June 27, 2012 by Lynn Faughey
As we journey through our professional and personal lives we all encounter conflict from time to time. It could be with a co-worker, neighbor, family member or even a complete stranger. Unfortunately, not all conflict in our lives is resolved amicably, or in some cases resolved at all. I’ve had to deal with difficult situations just like everyone, but recently re-read a book that offered some solid ideas in how to deal with those situations better.
The book Crucial Conversations – Tools for Talking When Stakes are High, by Kerry Patterson, Joseph McMillan and Al Switzler discusses how we all encounter crucial conversations. These are the situations in which emotions are strong and opinions are differing. In the business world conflicting ideas and opinions can be productive. New concepts, direction and progress would never occur without a lot of ideas and opinions being offered. How many times at a brainstorming session have you heard, “there’s no such thing as a bad idea.”? Unfortunately, sometimes differing opinions and high stakes can make for a tense and uncomfortable environment. When people begin to feel unsafe in their environment it can stifle their creativity and lead to a loss of productivity. Choosing to avoid a conflict and just go with consensus is often a result of trying to avoid dealing with tough issues or difficult people.
While it’s nearly impossible to always have full agreement on every issue, whether personal or professional, I’ve found that it’s often just as rewarding to find a compromise. Finding a “mutual purpose” on conflict allows everyone to feel that they have a vested interest. It’s no longer about what can’t be agreed on, but what can be agreed on. Once that common ground is established it lays the foundation for further discussion. Like the ebb and flow of the tide, each side can give a little and take a little, give a little and take a little. Taking the initiative to have a crucial conversation regarding the issue and being open to all viewpoints is a clear way to resolution. Much like a mediator will do in a dispute, being able to get all sides of an issue presented makes it a much more comfortable setting for others to offer their thoughts and views. Another key in having successful crucial conversations is the ability to listen. Hearing what others have to say and allowing them to complete their thoughts is not just polite, it’s critical in creating an atmosphere of free flowing information.
It’s not always easy to initiate a difficult conversation. A go with the flow attitude is easy, asking for a raise or additional staff for a project is hard. However, you won’t get what you want if you aren’t willing to take the risk in asking for it. Crucial conversations are about getting you to a better place, regardless of where that place is. So think about what you want…..then go for it!