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Published on June 25, 2018

Conflict Management: How to Turn Any Conflicts into Opportunities

Conflict Management: How to Turn Any Conflicts into Opportunities

There’s a lot out there written on conflict from how to ask what you really want and how to understand what the other side really wants.

But what I have seen from those materials is that most of them have been written in bubbles using armchair philosophy with almost zero empirical evidence and applicability in real life.

It’s like the case with the orange. One side just wants the orange bark while the other side wants the inside of the orange. You solve the case by giving them both what they need and there you have it, you’ve solved the conflict.

In real life, both sides want the entire orange and they are not willing to budge a centimeter until they get it and that’s why I’m making this guide. No more armchair philosophy, no more talking in the bubble. We are entering the real world and this is how you will solve the conflicts and get what you want.

Chunking down conflict into primordial pieces

Conflict has multiple different layers which all play different roles and parts. And the biggest gain for you is going to be figuring out where exactly is your conflict playing out.

You will use a different method for different situations so this guide will serve as an arsenal of weapons for conflicts and you will just pick the right tool for the right situation. It’s like having a toolbox with a hammer, a drill, a screwdriver, pliers and many more inside and you use the one which you need at that moment. And we’ll call that our Conflict Toolbox.

With that in mind, let’s start with:

1. Level of conflict (emotional – rational)

Level of conflict helps us perceive where exactly is the conflict playing out. The two possible options are emotional and rational.

Emotional is the most common one. In fact, a rational conflict is so rare that I’ve seen it happen only once in my entire life. Nevertheless it happens and it’s going into our Conflict Toolbox.

Emotional conflicts

Emotional conflict is a conflict based on emotions and for it to be solved, it needs to have an emotional solution, not a logical one.

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The example is when your wife gets upset that you came 10 minutes late for dinner and you bought her diamond earrings to fix that. But they don’t have that effect because the level of conflict is played in the emotional part, where your wife wants you to care and make an effort. So you will only fix it by displaying care and effort, not by trying to buy your way back.

A logical solution to an emotional problem is destined to fail.

One more example is your boss who doesn’t want to give you that promotion. He is worried that you might take his job further up if you keep this pace. He is frightened and scared and uses defensive emotional mechanisms to cover it up.

No amount of justifying to him is going to fix that because you are appealing to his logic. You need to solve his emotional pain – being scared and frightened of you- and tackle that problem with an emotional response that will calm those fears down.

Instead of telling him that you won’t take his job, prove it to him by displaying family as your number one priority in life and proving to him that a higher end job would just take away precious time from them.

Show him that you have interesting hobbies and that you are not simply “John from work” but “John the mountain-climber” or “John the National Dart Champion.” Make an emotional bond which will alleviate the concerns from the other side. Then, and only then, will you be able to solve that conflict.

Remember that when dealing with people, you are dealing with emotional beings who only use logic to justify their behaviors. But in rare cases, the conflict can be rational.

Rational conflicts

Rational conflicts happen when the logic of one proposal meets head with the logic of another proposal. It’s one of the least studied areas of life because there is not a lot of people having conflict only on a pure logical base. Most of us are victims of our narrow understanding of the world cognitive biases and beliefs to be able to put them aside and have a conflict based only on logic.

I’ve even used a cognitive bias myself when describing rational conflict by stating that “it’s so rare that I’ve seen it only once in my life” which is an anecdotal evidence and falls under the information bias.

But if you ever find yourself in a strictly rational conflict, the best way to solve it is by finding a unique angle (perspective) which will make your agenda stick but will also help the other side.

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Conflicts are everywhere and if we don’t decide which fights to take, we will lose our minds. With that, we are coming to the second layer of conflict.

2. Scale of conflict (short-term or long-term)

The scale of conflict is really important. Some short-term conflicts can be left unattended but the long-term ones should be addressed as soon as possible and here is an example:

You’re working with a fellow colleague on a project and he forgets to add a really important piece of code in the program. Because of this, you just gained another week of work on your back.

If this is a one-time thing and he made a mistake because of some other problems currently happening in his life, then it’s okay. It happens to everyone.

But if this shows to you that your colleague is sloppy and that he isn’t detail-oriented, then you know that similar problems will keep popping up in the future and this should be addressed as soon as possible.

The most important things here is to assess if this behavior will repeat itself in the future or if this is a one-time mistake. If it’s a one-time mistake, you don’t need to make a huge deal about it (even though you need to inform your colleague about the problem) but if it’s going to happen again and again, you need to deal with the problem asap.

As Tony Robbins said “Kill the monster while it’s small” which means that you need to address the problem before it gets out of control.

3. Proximity of conflict (four decisions)

This is my favorite part of conflict management. The proximity of conflict can be defined as the importance of the relationship you have with the person with whom you’re having conflict.

Depending on the relationship, these are the four decisions you can take:[1]

  • Exit
  • Neglect
  • Persevere
  • Voice

Exit

Exit is all about removing yourself from the situation. This is something I do in 99% of the situations because I only deeply care about 1% of the things in this world. Everything else is really not worth arguing for.

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With Exit, you simply move physically from that environment; or if it’s digital, just turn off the website and that’s it. It takes a little bit of time for you to get used to this but when you do, it will be one of the most liberating experiences of your life. Playing “I’m walking away” by Craig David in your head helps a lot!

Neglect

Neglect happens when you think you can’t change the situation so you just leave it like that, lowering any effort from your side to a minimum. This is mostly the case with a thick family member who is bullying everyone else but nobody can do anything about that. So you just accept that this is one war you won’t win and leave it be.

You might think that neglect is quite rare… until you remember your teenage years where you had almost no power in your household. You had to do chores that you absolutely hated so you tried to do them with the least possible effort. I know it was vacuuming the house for me – it was one of the worst things ever and I hated it from the bottom of my heart.

Neglect is everywhere around you, from the people at DMV who are half-asleep doing their job to the 17-year-old kid serving you fries at McDonald’s.

Persevere

Persevere means that you don’t have enough influence to change the current situation but you are building it for the future. This is the case of idiosyncrasy at work- what can you wear?

If you are a professor for 6 months and want to wear khaki shorts to work, it will never happen. But if you work there for a couple of years, build your reputation and influence and then wear khaki sorts to work, nobody will say anything to you.

Voice

Voice is a direct confrontation of the problem head-on. This is where you stop your tracks and have the argument/conflict at that moment.

Voice doesn’t happen that often because people are in different situations and using Voice means that you are tackling the problem (and the other person) head on. And for this, you need to ready for the consequences. If it’s your boss you are confronting on a meeting, think about the position you are currently in and if Voice is actually the best option to go for.

We have covered the layers of conflict and now it’s time to see what our Conflict Toolbox says about it.

4. How to gain the upper hand

Conflicts pave the way to opportunities and if we use the right tool from our Conflict Toolbox, we will gain the upper hand in it.

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A master of this was Dale Carnegie and he explained all of it in his best-selling classical book How to Win Friend & Influence PeopleDale’s philosophy can be summarized in to playing the upper hand by actually letting the other person be right, appear great (especially in public) and letting them know that they sit on top of you.

Stroking the other person’s ego will help you get what you want because you are making the other side appear so great that they show you “some mercy” by actually giving you what you want. But the catch here is that you’ve already done the hard work by yielding so that they have no other option than to give you what you want – because doing that will help them look even better in the eyes of other people.

Not only will they appear smart, brilliant and on top of all right – but they will also show grace, mercy, thoughtfulness and consideration.

Just think about it – how many times have you snubbed at the person who was condescending you in any manner. I know I did because nobody likes to be condescended but a lot of us if we have the opportunity, love to “teach someone else a lesson” or “show them a thing or two.”

We are social creatures who have dominance hierarchies and it’s inevitable that ego will come into play. It’s in our best interest to have it as a great servant instead of a horrible master.

So the next time you’re in a conflict, set your ego aside and see how you can actually make the other person look better – it will help your cause.

Pack your Conflict Toolbox and off you go

We’ve dissected conflict into its primordial layers and found out that conflict can:

  • Have an emotional or rational level
  • Be on a short-term or long-term scale
  • Have four different relationships regarding proximity: Exit, Neglect, Persevere, Voice

We have talked about how to actually deal with conflict and how you can turn it into an opportunity for yourself. Here, we talked about the age-old wisdom of Dale Carnegie and his message of stroking the ego from the classic “How To Win Friend & Influence People.”

And now you have your Conflict Toolbox packed with different tools which you can use in different situations.

Off you go into the world of conflict or better said – the world of opportunities.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

Reference

More by this author

Bruno Boksic

An expert in habit building

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Last Updated on January 15, 2019

How to Talk to Strangers Without Feeling Awkward

How to Talk to Strangers Without Feeling Awkward

Many of us feel awkward talking to strangers. I’m a very outgoing person, even though I sometimes feel uncomfortable walking up to someone and asking a question or starting a conversation. I consider myself pretty high up on the extrovert meter. So what is it that makes us pause and become worried or anxious about talking to people we don’t know?

In this article, we will discuss why we feel this way as well as some tips on how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

Step right up, don’t be shy!

Why We Feel Awkward Talking to Strangers

The next time you feel uncomfortable talking to a stranger, tell yourself that’s completely normal. There are numerous reasons why it’s actually natural to feel awkward talking to strangers:

Our Stress Levels Rise Around Strangers

Numerous studies have show that our levels of cortisol go up when we are around strangers.[1] Cortisol is the hormone inside of us which produces stress responses.[2]
So there you go, right off the bat you can see part of your standard response to strangers is due to a chemical reaction!

A very interesting by product of increased cortisol is that it makes us less empathetic. More than likely this can be traced to our evolution. The increase in the cortisol and the corresponding decrease in empathy makes us want to stay away from strangers. We are biologically wired to feel concern around strangers.

Evolution Taught Us to Be Wary

Evolution has also taught us to be wary of strangers in general. Humans as a whole have spent a large chunk of their history banded together in small protective groups. We did this in order to help protect each other and maximize resources.

When you think about it in this context, outsiders to our small groups or strangers are considered potential threats. Fear of strangers is common across almost all human cultures.

Culturally Conditioned

We can also thank our society for helping us feel uncomfortable and sometimes afraid of strangers. The term “stranger danger” is something most of us can relate to either growing up or raising kids. Or both.

I remember hearing this from my parents, mostly about not getting in someone’s car I didn’t know. And as the father of 2 teenage girls, you can be sure I’ve talked to them about this very concept more times that they want to hear.

The thought that strangers can be dangerous is built into us as it is. Toss in the amplification of the media on strangers doing things such as kidnapping kids and it takes it to an even higher level.

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Now that we’ve reviewed some of the reasons why we are nervous, let’s look at why you should talk to strangers more.

Benefits of Getting over the Awkwardness

Let’s take a quick look at some of the advantages of how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward. These are some high level benefits of talking to strangers.

1. Broadens Your Network

After you talk to someone, you didn’t know previously they become someone you know at least a little bit. This alone helps broaden your network of people you know. This is helpful in many ways whether it is work related or socially related.

2. Improves Your Communication Skills

I am a huge proponent of the value of solid communication skills and have written about it often. The more you talk to people, especially people you don’t know, the better your communication skills become.

Interacting with a wider variety of people will bring the added benefit of improving your communication skills.

3. Continually Learning

So many of us don’t actively seek to learn new things. This is one of the primary keys to staying engaged in life and our own personal self fulfillment.

Almost every time I speak to someone I didn’t know previously, I’ve learned something new. When we speak to strangers, it pushes us out of our comfort zones and we tend to learn new things.

4. Increases Self Confidence

Every time we learn to do something we were previously anxious about, we feel better about ourselves.

Forcing ourselves to talk to strangers will lead to increased self confidence. As we get more and more comfortable doing something that previously made us feel awkward, our self confidence will go up and up.

So, how to talk to strangers to reap these benefits?

How to Talk to Strangers

Here are some tips to on how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

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1. Say Hello

Putting “say hello” first may seem a bit obvious but let’s take a deeper look. Much of the social awkwardness when speaking to strangers is simply breaking the ice. The first words that will engage someone.

Most people will respond when someone says hello or hi to them. And those that don’t, you probably don’t want to talk to anyway.

Practice being the person that opens the door to a conversation. Say hello.

2. Ask About Them

Something that I have noticed over the years is that people love to talk about themselves. Even fairly private people tend to open up when asked about events in their lives.

You can ask leading questions that get people to talk about themselves and recent events. Things like recent movies watched or the summer vacation are great to get someone talking.

As a father, I also know that people love to talk about their kids. Asking about kids is a fairly easy topic to bring up and in general, most people will expound upon all the great things their kids do or are involved with.

3. Just Do It

One of the biggest reasons we don’t do things we want to or know we should is because we overthink it. Quit thinking about it so much and just do it.

When you give yourself the time to analyze every little angle about a situation, you also give plenty of time to talk yourself out of it. You’ll wind up thinking what if this happens or what if that happens.

Try to force yourself to jump right in without thinking about it too much. Whenever I have done this, I always feel great about it afterwards, no matter how it turned out.

4. Don’t Take It Personal

One of the greatest lessons in life I ever learned was don’t take anything personally. We all go through life with our own sets of experiences and see things through our own lens. The way people react to different situations has almost nothing to do with us. It has to do with previous experiences and the way people feel about things other than us.

When someone’s reaction isn’t what you’d hoped or expected, chances are it has nothing to do with you. Remember that and keep it in context.

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5. Get a Chuckle If Possible

I used the word chuckle purposely because it makes me laugh. In my opinion, it’s one of those funny words. We all like to laugh because it makes us feel good. And when someone makes us laugh, we typically remember those people in a positive light.

One of the best ways to make a conversation easy and free flowing is to get some laughter going. It doesn’t mean you have to be the master joke teller or anything. See if you can work in a way to make the person you are talking to get a smile or some laughter in. In fact, laughing at yourself maybe a nice try.

6. Detach

A great feeling is when you don’t mind which way something turns out, that you will be fine no matter what happens. Kind of like when I watch my two favorite football teams play against each other. I don’t really care who wins, I just want a fun game.

Treat talking to strangers the same way. You don’t really care how the conversation goes because you are detaching from the outcome. Make it a fun time with yourself and if the conversation goes well, awesome! If not then no big deal, move on.

7. Share Your Stories

Well, all like to feel connected to other people. And many times we wind up hanging out with people that we have things in common with. No surprise here.

To help with how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward, tell stories that have commonalities with the person you are talking to. Kids are an easy one. I have a daughter who was a competitive cheerleader and now plays club volleyball. I have instant connection and stories with strangers I speak with who have kids that play sports. It’s easy to relate to.

So when you are speaking to a stranger and you have a story or mutual connection point, bring it up.

8. Give a Compliment

Almost everyone likes hearing a compliment, whether they admit to it or not. As a general rule, we don’t give out enough compliments. It’s amazing how one small remark someone tosses your way about how good you look can literally make your entire day.

When you are speaking with someone you don’t know, see if you can work a compliment in. Nothing creepy here. Not a good idea to tell someone you just met that they are the prettiest or handsomest person you ever met. However, if you can share how you like their tattoo or shoes or something like that, it will help put the conversation into an easy going, smiling place.

9. Relax Your Body Language

If you go into a situation all worried and nervous, it shows on your body. Your shoulders are tensed up, there’s a look of consternation on your face, things like that.

When you engage a stranger in conversation, make it a point to relax your body language. Take a deep breath before you engage the person, let your body relax, and put a smile on your face. This will help relax you and it has the added benefit of putting the other person more at ease.

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If they see that you are relaxed, it helps them relax. Plus having open, engaging body language is very conducive to inviting someone to open up into a conversation with you.

10. Practice, Practice, Practice

Like everything else in life, talking to strangers gets easier with practice. The more you do it, the easier it becomes.

Make it a point to talk to several strangers each week and it will definitely help you relax as you do it more and more.

After a while, it will become something you don’t even think about, you just do it. And that takes all of the awkwardness out of being in these type situations.

The Bottom Line

As we have seen, it is perfectly natural to feel awkward talking to strangers. We are biologically built that way and we have our own society constantly warning us how dangerous it is. It’s no wonder we feel awkward talking to strangers!

There are numerous benefits to learning to be more comfortable talking to strangers. See if you can employ some of the techniques mentioned to learn how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

Once you start practicing speaking with strangers more often and utilizing some of the tips, you will become more comfortable doing so. This in turn will lead to a learned new skill and increased self confidence.

Remember, everyone you know was a stranger at one time. Now get out there and make some new friends.

More Resources About Strengthening Communication Skills

Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

Reference

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