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Published on May 27, 2020

10 Conflict Resolution Skills Every Manager Needs

10 Conflict Resolution Skills Every Manager Needs

Intellectually, many of us know that conflict is a part of life. We know that conflict can spur deeper understanding and stronger relationships. Yet, whenever conflict arises, it puts some of us on our heels. When disagreements emerge, we are left wondering how to address them while keeping the relationship intact. This is where conflict resolution skills come in [1]

If you are leading a team or working closely with others, here are 10 conflict resolution skills every manager needs.

1. Communicate Early and Often

To reduce misunderstandings and ambiguity, communicate your intentions and desires. Ask what your colleagues need to work their best, and do your part to meet their needs or – at a minimum – avoid doing that which you know will cause harm.

If you suspect conflict in the relationship, address it swiftly. Problems do not go away on their own. Failing to act when you see a potential problem can create problems down the line.

2. Listen Actively

Everyone wants to be heard. Everyone wants to know that when they speak, when they take the time to share what is on their mind, the person with whom they are communicating listens.

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Active listening is a required step for conflict resolution. Active listening is listening to what is verbally and nonverbally communicated. Is it listening for intent and for understanding[2]. Often, conflicts arise because two parties misunderstand or mishear what the other person is saying. Active listening helps ensure that the sender and receiver understand one another. This is half the battle when it comes to resolving conflicts.

Given the prevalence of email and remote working, especially considering the COVID-19 health crisis, active listening is critical. Email and text communications are tricky because intent and tone are difficult to gauge in them. Team members will have to work extra hard to ensure that they hear what their colleagues are communicating, thereby reducing the chance for conflict.

3. Use “I” Statements

To reduce conflict, focus on how you feel. Focus on how an action has impacted you. Speak from your experience and understand that your experience is not a universal truth. Just because you feel a certain way does not mean your colleagues do.

Furthermore, when you use “I” statements, you reduce the chance of overgeneralizing, which can add gasoline to the fire. If you are in a disagreement and you tell the person who has caused harm that they impacted everyone – versus telling them that they impacted you – you may illicit a defensive reaction from the individual. Instead, focus on you and what you feel and need. This will reduce conflict by keeping tempers calm.

4. Understand What Is Yours

Have you ever gotten into an argument, and the source of your upset was something you have long struggled with? Perhaps you have struggled with being heard. You have felt as if others do not hear you when you communicate. Regardless of where you go, you carry this sensitivity with you. And guess what? It does not take much for others to rouse your anger if you even suspect that they are not hearing you.

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When this happens and you find yourself angry over your feelings about not being heard, step back and ask yourself whether that really is the case or whether your history is influencing your reaction in this moment. Ask yourself if the person with whom you have a conflict is yourself and your history or the apparent offending party.

Sometimes we get upset with people over things that really do not concern them. Get to the root of what is bothering you or the other person. Sometimes conflict has nothing to do with the current issue – it stems from something that happened at home, bad news or an unrelated interpersonal upset.

5. Don’t Take Things Personally

When Don Miguel Ruiz wrote “The Four Agreements,”[3] he cautioned us against taking things personally. As much as I admire his work, I must admit that this piece of advice is difficult to follow. Yet, it is imperative that we learn not to take things personally.

In the same ways that our lives are all-consuming to us, other people have enough in their lives to keep them occupied. When people behave poorly, it may hurt and disappoint us, but their behavior reflects where they are. It truly has nothing to do with us.

A friend of mine is going through a rough patch. She feels isolated and overwhelmed as a single mother. I invited her to a party and was initially perturbed when she did not respond. I thought to myself, “That isn’t like her.” I thought about it for a few days before I decided to reach out and check on her. When she responded, she shared being in the fog of depression and struggling to complete even the most basic daily tasks. Guess what? She was barely doing life, let alone thinking about the invitation that she may or may not have seen. Her reaction had nothing to do with me. It was rooted in her own struggles at the time.

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6. Give up the Need to Be Right

The ego has an insatiable appetite. It wants to be right 100% of the time. When conflicts arise, give up on the need to be right. Be willing to be wrong. If you fight to be right, you may have incentive to keep the conflict going. Furthermore, if you need to be right, your objective becomes defending your position versus getting to the root of the conflict. If you want to reduce or resolve conflict, do not be vested in being right.

7. Speak With People Who Can Make a Change

I get that venting feels good. I understand that everyone wants to be affirmed. But when conflicts arise, it is best to communicate solely with people who have the power to influence change. This will ensure that there is meaningful action toward resolution, and it will prevent gossip from flourishing.

When you share information with people who have no capacity to help, you could do reputational harm to the person with whom you are experiencing conflict. And while you and this person may eventually resolve your challenge, the seeds of discord that you have sown will trail the person indefinitely.

8. Identify the Root of the Conflict

For people who have repeated conflict, there is likely an unresolved or unidentified root issue. In this instance, conflict resolution can only happen once both parties get to the root of their challenges.

The root could stem from something that happened years or decades earlier. It could stem from something completely unbeknownst to one party. But it is essential to identify the thing from which future problems could arise.

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9. Seek Appropriate Intervention

Sometimes conflict is so deep-rooted that third-party intervention is needed. The intervention could come in the form of a therapist, counselor, or trusted adviser. If you have tried unsuccessfully to resolve conflict, seek intervention from a qualified and objective third party.

10. Lead With How You Feel

For some of us, being vulnerable is second nature. For others, showcasing vulnerability is a sign of weakness. For people in the latter camp, it is better to express anger than to say, “Hey, I felt hurt when this happened, and I am wondering if you could help me with it …”

When something upsets you, ask why. Then lead with how you feel. This will enable the person with whom you are upset to better understand how you feel and what you need.

Final Thoughts

If you follow these 10 steps and find that conflict is still present, think about how you can restructure the engagement so that you spend as little time as possible with the offending party.

It is true that conflict is a part of life. Conflict shows up in our families, in our personal relationships as well as in our professional relationships. And guess what? Working remotely will not eliminate conflict. It is as guaranteed as the taxes you are required to pay. But with these 10 steps, conflict does not have to be the end of a work relationship, but rather the door to improve it.

More Tips on Conflict Resolution Skills

Featured photo credit: Gabrielle Henderson via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Jennifer R. Farmer

An author and trainer specializes in helping socially-conscious entrepreneurs, celebrities and activists

How to Set Stretch Goals and Keep Your Team Motivated 5 Types of Leadership Styles (And Which Is Best for You) 16 Good Habits of Happy and Successful People 10 Conflict Resolution Skills Every Manager Needs 10 Powerful Ways to Influence People Positively

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Last Updated on January 15, 2021

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

Posture

First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

  • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
  • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
  • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
  • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

Facial Expressions

Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

  • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
  • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
  • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

2. Relax Your Face

New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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3. Improve Your Eye Contact

Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

3. Smile More

There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

4. Hand Gestures

Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

5. Enhance Your Handshake

In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

“Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

Final Takeaways

Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

Reference

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