Six simple steps for healthy conflict resolution
Maybe your disagreements don’t get to the stage of fists flying and bottle throwing, but confrontational conversations on a regular basis can have a negative effect on your stress levels, health, and quality of life.
Perhaps Gandhi is not the first person you think of when you are in the midst of an intense argument, but his example of taking peaceful action to resolve conflict has been adapted to modern life in many ways. The most well-known being nonviolent communication (NVC) – which is practised in schools, community education and during charity campaigns. You can actually apply this peaceful, compassionate stance to your own relationships, both at work and at home.
If you need some clear guidance about conflict management, consider our straight-forward adaptation of compassionate communication (another name for NVC).
Fortunately, these skills can be learned and practiced by following some basic steps.
1. Explore your intentions first
This iinan important beginning to resolving an issue with anyone – whether it is your partner or your boss. Ask yourself what is my real intention? What do I want to happen here? What result am I looking for? Once you are clear about your motivation and why you want a certain outcome, you can decide to continue with this intention or to change it. Maybe you will realise, for example, that making a family member feel guilty about leaving the bathroom dirty is not actually what you really want. Maybe you want them to take responsibility and do their share of the housework and so you recognise that is the real issue to be discussed.
2. Listen to the other person
Do your best to give them the space to express their point of view and listen to what they have to say, even though they may be criticising and complaining. This may not be easy, especially when someone is angry or perhaps shouting at you. However, if you can stay focussed and try not to interrupt, you may be able to identify the feelings and needs that they are trying to express. It may also help diffuse the situation if they recognise that you are paying attention to what they are saying. This shows you are placing value and importance on their opinion (although you may not actually agree).
This leads on from listening. Can you identify the emotions and needs that are behind the words? Is the other person sad, angry or resentful? Do you know what their intention is? Do you understand how they are feeling? Understanding does not necessarily mean that you have to be in agreement with them and that there is a wrong or right viewpoint. It’s merely trying to see things from their side. You can reflect back what they have said to check if you have understood and maybe ask some compassionate questions. For example: “So, when you saw…… you felt…….?”
4. Express your needs and feelings honestly
Once you have empathized with them and clarified their wants, it’s your turn. If you express feelings and then the needs behind them, this can be less threatening to someone.
With this in mind, it’s important to use “I” statements so that you don’t sound like you are blaming the other.
Instead of saying: “You make me so angry when you ignore my questions during the team meeting,” try something like, “I feel really frustrated when you don’t respond to my questions during the team meeting. So then I think that you don’t value my opinion or contribution.”
In this way, you are explaining how you feel as well as how the behaviour of your colleague makes you feel.
5. Reach a peaceful resolution
This involves looking at the needs on both sides and the requests that come from them. Remember that a request is not a demand and perhaps you may need to make a compromise. For example: “You have to….” is a demand, so try out the much softer request “I would like it if you could…” However, it is important to remember that you don’t have to agree to do something just to please the other. This will lead to resentment later on, so it is better to be honest and say what you are prepared to do or not do.
6. Agree on a course of action
The last step is to decide together on the practical steps you need to do to put the agreements into action i.e. “I will come home early from work every Wednesday evening to look after the children so that you can go to your Pilates class”. This may mean taking steps to re-organise your workload or talk to your boss. Plan how and when you will do that. Same goes for the other person regarding any requests they have agreed to.
If you are looking for further training or support on how to manage conflict either professionally or personally, please contact us directly for a free initial consultation.
Executive Coach. Consultant. Trainer. Facilitator.
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