7 Tips For Conflict Prevention and Resolution
Disagreements and conflicts are part of work and life. However, conflicts are more than just a disagreement. In a conflict, one person may feel threatened. Conflicts come with a dose of negative emotions. Finding a solution for conflict is essential as they will continue to fester and foster ill will often affecting an entire workplace. While expecting to have a conflict free workplace or to never experience a disagreement is unrealistic, what are some ways to prevent, reduce, and better handle conflict?
1. Blind Spots
When someone tells you that you excel at some skill, do you reply “Really?” or “You think so?” or “Yes, people tell me that, but I just don’t see it.” When this occurs, you have a blind spot. This can also occur with negatives in our life. For example, once I was in a conversation with a group of colleagues and one of them made the remark: “You always go there.” Upon self-observation, the colleague made a good point. Eventually, with self-assessment, and work, I quit “going there.” It was inappropriate and my colleague had hit the nail on the head.
What blind spots might you have about remarks that introduce, create, or fester conflict? When people are passionate about a topic, it can creep into conversations that have nothing to do with that topic but only serve to create conflict. Two topics that readily come to mind are politics and religion. We may find, even unconsciously, ways to either “needle” someone about their view or an opportunity to “promote” our own views when in totally unrelated conversations. All of us can self-assess and be aware. Being aware of our own agenda and when we interject them can help eliminate conflict and reduce stress. To help reduce conflict, always begin with self.
Ensure that your organization has a culture of respect, tolerance, and empathy. Administering EQ (Emotional Intelligence) assessments or holding trainings around these topics is a good place to begin building such a culture. Again, this goes back to self-assessment and self-understanding. Those familiar with the DISC assessment, for example, understand the four behaviors of Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, and Compliance come with behaviors that work and some that do not work. High Ds are a good example. They are people who get things done. However, on the other hand, they can be aggressive. As they can begin to self-assess and moderate their assertive and aggressive behaviors styles helping to reduce conflict and stress. High Cs ensure the job is correct. However, they can prolong tasks unnecessarily. When they self-assess they can begin to understand that their paralysis by analysis behavior can cause stress and create conflict. In addition, understanding of and some empathy for others can help reduce conflict. When we gain the knowledge that high Ds have a fear of being taken advantage of and that high Cs fear making mistakes, we begin to develop an understanding for them, have some empathy for them, and develop ways to help them and us reach some compromise in our working arrangements.
Of course, having zero tolerance for disrespecting anyone because of ethnicity, sexual orientation, religious affiliation, or political beliefs is a must. That same zero tolerance must also be for bullying or harassment of any kind.
Some people may view compromise as a four-letter word. They see compromising as giving up part of themselves or acquiescing to another’s beliefs. People learning another language often feel if they immerse themselves in a new language, they give up who they are. Of course, when you know more than one language, you are a richer, more interesting version of yourself. Understanding someone else’s point of view or performing a task differently than you does not change who you are. In fact, you might, Gasp!, learn something new and useful.
Pick your battles. Is the conflict worth the chaos? Unless there is an element of danger, probably not. Which is more important, the difference you have or the project at hand? Is being stubborn more important than serving the customer? This is not an advocation for half-hearted compromises. Compromises must be genuine and serve everyone. Sometimes, it is better to let go of your pride. The ability to let go of pride, to accept accountability, and to sincerely apologize are all signs of maturity and courage.
There are several ways to settle disputes, comprise, negotiation, and mediation. In the workplace, compromise and negotiation may be the two most relevant to everyday situations. Mediation, on the other hand, involves calling in a third party. Third parties can range from a person in whom the other parties have a high trust level and is not a party to the conflict at hand. The next step up is a professional mediator who has training or who holds a certification in mediation. The next step up for settling a dispute may involve an attorney or judge. For more insight on these three choices read Compromise, Negotiate, Mediate: 3 Factors for Conflict Resolution.
Many people avoid conflict at all costs. The problem is, ignoring conflict comes with a heavy cost. The hard truth is that ignoring conflict only serves to make it worse. Some conflict is healthy. Healthy conflict is how innovative ideas are born, new perspectives come to light, and deeper understanding can surface. For this to occur, we must be in touch with our own emotional triggers, and understand how to recognize, understand, and control our own emotions. The fear of strong emotions, denying emotions, or ignoring emotions does no one any good. This is particularly true of ourselves as once we understand this, it helps us to become stronger, more resilient, and gives us the strength to stand up for ourselves, yes even if we must comprise in the end.
6. Think Strategically
Strategic thinking comes with many definitions, it seems everyone has their own. According to Henry Mintzberg, a consulting guru, strategic thinking is more like seeing…seeing ahead, seeing behind, seeing above, seeing below, seeing beside, seeing beyond, and seeing it through. Solving conflict is like this. Think about brainstorming to solve conflict. Brainstorming solutions for conflicts allows us to “see” problems from the aspects Mr. Mitzberg suggests. Strategic thinking is not a “linear event.” Strategic thinking involves, planning, being analytical, being reflective, and being innovative. Think about (strategically of course) applying these elements to conflict resolution. Resolving conflict using brainstorming techniques helps solving conflict quicker, makes the process more interesting, and dare I say more fun.
7. Decisions and Problem Solving
When we strengthen our skills in decision making, it makes problem solving easier. When we make better decisions, conflict becomes less frequent and less serious. If we make better decisions, we typically have fewer problems thereby reducing conflict and the stress that comes with the conflict. Further, having better problem-solving skills reduces our penchant for ignoring problems and the conflict they produce. When you have the tools to tackle conflict, there is more reason to meet issues head on.
What training do you provide in using these conflict reducing tools? If your organization has the resources to provide such training, there is no excuse not to do so. If your organization is smaller, there are still ways to address using these tools. Articles can be found by you and your employees to share and discuss during staff meetings. Allow time for thought-proving discussion around the ideas in the article and how they might apply to events that might be evolving as your coming grows. Remember seeing ahead? The tools for conflict resolution abound and ignoring or seeping issues under the carpet should not be in your organization’s toolbox.
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