Whether it’s others driving us crazy, or us bringing the crazy to someone else’s party, conflict is inevitable.
Most of us like to avoid conflict where we can. We want a quiet life where everyone gets along, understands our motives, thinks we’re a ray of sunshine in their world, appreciating our perspectives, and skipping alongside us in blissful agreement.
Meanwhile, back in the real world, not everyone likes us, gets us, or interprets our actions the way we do.
In fact, I’m willing to argue that if you’re avoiding all conflict, you have a much bigger problem than if you deal with conflict when it arises. When, not if.
Because no matter what a delight in human form you are, at some point you’ll screw up or someone else will think you have. You’re HUMAN, not perfect, so unless you wish to listen to pride and assume you’re the only person above mistakes or mis-steps, then I dare you to accept your own fallibility.
And, having accepted that, let’s look at a few ways you can approach conflict in such a way that it actually STRENGTHENS your relationships (business or personal).
Big Picture Principle: Treat others as you wish to be treated
1- Talk TO the person you are in conflict with, not about them.
2- Catch your breath. Let your blood pressure return to normal before you do or say anything. Simmer down now. DO NOT do or say anything based on an angry or indignant emotion. Let the emotion subside a little. Actively work to calm the emotion you may be feeling.
And yes, there’s a reason deep breathing is recommended. It changes our physiology, and of course, if you want to make good decisions, some extra oxygen to your brain is no bad thing.
3- Exercise humility. It could be your turn to screw up next- what if the way you treat this person is the way you’ll be treated when you screw up? Don’t be self-righteous. Humans screw up, that’s something we’re REALLY good at.
It doesn’t make it ok, it doesn’t mean that they haven’t done something worthy of an apology or steps to start repairing the relationship, but catch your breath and be slow to exercise your anger because you are not above making mistakes or behaving like an idiot yourself.
4- AVOID SOCIAL MEDIA.
I don’t care who did what to you, that mysterious post on Facebook just makes YOU look like an immature jerk with lousy boundaries.
I don’t care how ‘right’ you are or think you are, keep it OFF social media. You wouldn’t like it if you were publicly dragged through the mud, stay classy and don’t do that to others.
5- Be curious. Especially when it wasn’t a face to face interaction that bothered you, DO NOT assume that you got all the facts from that text, Facebook post or ‘helpful’ friend.
What other interpretations might there be for what you heard/saw? What else might be going on in their lives that you don’t know about but that might be affecting their interaction with you? You may not be the centre of their universe, after all!
6- Go to the source. BUT ONLY when you’ve gotten down off your high horse. Humble pie doesn’t taste good.
Does this sound remarkably like one of my earlier top tips? Good. You were paying attention. So many times I watch and hear stories about conflict, yet the two ‘sides’ are making assumptions WITHOUT actually speaking directly to the person they need to, to even check their facts or that their understanding of the situation is as it appears. Go to the source with the intent to genuinely understand… which leads me to…
7- Ask questions while standing WITH the person– try to see their perspective, rather than standing AGAINST the person.
Think of this like standing side by side with someone, rather than facing them. In fact, try it. This body positioning alone can make difficult conversations feel less confrontational.
8- Use ‘I’ statements. This is a simple and hugely effective way to defuse tension, and to avoid escalating it.
Accusing someone doesn’t go so well. Their natural reaction will most likely be to get defensive. If you need to explain your position, own it. Our how YOU feel and why. ‘I feel like blah de blah’ rather than ‘you made me feel like crap when you… you always…’ Own your feelings and where they come from.
9- Seek positive resolution. How can this be put right? How can the relationship be repaired?
Where relevant, think in terms of how you can collaborate on a solution that works for you both/all. Seek solutions that allow for the best outcome for everyone.
Finally, as I’ve said before, conflict happens. Sometimes it is because we aren’t communicating clearly or we’ve screwed up. Other times it’s others. Either way, stay classy, so that you can look yourself in the mirror.
Conflict may not feel good, but if you deal well with it, it is not something to be feared.
Conflict can – and does – STRENGTHEN relationships when it is handled well.
What stands out for you from this? Have you had a great outcome from a conflict? Let me know, I’d love to hear your story!