All of us have at some point found ourselves in a situation where it is necessary to have a difficult conversation with our co-worker, supervisor or employee. These times can be extremely uncomfortable, because if not handled correctly, the potential for future misunderstanding and conflict is high.
Here are a few tips and techniques for effectively handling conflict situations that I have developed. These are extracted from my training program, “Navigating Conflict Situations for Technical Professionals”, and are just a few examples of how to turn difficult working relationships into those that are positive and productive.
When having a conversation with others that have the potential to cause conflict or tension, remember these points:
- Ask yourself if you have a tendency to attract conflict. Find the balance between dreading conflict – and being too eager to start it.
- Ask yourself if you tend to have a “chip on your shoulder.” Pick your battles carefully and be discerning of when conflict truly is necessary.
- Be an ambassador of peace. Always give others the benefit of the doubt instead of assuming the worst.
- Keep conflict situations non-personal. Ensure that the problem is always centered around the circumstance, and not the person.
- Come to terms with the fact that conflict is not necessarily a bad thing... it is sometimes necessary to define and protect your own boundaries and interests, and to come to the overall best desired outcome. Don't shy away from conflict in these cases, but use our “V.A.L.U.E.” Plan™ to develop a positive outcome.
- Make up your mind not to become involved in other people's business, creating discord between others. Don’t be concerned about picking sides, as this can potentially increase tension on both sides.
- Avoid frontal attacks whenever possible. They can back-fire. It’s always best to take a step back and re-evaluate how to approach someone who is being difficult before responding in anger.
- Be aware not to allow negative emotions to dictate how you respond to others. Maintaining kindness, patience, and respect will always dispel bickering and disagreements.
- Use the “5-second Rule”: Before responding in a tense situation, take five seconds to think about your response before speaking. Take more time listening and asking questions than you do talking.
- Use the “Fast-forward” technique before speaking in a heated situation. Before responding, ask yourself, “What type of response can I expect if I say what I am thinking? Will this get me closer to, or further from my desired outcome?”
Effectively dealing with complex people and situations is not always easy, but it is a skill that can be learned – and even mastered. Give these tips and techniques a try. Make a commitment to consistently put them into action when facing the next conversation with that difficult co-worker, boss or employee. By doing this, you will eventually ensure that your working relationship thrives, positioning you for even greater success.