Embracing Conflict: A Key Skill

April 9, 2013 by Lynn Faughey

I don’t think I’m alone in preferring to avoid conflict.  I’d rather not deal with the ugliness that an argument can provoke – the harsh words, the emotional turmoil…the yelling!  If you have teenagers you know exactly what I’m talking about.  The alternative of holding your tongue, swallowing your emotions and keeping your mouth shut may work in the short term, but in the long run all it’s likely to get you is high blood pressure.  Whether it’s in regard to a professional relationship, a personal one or just a random encounter with someone, conflict is going to happen.  Someone, somewhere, at some time is going to tick you off.  So what are you going to do about it? 

Personally, I don’t think yelling and screaming is the ideal way to reach someone, but as I’ve also found out, ignoring the issue doesn’t actually make it go away either.  It just sits there, under the surface, simmering and smoldering until a really tiny issue causes you to erupt like a volcano and not always at the right person.  Not only is it counter-productive in addressing the real issue, it’s a sure way to make people think you’re nuts!  We’ve all done it and we all know it isn’t a very successful conflict resolution tactic.  During any dispute when emotion’s run high, adrenaline’s surging and common sense has temporarily left the building, it takes a lot of discipline and a willingness to want to actually resolve the issue calmly, to avoid a blow-up.  And while most of us would prefer a cool and composed encounter over a cantankerous one, not everyone knows how to achieve this type of resolution.  I recently re-read an article in Inc. that reminded me of the benefits of conflict – done the right way.  Here are a few tips that I found helpful:

* Discuss your issue with the person involved as soon as possible.  Don’t let it drag on, don’t let it fester and don’t let it continue to the point that you end up erupting.  As Rose spoke about in the past, communication is critical – and effective communication is more successful with a softer approach.

* Watch your tone, what you perceive as firm could come across as accusatory.  Open communication won’t be accomplished if either party is on the defensive.

* Recognize that the other person may be as passionate about the issue as you are.  Appreciate their commitment and that they may be feeling just as frustrated.  Being on opposite sides of an issue can actually present a point of view you hadn’t previously considered. You can’t always be right, seek middle ground.  A little compromise can go a long way.

* Face to face communication is preferred over trying to resolve a dispute by e-mail, text or even phone.  Make the effort to connect in person.

* Don’t waste time complaining unless you have a solution.

Being able to work through a disagreement with both sides feeling like they were heard and respected is a huge win for everyone, even if you don’t necessarily “get your way”.  Your never know, someone who you may have perceived of as an adversary may even one day become an ally, just because you respected them enough to have a discussion and hear their view point.  Learning to embrace conflict is a key skill to master – while keeping your cool may be hard, losing it will likely just get you into hot water!   

-Lynn Faughey, FlexPro COO

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