When we accept that conflict is a part of life, we can move into learning to manage it, or ideally, transform it in a way that brings us closer in our important family and business relationships.
Conflict generally happens when there’s a clash of differing perspectives accompanied by strong emotions.
Conflict often results from lack of communication or poor communication – when we’re not effectively conveying what we’re trying to get across.
The irony is that while conflict resolution is a crucial life skill, it’s generally not taught in school – or at home, for that matter.
Many of us have been working from home for the past year due to the pandemic. And with so many employees now out of sight, there can be enhanced risks that conflicts will go unnoticed or avoided until perhaps they become unmanageable.
When the conflict in any relationship – work-related, business, or personal – is ongoing, it creates stress that can negatively affect our health and well-being.
When we’re dealing with people who we see every day, and our success at work or in business is predicated on having successful relationships, it’s the way we handle conflict that ultimately determines the success of those relationships.
Generally, people deal with conflict in one of two ways. The first way is we tend to avoid it. When we avoid conflict, we tend to push down negatively charged emotions like anger, resentment, or hurt. And the longer a conflict goes on, the more resentment builds. This could ultimately lead to a complete breakdown in a family or business relationship.
The other way we tend to deal with conflict is by becoming worked up to the point where we lash out at someone else. Depending on the things we say or how we say it, this can seriously jeopardize any relationship.
When a conflict with a family member or co-worker arises in the business, it’s generally best to approach the other person right away with the intent to resolve the conflict. This can be an opportunity to deepen understanding and improve the relationship.
Resolving conflict has certain challenges in our now remote workspace, however. It can be generally harder to build trust, which really is essential to do before starting a difficult conversation with a family member or co-worker.
We tend to use emails and messaging platforms more and it’s easier to misconstrue someone’s meaning in an email. Likewise, body language can be easily misconstrued over video or video conferencing can be glitchy, which interrupts the flow of any conversation.
But what we can do – and that’s true virtually or not – is build our skill at managing our emotions. When we can effectively manage emotions, we can successfully handle any interpersonal conflict.
Here are 6 powerful tips for managing emotions in a conflict or difficult conversation:
1. Set your intention for a positive outcome.
Suspend all judgment about the other person. Instead of automatically assuming he or she is lazy, selfish, or taking advantage, just assume there are things you don’t know that might be causing the behavior. They might have had a bad day or a fight with their spouse, for example.
2. Plan your timing.
Make sure the other person is able to pay attention, or not right before a meal when you or the other person might be “hangry.”
3. Get clear on what you really want.
For instance, you might think “I want to win or be right,” but what you really might want is to come to an agreement that works for both of you.
Now is a great time to connect with your values, what is really important to you. Then match what you do next to what you really want.
4. Carefully weigh what you say.
Think about what you want to convey and how it might land with the other person.
Avoid starting a difficult conversation with “we have to talk.” Your family member or coworker is likely to expect to hear you tell him something he is doing wrong.
Notice what you’re feeling – just take that moment to pause – see if you have the urge to win or prove you’re right.
Then it can really make a difference to start the conversation by acknowledging how your actions impacted the other person.
Before responding, the first thing you want to do is just listen. And show you’re listening by saying something like “I hear you” or lean in with body language, nodding your head.
If you feel the urge to jump in and defend yourself, simply stop for a beat of about a breath. Then refocus back on your intention for the outcome.
To get anywhere in relationship conflicts, whether in a family or other business, work, or at home, requires that we stop thinking about how right we are, and literally see things from how the other person sees them.
5. Take responsibility.
Conflicts are rarely caused by one person. You might ask yourself “what can I take responsibility for?”
Acknowledging your piece is likely to build trust with your family member or business colleague and he or she is likely to respond in kind.
6. Get support if you need it.
All leaders need the confidence and skills to manage conflict. Whether it’s participating in ongoing training in conflict management skills, or bringing in a skilled mediator, managing and resolving conflict can save incredible amounts of time, money, and stress.
The key to strengthening family and business relationships is to be able to not just manage conflict when it inevitably shows up, but to transform it in a way that leads to greater understanding and deeper connection.
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