Dealing with conflict is a task many managers struggle with or even avoid. But it is possible to transform disagreement and discord into positive outcomes. Listen to these six constructive ways to respond to conflict.
Number one, Take another perspective. Imagine what the other person is thinking and feeling. Ask open-ended questions and set aside your assumptions. Rephrase, restate or summarize what you think has been said. Empathize and let the other person know when you understand. Ask for examples to clarify the issues when you don’t.
Number two, create solutions. Make it your priority to generate new ideas. Begin by identifying each other’s motives, goals and agendas. Together, come up with every possible solution without evaluating them. Express an alternative point of view in the form of a question, such as “Would another solution be X?” Most importantly, be willing to compromise.
Number three, Express your emotions. Talk honestly and directly to the other person. Choose your words carefully, keeping them both courteous and professional. Explain how you feel and why. And try not to let your own hot buttons interfere with the process. If you need a time out, take one.
Number four, Make the first move toward reconciliation. Try to repair emotional damage caused by the conflict by getting the communication started again. Ask yourself, “How do I want to be viewed after the conflict is over?” Express your sincere desire to understand. Admit responsibility for your contribution to the conflict, and ask what you can do to make amends. But remember – you may need to delay your response until the situation has settled down some.
Number five, Take time to reflect on the situation. This reflection will help you figure out the best way to proceed. Note your initial reaction to a conflict and consider why you responded the way you did. Carefully review alternative reactions and the pros and cons of each. Try to give others time for reflective thinking as well.
Number six, Stay flexible and adapt. It’s important to look forward, not back. Communicate your optimism that things will work out. Seek out sympathetic co-workers or friends when you need to “unload” or get a pep talk. If opportunities to reconcile or resolve the conflict arise, take advantage of them. Be professional in your attitude, words and behavior.
Conflict is an inevitable part of the workplace, but by using these strategies, your disagreements are sure to be short-lived.