Due to differences in our personalities and beliefs, conflict is inevitable. It is important for all of us to know how to handle conflict effectively in order avoid issues from escalating to bigger problems. For some people, conflict management is easy. But for others, it’s a bit harder. Thankfully, conflict management is not something we are born with; it is something that we all can learn and develop. Here are some tips on how to deal with conflict.
1. Be Calm and Respectful
You shouldn’t let anger or negative emotions get the best of you. You need to learn to stay calm and to keep a clear head. If needed, take time to cool down before talking things out. If you are calm and clear headed, it is easier to avoid emotional outbursts. It will also help you avoid blurting out hurtful words or doing embarrassing acts.
2. Identify the Problem
The best way to finding a solution is by clearly identifying the problem or the cause of the conflict. This will help you focus on the current issue and avoid resurrecting unrelated past misdemeanors or transgressions. As much as possible, you should try to find the real cause instead of simply focusing on the surface issues.
3. Take Responsibility
Conflict can easily be solved when someone owns up to their mistake. No matter how competent you are, you are not perfect, therefore you are prone to making mistakes. Don’t be afraid to take responsibility if you think your actions or choices are the cause of the conflict.
4. Take Turns in Talking
In conflict resolution, it would be best to hear out the sentiments, perceptions, expectations, and opinions of all sides involved. While honesty and openness is encouraged, rash comments and unnecessary nastiness should be prohibited. Participants should feel safe within the group.
5. Be Willing to Listen
Communication is a two-way process where one party relays their message and the other intercepts it. Be willing to really listen to the message the other person is trying to convey. Give feedback to show that you are listening– a nod, affirmative words (okay, alright, uh-huh, etc.), or even echoing the message. Be empathetic if needed.
6. Don’t Be Afraid to Clarify and Verify
If somewhere along the conversation something isn’t clear to you, don’t be afraid to clarify and verify. Ask questions and request further information so that you can clearly understand the situation. Leave no room for misinterpretation because that can lead to greater disagreement.
7. Pay Attention to Non-verbal Cues
Not everything we say is relayed through words. Non-verbal cues help us decipher the true message of the speaker. Pay attention to the tone of voice, the word stress, hand gestures, body language, and facial expressions.
8. Be Open-minded
During conflict resolution, it is important that you keep an open mind. This way, you can acknowledge the opinions, views, and sentiments of the other party. Don’t think that anyone’s views are more valid than the other’s.
9. Don’t Jump to Conclusions or Make Assumptions
As long as the person is not done stating his/her case, you should avoid jumping to conclusions or making assumptions. Always try to listen carefully so you will understand the point the speaker is trying to make.
10. Don’t Attack or Intimidate
Conflict resolution should be done in the spirit of respect, safety, and trust. Be careful not to attack or intimidate other people. This will cause them to be angry or to retreat; the conflict may worsen or never be resolved. Instead of “you statements” which can be interpreted as an attack, use “I statements” to express your feelings about the situation. You should also avoid sarcasm and exaggerated statements.
11. Don’t Be Afraid to Be Wrong
If it turns out that you are wrong, don’t be afraid to admit it. Sometimes you have to give up your position so the conflict can be resolved. Save some face and accept that you are wrong with grace.
12. Brainstorm and Negotiate a Solution
When it comes to conflict resolution, there is no such thing as winning or losing. There is only finding a solution to the problem. If you cannot find common ground, then you should settle for a compromise. You can also look into a third option – a collaborative solution where both parties aim at solving the problem together. Avoid ultimatums because they evoke defiance, tension, and even fear.
These tips in dealing with conflict can be applied in virtually any conflict management situation. Situations and personalities will vary but the general approach remains the same. You just have to keep practicing in order to hone your skills. In no time, you will be solving conflict whenever it arises in the office, at home, at school, or in a social setting.
Top Photo Credit: a capillary hint of red