Posts Tagged ‘conflict resolution’

A better way to fight

Article contributed by Amy Sargent

I’m bad at fighting.

Most of my life I’ve been a conflict-avoider, sweeping potential disagreements under the proverbial rug. But these days I seem to face contentions head-on, boxing gloves poised and ready. This is good, for the most part–running from conflict rarely solves anything. However, now that I’m not afraid to take on the hard conversations and can bring up the minors before they become majors,  I realize I could use some fighting skills. It seems I’m doing it all wrong — taking things personally, bringing up past issues that have nothing to do with the present, throwing in hurtful digs, albeit slight and ‘hidden’ (but not really). I shut down after I speak my peace and am closed-minded and judgmental when the other person expresses their side of things, wounding my dissentient and getting my own feelings hurt in the process.

So I write this article for me. And for any of you who struggle when it comes to conflict resolve.

We’ve developed bad habits

Of course, we don’t make fighting a goal. In a perfect world, we’d tune into our emotions well before conflict arises and use these wise old friends to guide us as we manage our behavior, thwarting tensions before they erupt into battles. But then again, we’re human, imperfect and immature and insensitive at times, so it’s highly likely disagreements will evolve into fights. Most of us have picked up some poor habits, as early as childhood, and haven’t learned there is a better way.

But before we look into acquiring some new fighting skills, let’s determine first if your conflict management needs some work. Here are some things you don’t want to choose to do when troubles arise:

  • Fail to listen to the other person’s point of view with an open mind
  • Instead of seeking to find common ground, fight for your own way or ideas
  • Do most of the talking in disagreements
  • Feel extremely uncomfortable when conflict arises
  • Don’t use tact when voicing your concerns, rather, you demean the other person and/or their ideas and/or use crass language to prove your point
  • Say things like “always”, “never”, and “everyone thinks this way…” (as if you know how everyone else in the world thinks or does things)
  • Bring up the past to prove your point of “Here we go again…”
  • Use put downs and demeaning words, saying things you know you’ll regret later
  • View the other person as an adversary or foe because they don’t agree with you
  • Think things like, “If only they would change, this could be resolved.”
  • Quit and run away before the conflict is resolved
  • Use dishonesty to put an end to the conflict rather than being authentic with your feelings
  • View yourself as more superior, smarter, or ‘a better person’ because of how the other person is feeling/acting

Which of these best describes your boxing tactics?

It starts with Self-Awareness

Whether you choose one or all of the above when conflict hits, learning a new way of fighting can take some work. As with any behavior, we can make shifts in a new direction, but it’s not always easy. But devoting effort to the development of conflict resolve skills will serve us well when the next battle comes along.

“Bravery is the choice to show up and listen to another person, be it a loved one or perceived foe, even when it is uncomfortable, painful, or the last thing you want to do.” ― Alaric Hutchinson

So where do we bad fighters start?

First of all, as with most things — becoming self-aware is a good initial step. Take note of the poor habits you use when fighting, write them down, and take a hard look at them. Do they serve you well or do they usually escalate the conflict, or cause further avoidance? How do you feel when you act that way? How does it make the other person feel when you act that way? Most likely the things you’re writing are not the most positive. It’s OK.  Recognizing the need to change often comes from acknowledging the hurt we are causing ourselves and others.

Managing our behavior

Now that you’re ready to make some shifts, simply acknowledging bad behaviors is not enough. And just erasing them won’t help either.  As with the breaking of any old habit, it’s beneficial to have a new toolkit at your disposal full of actions to replace ineffective behaviors.  Here are a few to try:

  • Separate the person from the problem.  Don’t let yourself go down the path of “this person is bad, wrong, selfish, etc.” because they have a differing opinion.  Fight the desire to label them and instead, focus on the disagreement at hand.
  • Lay down preconceived ideas. It’s easy to think you already have everything figured out before the conflict even begins. Be present and ask clarifying questions where needed so you’re sure you understand their viewpoint, not your interpretation of their viewpoint.
  • Take a deep breath and slow down.  An overload of feelings can cause an amygdala hijack.  The amygdala is the part of the brain that processes our emotions. Because the emotional processing in our brain happens much more quickly than the rational side, if the amygdala perceives the situation is at a “fight or flight” level of danger, it will trigger a response that shuts down the rational side of our brains, causing us to say and do things we’ll regret later. Trust me, this is something to avoid.
  • Listen to understand. Stop thinking about what you’re going to say next and tune in to what they’re saying, and not saying.  Watch for body language (are they agitated, are they scared, etc.) and attempt to hear what they need/want in this situation, not just what is coming out of their mouth.
  • Before speaking, ask yourself, “Will this help or hurt the situation?”  Sounds simple, but it’s very effective! Choose your words carefully and be sure not to throw out insults or put-downs in the heat of the moment.
  • Remind yourself that their way may be a better way. Be curious. Have an open mind and think of the conversation as a way to brainstorm creative new ideas rather than taking offense because they don’t agree with you.

“When we aren’t curious in conversations we judge, tell, blame and even shame, often without even knowing it, which leads to conflict.” — Kristen Siggins

  • Don’t attach judgments about their character because of their opinions. Again, separate out the issue from the person and fight the urge to jump to conclusions about their moral integrity just because you don’t like what they’re saying.
  • Be aware that the other person is experiencing his/her own set of emotions.  There may be drivers going on that you’re not aware of — past hurts, disappointments, or struggles that the other person is dealing with.  Offer some grace, in the moment, as you seek to understand the why behind their actions or words.
  • Find a way to say something valuing about the other person. Even if you don’t agree with them, making the other person feel valued for who they are, in the heat of an argument, can do wonders to diffusing anger and frustration levels. A great sentence starter is, “You know what I like about you?” then fill in the rest with a sincere, kind word.

“A soft answer turns away wrath.” — ancient proverb

  • Remember that the goal here is coming to a solution that works for both parties, not getting your own way. This may mean you have to reach a compromise where both of you give up a little to arrive at a peaceful outcome.

I know, easier said than done. If this list seems daunting, pick just one goal and focus on it for the next few weeks. Talk to a coach or counselor about the areas you struggle most with and seek an outside opinion on how you could begin to make some shifts. Then get out there and practice.

For those of you (us) who have done it all wrong, going back to that person and offering a sincere, “I’m sorry” can do wonders to soften pain of the blows you delivered. It takes humility and courage to admit our errors and ask forgiveness of the other person. They may reject you, scoff at you, or even attempt to continue the fight — but these three magical words can do as much for your own angry heart as it can the other person.

Unless you live on an uninhabited, deserted island, where you have no contact with others, there will be conflicts on the road ahead. Coming prepared with healthy, helpful tactics will enable both of you to stay standing at the end of each round. Even better, as you work on your own conflict management skills, you may come to realize that it was never a fight at all, but a passionate interaction between two unique and worthy individuals, on the same team, working toward the same goal, each offering the gift of learning something new.

“We meet aliens every day who have something to give us. They come in the form of people with different opinions.” — William Shatner

Do you play well with others?

Article contributed by Amy Sargent

“This job would be easier if people weren’t involved.”

It’s one of my favorite tongue-in-cheek sayings.  While true, as most of our conflict comes from interactions with others (though we all do struggle with self-conflict from time to time), most of us wouldn’t have a job if it weren’t for those around us — peers, colleagues, supervisors, employees, customers, clients are a vital part of any business. But working collaboratively with others can be difficult, frustrating, and downright annoying at times.

At some point in most relationships, conflict is going to happen whenever there is more than one person in the room. And our conflict management skills, which are a competency of strong emotional intelligence, are what can make the difference between frustrating, unresolved disagreements or enabling conversations where all parties can pursue the best possible solutions.

We all have a role when it comes to conflict, whether we are the vocal one who loses our temper or the quiet doormat that stays silent.

“Conflict cannot survive without your participation.”  — Wayne Dyer

It’s no monkey business:  learning how to navigate conflict can increase our sense of well-being and job satisfaction and contributes greatly to the quality of relationships both at work and at home.

How well do you play with others?

Ask yourself the following questions and see how many you can answer yes to:

  • I can see potential conflict before it arises and help de-escalate the situation.
  • I can handle difficult people with tact.
  • I can lay down my own expectations and be open to hearing the perspectives of others.
  • I can manage tense situations with diplomacy.
  • I can create a safe space for all parties to share their perspectives.
  • I can help all parties involved understand the other perspectives in the room.
  • I can hear diverse opinions and find a common ideal.
  • I can orchestrate win-win solutions.

Five Conflict Styles and when to use them

We all have our own ‘style’ when it comes to conflict resolve, but that doesn’t mean we can’t grow and learn other approaches that may better serve us and the situation at hand. In 1974, Kenneth Thomas and Ralph Kilman created the Thomas-Kilman Conflict Mode Instrument, which identifies five styles of conflict. There are situations that arise when some styles work better than others. Here is a quick guide:

1-Competitive/Controlling – A quick and decisive action is needed (vital in emergency situations), or the other party would take advantage of cooperation on your part.

2-Collaborating – The issues (and/or relationship) are too important to be compromised and the objective is to integrate differing viewpoints.

3-Avoiding – There are more important things to tackle, there is no chance of achieving your objectives, the parties need time to “cool down” or take time to gather more data.

4-Accommodating – You realize you are wrong, or understand that the issues at hand are more important to the other person and/or you need to build ‘credits’ with that person.

5-Compromising – It’s too risky to be too controlling, both parties are committed to mutually exclusive goals, you need a quick or temporary solution under time constraints.

Time for a Shift

How do you know when it’s time to shift your approach to conflict resolve? Simply put, when your approach is not working.  Losing friends left and right? Colleagues can’t stand you? Coworkers shut down and won’t share their perspective with you? Feel agitated and stressed when conflict is discussed? People walk all over you in meetings?  You are the only one talking in meetings? You get what you want but no one is alongside you to enjoy it?  If you find yourself in a confusing or disturbing conflict, try asking yourself these honest questions:

  • How was my behavior received by others?
  • How did I feel during the conflict?
  • How much do I care about the outcome?
  • What were my expectations of the situation and did they match up with reality?
  • What judgments did I make about the others during the conflict and were they accurate?
  • What did I want to see happen? What did they want to see happen?
  • What is my investment into this situation? What is theirs?
  • Am I acting in an old pattern of behavior that no longer serves me?
  • What can I say/do going forward to optimize the outcome?

Which of the five conflict resolve styles is your primary ‘go-to’ when faced with conflict?  Does it serve you well in all situations or could you stand to develop a new approach? If you struggle in the area of conflict resolve, good news! Behaviors in conflict resolve are learned and can be changed. Finding a social + emotional intelligence coach to walk alongside you to make behavior shifts can be a great place to start.

“When team members trust each other and know that everyone is capable of admitting when they’re wrong, then conflict becomes nothing more than the pursuit of truth or the best possible answer.” —  Patrick Lencioni

Who’s the problem?

Article contributed by Amy Sargent

Think of all the negative issues that can arise in a typical workplace.  A peer takes credit for your work. Your manager has an over-inflated ego. Your subordinates don’t work as hard as you. Your boss can’t control his temper.  A colleague drops the ball.  A customer backs out of a contract. No one notices when you go above and beyond.  You don’t get enough vacation time. You’re underpaid, overworked, and understaffed…to name a few. If you’re like most of us, you’re quick to point the finger at the culprit, and most often that finger is pointing away. But what if you — we — are the source of our frustrations?

“Think about how different your work environment would look if everyone understood and embraced ultimate responsibility.” — David Naylor, EVP of 2logical

Emotional intelligence is the ability to be aware of our own emotions and those of others, in the moment, and manage our behavior appropriately. It’s not about getting others to behave better.  It’s about learning how to  recognize our emotions and manage OUR OWN actions in a way that most benefits the situation at hand.  But how often do you see people focusing on their own behavior?  It’s so much easier to bad mouth or lay the blame on those around us when things aren’t going so well.

In this terrific article by David Naylor below, we’re called to view our conflict in life with a different lens. Have a read!

https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescoachescouncil/2017/05/17/if-theres-a-problem-youre-the-problem/#5f182eff668b

Lessons in Empathy from Hollywood

hollywoodArticle contributed by guest author Dawn Cook

Coming out of the theater after watching Schindler’s List, I couldn’t go home because I was too melancholy.  My friend and I both needed to go somewhere to shake off the somber feelings the movie stirred within us.  When you get to the end of the movie and you realize you were completely caught up in the story and feeling the emotions of the characters, you know that’s great acting. The Godfather, Shawshank Redemption, Forrest Gump and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest are other examples of great acting.  The actors got you to empathize with their characters.

 So how do they pull it off?  How do they draw you into their story?  They have to really get into the heads of their characters and understand their motives, thought processes and emotions.  They have to become the character in their minds.  Think Dustin Hoffman in Rainman or Sean Penn in I Am Sam. They totally embraced the character. That’s what I call deep empathy!

In the workplace, empathy is one of the most underutilized emotional intelligence skills, yet it’s potentially the most influential.  True empathy means not just putting yourself in someone else’s shoes or seeing it from their perspective; it’s really understanding what the other person is saying and feeling without judging it.  Do you think Marlon Brando balked at saying his line, “I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse” because he judged it as unnecessary?  No, totally he owned it!

Too often we listen just long enough to get the gist of the issue and we jump in with our solution.  Today’s fast pace dictates we move quickly to solve and move on.  Unfortunately nobody told our brains that was the game plan.  If we don’t feel like we’ve been heard and understood and that the person really gets it, our brains sense a threat and we go into flight or fight mode.  It’s basic instinct. Essentially we will resist whatever solution they offer.  I was coaching a leader recently who said when his team brings him an issue, he listens for how it’s going to impact him and responds to that – and only that.  His team says he doesn’t really listen; he just jumps in with a solution.  The consequence?  The solution doesn’t address the entire issue and the team is frustrated.

Of course most any skill can become a weakness if overused.  This is true for empathy.  In the movie, A Streetcar Named Desire, Vivian Leigh, who played Blanche Du Bois – the character who had a mental breakdown in the story, empathized so deeply with her character that she had a mental breakdown herself not long after making the movie.  She thought she WAS Blanche Du Bois. So it is possible to have too much empathy.

At the office, showing too much empathy could look like not delegating to your team because you know they have a lot on their plates and you don’t want to overburden them.   Instead, you do the work yourself on evenings and weekends, leaving you with no work/life balance.

Hollywood’s lesson?  Be willing to fully empathize with others when you need to find solutions, address conflict, or influence outcomes.  But know when to draw the line on your personal boundaries.

Thank you for reading.  Make it an awesome day!

Leadership in Times of Chaos

peaceArticle Contributed by Amy Sargent

We are all saddened and disturbed each time we hear of another mass shooting or act of terrorism on this beloved planet we inhabit. The violence is unfathomable and the seeming lack of emotional intelligence by the perpetrators is repelling. Our hearts, thoughts, and prayers go to the families of those who suffer each time there is a loss of loved ones.

As our minds attempt to process the chaos, we are often quick to blame those in leadership. I witness this phenomenon all the time. The Broncos lose, it’s Peyton’s fault. The bus breaks down, it’s the driver’s fault. Our kids fail a test, it’s the teacher’s fault. We have conflict in the office, it’s the boss’s fault. I clumsily trip and fall on the ice, it’s obviously the city’s fault for not clearing the sidewalks. Finding someone on which to peg responsibility somehow seems to help us make sense of why bad things happen.

Though leadership does play a vital role in determining the course of our nation, teams, schools, and offices, this knee-jerk reaction of tagging blame on others can prevent us from developing our own conflict management skills. During times such as these, it’s a good practice to look at our own lives and assess both how we are managing our own emotions and how we are leading those in our realm of control. Are we practicing integrity in the office? Are we reacting appropriately when things don’t go our way? Are we working to resolve conflict in a healthy manner? Are we actively spending time coaching and mentoring others, building bonds and strengthening our interpersonal skills?

Let’s take some time at the start of this new year to do some self-assessment of our own leadership patterns affecting the peace of our current relationships, both at work and at home. Becoming aware is a good first step in appropriating change toward the better.  Start by asking yourself these questions:

  • How am I handling the difficult people in my life?  Am I working to resolve the issues at hand or using avoidance tactics?
  • Do I tend to help deflate arguments or spur them on?
  • What is one potential conflict on the horizon in my personal life?  What can I do to bring it into the open before it escalates?
  • Do I truly understand the perspectives of those with whom I am at odds with? How can I discover what factors are motivating them to come together to a place of better understanding?

 

“Each and every human being on Earth has both the responsibility and the privilege of viewing themselves as Divine beings with the power to bring about peace.”
– James Twyman

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