Conflict resolution isn’t just a handy skill – it’s essential for navigating the unpredictability that comes with living in an interactive and often competitive society. In this blog, Billy looks at four fundamental components of effective conflict resolution.
What’s the primary thing US President Donald Trump and North Korea’s Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un have in common? Is it the megalomaniacal pursuit of power? Hyper-sensitivity to any form of criticism? Ridiculous cartoonish appearances? Access to immensely destructive nuclear weaponry?
These are all valid options, but the pair’s closest link has to be their rueful deficiency in the area of conflict resolution.
To be a social creature is to encounter a fair amount of conflict, disagreement and interpersonal tension. Conflicts can arise from very minor incidents, such as bumping into a fellow passenger on a crowded commuter train; they can also become critically damaging, such as in the case of the aforementioned power-crazed narcissists.
Here are four fundamental components for effective conflict resolution – so you can resolve your difficult situations in a positive and constructive way, before they go nuclear.
Empathy is key
Some practical skills are necessary for defusing and resolving conflicts. However, attempts at conflict resolution are unlikely to have lasting success if handled in a purely practical manner.
Not only will displaying an impersonal attitude or solely focusing on practical outcomes make you seem indifferent, conflicts tend to have a more significant cause than a basic inability or refusal to do something.
Exhibiting authentic empathy is key, which means caring about what you’re saying and the solutions discussed and sincerely recognising the other person’s point of view.
No one likes being told what to do or how to think. Even if you flatly disagree with someone’s ideas or actions, you won’t progress without expressing a certain level of understanding. Adopt an open demeanour and ask questions about how someone feels and what they think needs to change.
Don’t abandon your self-respect
While approaching conflict resolution with empathetic understanding, be careful not to descend into polite submission. This can happen if you’re apprehensive about speaking honestly or just too eager to find the quickest route to resolve.
Making a satisfying breakthrough requires patience and maintaining your self-respect. Now, this doesn’t mean stubbornly backing yourself and refusing to consider your own culpability. But there’s no point awkwardly nodding your way through a discussion and withholding your take on the situation.
It’s not about winning and losing
In the same way a lack of empathy hampers the realisation of substantial resolve, making someone feel like they’ve won would suggest the deeper issues haven’t been properly addressed.
There’s a major difference between inducing a feeling of empowerment and determining an overall victor. If someone feels like they’ve won, they probably won’t be particularly motivated to persevere with any changes discussed.
Empowerment, on the other hand, is reached via active listening, focusing on the issues at hand and displaying interest in solutions that appeal to all involved.
Maintain open communication going forward
So now that you’ve reached an appropriately positive outcome, you can just move on and forget that anything ever happened, right? Well, yes and no.
You don’t want to remind someone about a former disagreement every time you see them, but equally, you should stay wary of similarly-natured conflicts arising in the future.
After agreeing upon a solution, it’s beneficial to uphold open communication going forward, especially if you sense the seeds of disagreement could sprout again.
Consider which of your own behavioural traits and ingrained perspectives might lead to conflicts and watch out for triggers. You certainly want to conclude on a positive note, but that doesn’t mean denying the possibility of recurrence.
- Being assertive and building trust: The key to workplace satisfaction
- Four simple ways to be more assertive
- Five tips for dealing with difficult people
If you would like to learn more about conflict resolution, join us for our new Conflict Resolution workshop on 12th December 2017 at Happy’s training centre in London. This workshop is brand new to our course programme so is at an introductory price of £195 + VAT per person. Alternatively, please contact us if you would like to arrange a private group at your offices or at Happy.