Is there tension in your workplace? Are you constantly fighting with your loved ones? Conflict is a natural element of the human condition. We are not identically wired. Each of us maintain unique triggers of stress and anxiety, and a method of communication that works for one person, may not be effective with another. Unfortunately, conflict can become expensive and unproductive, especially in the workplace. Research shows that conflict in the workplace is on the rise and will continue to go up. A typical manager spends 25-40% of his or her time dealing with workplace conflicts. That’s one to two days of every work week. Conflicts in your personal life are similarly detrimental and can lead to stress, constant circles of arguments, and even divorce.
So how do we resolve conflict, or better yet, avoid it? Here are some ways to help to reduce conflict - whether it is at work, or at home:
1. Breathe. Have you ever forced a room full of angry frustrated employees to stop talking and just breathe? I have. It's transformative. When you clear the noise and focus on your breath for even a few minutes, you have the ability to change your perspective and tackle issues from a logical base, as opposed to an emotionally charged exchange. In an argument with your partner? Stop talking and take that moment to re-center. It will avoid the pitfalls of saying something you will regret.
2. Question the motive. Every person you work with is inherently different. Your friends, partner, and family members are all inherently different. As we all have different personalities, stressors, and communication styles, it is important to put yourself in their place before creating assumptions. Instead of responding to a conflict in kind, reframe your thoughts. Are they really upset with you? Could they possibly have outside stresses that are causing them to lash out at you? Recognizing that the issues may stem far from you can lead to empathy and resolution.
3. Question the aggressor. No, this isn't a deposition, but asking open ended questions that empower can diffuse the situation significantly. Ask the aggressor (calmly) questions, such as "What steps can we take together to finish this project?" or "How would you envision this process?" or "Why do you believe that x is ineffective?" in a workplace scenario. In a personal setting, asking them questions such as "Why do you feel that way about x?" or "Where do you think we could make changes to compromise on this issue?"can make an enormous impact in the level of hostility. Empowering questions let the frustrated party become part of the resolution.
4. Walk away. Never engage in a heated discussion in the workplace. If you cannot breathe and refocus, step away from the situation until you can. Do not engage the other party if they are becoming aggressive. Even if they are the one seen as hostile, you will be viewed as a willing participant if you fail to diffuse by exiting. Similarly, in a personal argument, if there is no line of communication open, it is better to take 5, 10, 100 minutes away from one another to gather your thoughts as opposed of continuing for the sake of it.
5. Engage in Active Listening . Often times, conflicts result in a severe lessening of actually hearing what the other party has to say. Active listening requires you to pay attention to the "why's" of the conflict, and respond with an understanding of their position. Most people simply want to be heard.
What conflicts have you encountered in the workplace? How was it resolved? I would love to hear from you. For more information on my workshops on conflict resolution, click here.