify it, you’ve diffused the tension and opened him/her up. Now it’s time to get that person on your side.
‘I’m sorry if I’ve upset you/if I’ve made things difficult. But I just ‘(re-address the issue)’ because it’s the only way I can ‘(your reason)’. So I think the best course of action is ‘(your plan)’. What do you think?
(If the other person was the one to start the conflict, this is a good way to close the issue, with you suggesting a plan on moving forward and then asking his/her opinion.)
(If it was you who started it, then you still have to get what you want. So given the dialogue mentioned above….)
This time he/she is going to listen to you and believe you. He/she is going to be a little more empathetic about you and your cause, which is going to lead to a ‘YES’ (if the person is the decision-maker) or a suggestion to how it can lead to a ‘YES’ (mostly instructions on how to reach the decision-maker).
- Lose The Battle, Win The War: …..The answer is still going to be a NO! Or he/she is going to provide you with an alternative solution.
–In case of an alternative solution, DON’T LET YOUR EGO GET IN THE WAY! That alternative solution is something you EARNED after everything you just went through. Even if it’s not exactly what you want, the only thing you have to ask yourself is does it get you closer to what you want? If so, take it! (Or try and negotiate a little more, but don’t antagonize the other person). Instead, thank the other person for his/her time, and say, ‘I’m glad we could work things out’.
-In case of a NO, ask what would make it a YES? He/she will tell you (reiterate that you’re looking for a solution). Then ask for some time to figure things out. By doing this you’re non-verbally communicating that you won’t give up on what you want! That there will be a ’round 2,3,4′ etc. And you will eventually get what you want.
- Win A Friend: I mentioned earlier, about a conflict with a difficult person. It took me two rounds, but I did eventually get what I want, and along with it I got a friend! And that’s what I’m going to end with. ‘Friendship’ is a byproduct of productive conflict. You and another person are involved in a situation that may, can or will escalate to the point where your emotions are engaged with each other. If you can take the effort to be patient and empathetic, then both of you can walk away with a little more understanding, respect for each other. After all, those are the two factors that exist at the core of every great friendship.
Know What To Say & How To Say It, and be there for the people who believe in you! Email me at [email protected], and tell me what’s bothering you! If you find this article to be of value, then share it with your friends and family.