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10 Conflict Resolution Skills Every Manager Needs

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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.

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More Tips on Conflict Resolution Skills

Featured photo credit: Gabrielle Henderson via unsplash.com

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More by this author

Jennifer R. Farmer

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

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Last Updated on July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

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How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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