Kathryn ended her Zoom call and just sat there in disbelief. Had that just happened? Had her colleague just blamed her? She knows she’s not in the wrong. How does she make things right? Kathryn doesn’t want to deal with this – she’s got a ton on her plate and she admittedly hates confrontation.
We’ve all been there. On the precipice of conflict, most of us want to avoid the situation. We hope the conflict goes away on its own. We hope the other person admits they’re wrong. We hope someone else will deal with the situation so we don’t have to. Hope is not a strategy!
Avoiding conflict is not the answer. This is news to my ever-optimistic mother who quite proudly told me she doesn’t deal with conflict because she is a diplomat.
To lead effectively, to build trust with all those you deal with, and to problem solve, we need to address conflict.
I am not one who likes to deal with conflict. Before researching and training professionals on becoming conflict competent, I would avoid it. That tactic rarely worked in my favor. Relationships faltered and productivity decreased. I wasted energy and time thinking and talking about the situation. I, like many others, will do everything I can to prevent conflict. Or I used to… And then there are people who are more comfortable handling conflict when it arises.
I am NOT recommending that you address conflict right as it occurs, especially if you are a diplomat.
Instead, try these 5 tactics when you are in conflict:
1 – Delay your response. Consider the 48-hour rule. Sit on it, acknowledge your hesitations, emotions, and facts. Sometimes, 24 hours may be enough. Then once 48 hours have come and gone, you no longer can go back to the individual to address it. Give yourself that deadline so you are delaying your response rather than avoiding the situation.
2 – Consider your natural reaction to conflict. When faced with conflict, what is your natural reaction? Do you avoid, over-analyze, or instigate conflict? How does that contribute to your response?
3 – Be deliberate. Intentionally respond to the situation and individual. Prepare what you will say. Consider the potential objections from the other party.
4 – Build up your muscle memory. Notice what circumstances, situations or people trigger you into conflict. If someone considers you unreliable or not capable, does that push you into a state of conflict? In building this muscle, you can anticipate when and how you will respond to the next conflict situation.
5 – Listen intently. Listen to understand where the other person is coming from. Put yourself in their shoes. How can you expand your perspective?
Our relationships are key to our career progression. Weigh the consequences of not resolving conflict. How will it impact your relationship? How will avoidance impact your abilities to execute? How will it impact your career progression?
Professionals who address conflict appropriately, effectively, and promptly, lead with authority and influence. They build trust with others.