Tension. We all know it. We all feel it. Many of us dread it … especially when it involves a disagreement, miscommunication, or conflict with someone else. Awkward silences … harsh voices … wondering what you could or should have said differently. Even just reading this paragraph probably made you uncomfortable.
As much as we all dislike it, no relationship (business or personal) is without conflict of some kind. But, conflict resolution doesn’t have to cause the kind of anxiety or frustration that keeps you up at night. There are ways to address conflict without replaying and questioning each interaction over and over during the wee hours of the night. 😉
Don’t let it sit.
If there’s an issue, or even better, if you know there’s going to be an issue, talk about it! Usually, if you can talk about something before it happens or right after, there’s a solution that is fairly readily available. The longer you wait to address an uncomfortable situation, however, the longer both people have the chance to make their own assumptions, build resentment, and allow a situation to become (usually) bigger than necessary.
Don’t make assumptions.
When there’s tension, everyone reacts differently, and remembering this will serve you well. Your job during a conflict is not to assume the thoughts or feelings of the other person or people. Assumptions about what someone else thinks or feels will lead you to your own thoughts and feelings based on something that you’ve assumed about someone else. Sounds confusing, right?
The thing about making assumptions is that you’re taking away the right of someone else to share their own thoughts. If you want to know how someone feels about something … ask! If you think you know the answer to a question you need answered … ask! You owe it to yourself and those around you to make sure the information you’re basing your opinions on are accurate.
Make conflict resolution the goal.
Our ego gets in the way of a lot. (Example: “I can TOTALLY get my entire to-do list done today. Before lunch. Even though the list is 17 items long. And one of them is cleaning the entire house.”) When there’s a disagreement, rather than focusing on a solution, our ego wants to focus on being right … or more often, who’s in the wrong. This perspective does nothing for anyone, and it certainly doesn’t allow for the opportunity to work toward a solution or resolve. Which, isn’t that the whole point?
The biggest reason arguments get out of hand is because both parties are not listening to look for a solution or to work together. More than likely, both parties are looking to be correct, or more importantly … not be the one who’s incorrect. The truth is, we’re all going to be wrong at some point—and that’s OK! It’s how we learn. Look at what you can control during the situation by being part of the solution and working as a team (especially when you don’t want to).
The simplest way to make conflict resolution your main goal? Listen. Don’t listen to react or to share your side of things. Actively listen to the person you’re talking to and be empathetic. There’s a reason for the disagreement or tension, and often it’s a big gray area where no one is completely right or wrong. Listening to the needs of someone else will probably help you understand why there’s an issue in the first place and can help lead you to compromise. Need some help with active listening? Here are some ways to brush up your skills.
The best way to solve conflict is to put yourself in the position of the other person and to have compassion and understanding that the thoughts and feelings of another person are just as important and valid as your own.(Here we go, back to that ego again.)
This does not mean that your own thoughts and feelings aren’t important or valid. It means that you understand and realize that in order to move forward in life, conflict, difficult times, and truly most areas of your life … it’s imperative that you understand the needs of those around you, while also understanding your own.