No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it. We have to think with a new mind. ~ Albert Einstein
In the broadest sense of the word, “conflict” is…any situation in which one person’s concerns or desires differ from those of another person and appear to be incompatible. Conflict is inevitable, but how we handle it is a choice. That’s true whether we’re dealing with conflict in our private lives (with our partner, children, other family members, friends) or in our work lives (with our colleagues or other professionals).
A conflict can be as simple as “Who is going to do the dishes tonight” or as complicated as ”How do we get to world peace” – and everything in between. Here are some basic tips for resolving conflict in a positive and constructive manner.
1. Be open to a different perspective. Instead of immediately proceeding to “combat mode” – where everything is represented as being either black or white – try to understand that there may be shades of gray. Your side of the story is not necessarily the only version. It helps to at least try to see the problem from the other person’s perspective.
2. Use “I” statements instead of “you” statements. With an “I” statement, you are telling the other person what is going on with you. With a “you” statement, you are placing blame on the other person and making him or her feel defensive. So, for example, it’s better to say, “I need help preparing the kids for bed” instead of “You never help put the kids to bed.”
3. Focus on interests, not positions. Positions are rigid and do not look at the underlying needs of both parties. Interests, instead, get to the heart of the matter and address a person’s true needs and concerns. For instance, if you have a need for autonomy and independence, there may be a way to structure your involvement in a work project that honors that need, and also holds you accountable to the group.
4. Look forward, not back. Try not to get entangled in the old history and grievances between you and the other party. That will keep you stuck in the past and unable to resolve your issues. If you concentrate on how things can be better going forward, you’re more likely to come up with a viable solution.
5. Explore options together. Be open to there being a number of choices/options that could benefit both parties to the discussion. Be creative and open-minded as you look at various approaches and solutions.
6. Listen to what the other person has to say. That means really hearing their words, having good eye contact and being inquisitive about what they’re saying. Too often, we’re so busy framing our own rebuttal that we don’t truly hear what’s been said. Pay attention and be totally present to the conversation.
Are you dealing with conflict in your personal or professional life? Why don’t you try these suggestions and see how they can change the course of your discussions. Feel free to share your experiences by posting a comment in the box below.