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How to Confidently Deal with Conflict

How to Confidently Deal with Conflict

How to Handle Conflict

    I have to tell you that I’m not great at handling conflict.  I’d much rather have things run smoothly and make sure that everyone gets along, works together, has fun and delivers great results, so when conflict happens I feel awkward and uncomfortable.

    I tend to do what I can to set things up ahead of time for smooth sailing, and I’ve really had to work hard at dealing with conflict when and if it arises.  Here’s what I’ve found has worked for me.

    1. Don’t make it personal

    Sometimes it’s easy to let your emotions get tangled up in things, especially if someone’s disagreeing or even attacking your position.  Anger, blame, hurt and a bunch of other provocative emotions can be at play, and before you know it you’ve got a bigger problem than you ever thought.

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    Don’t make it personal – people are allowed to disagree with your position, just as you’re allowed to disagree with others.

    By all means be passionate, but that’s not the same as being defensive or coming out on the offensive with all guns blazing.  The moment you start taking differences of opinion as personal criticism and judgement (even if that’s exactly what’s being thrown at you) you’ll be on the defensive or offensive, so balance that passion with the facts and a healthy sprinkling of common sense and perspective.

    2. Get the facts

    There could be facts you need to know about or areas you need to explore before taking action.  Make sure you go deep enough into those areas to figure out the facts of what’s happening, but don’t dwell on detail after detail after detail.

    This is often a tricky balance between doing enough due diligence to be informed, checking in with your instincts and leveraging your experience to anticipate the different paths, and it means you have to put a hold on resolving the conflict until all parties can do their due diligence.

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    Be clear on what do you need to know and the most effective ways to get those answers.  Work that out with an open mind and you’ll be in a stronger position to move forwards.

    3. Listen

    If you do one thing, make sure you hear everyone and respect their point of view.  This is not the same as understanding everyone’s perspective (that can take a lifetime), but it’s important to have a healthy respect for their position even if you strongly disagree.

    Listening demonstrates the value of the relationships you have and that you’re willing to listen and engage with others.  That can speak louder than any amount of yelling.

    Also, it might just mean that you discover a way through that hadn’t occurred to you before, giving you the opportunity to use nuggets of gold from different people to create a way forward that’s a workable and effective compromise.

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    4. Simple assertion

    You have the right to be treated with respect and consideration, and coolly asserting that right is a powerful strategy.

    To do that you need to watch that things don’t get overly complex – the more complicated you make things the more complex it’ll be for people to unravel and the more complex it’ll be to communicate clearly.  Keep things simple (jot down bullet points if it helps) and figure out the simplest, most effective way to move forwards.

    If you’re in a leadership position there’s often a point where the debate needs to be over, and you need to communicate that in a way that engages rather alienates.  You might not have all the answers, but you need to be confident enough to be able to make a good decision.  Then your job is to let people know coolly, simply and unambiguously what the facts are, the way forwards and what’s expected.

    5. Be ready to be wrong

    If you’re wrong, admit it.  Don’t hang on to your position just for the sake of wanting to be right – that’ll just get you into more hot water, is sure to waste everyone’s time and will probably end up with you looking or feeling silly.

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    Don’t make the mistake of thinking being wrong is undesirable, it isn’t.  Allowing yourself to be wrong shows that you’re switched on enough to do the best thing for all concerned and find the best route through.  It demonstrates that you’re lead by integrity and are willing to take on new ideas if they work better, even if that flies in the face of what you were thinking previously.

    Be ready to be wrong – that’s how you grow.

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    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    No!

    It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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    But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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    What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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    But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

    1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
    2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
    3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
    4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
    5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
    6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
    7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
    8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
    9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
    10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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