Under most and certainly difficult circumstances, I believe that Conflict Resolution skills are necessary to thrive. No matter the industry, business type or size, it is inevitable that we will face change and challenges. Having healthy conflict management skills will serve you and your team well.
What is important to know about conflict?
It’s important to understand that we each have our own natural conflict handling approach. Conflict resolution intersects with communication. By understanding our own communication style and that of others, we can create a constructive foundation from which effective conflict resolution can exist.
What does it mean to understand our own communication styles and just how do we go about doing that?
Human behavior has been studied for thousands of years BC. In 1924, William Marston, developer of the lie detector, studied the concepts of will and a person's sense of power and their effect on personality and human behavior. The DISC model evolved from Marston's search for measurements of the energy of behavior and consciousness.
Later, others developed DISC assessments from his model.
There are a variety of available instruments, including DISC to help us to identify and understand our communication styles. We can leverage our understanding of our own and other people’s styles to constructively resolve conflict.
How do we figure out what our styles are? And what about other people’s styles?
The most reliable and effective way is through completing a communication tool assessment, such as the DISC, accompanied with interpretation from an experienced DISC Consultant. For situations where you’d like to determine other people’s styles, yet an assessment is not an option, you can perform an informal self-assessment by learning more about each of the styles and how to identify them. Through purposeful observation, we can often learn more about people’s natural preferred style.
What else could we be aware of or do to successfully manage conflict?
There are certain behaviors that we can choose that will help us to successfully manage conflict.
It may be helpful to know that there are various responses to conflict, including:
Start with moving towards the conflict. Resist recoiling and deal with it directly.
Conflict avoidance is not constructive. A peaceful, harmonious workplace can be the worst thing for businesses. Research shows that the biggest predictor of poor performance is complacency (Harvard Business Review- How to Pick A Good Fight, 2009, by Saj-nicole A. Joni and Damon Beyer).
In Patrick Lencioni’s 5 Dysfunctions of a Team, he discusses the importance of healthy conflict. Lencioni suggests that holding back to avoid conflict is a behavior that can lead to dysfunctional teams.
Managed constructively, conflict can actually lead to successful outcomes.
There are certain things you can do to help successfully address conflict, including:
Consider the importance of the relationship, your role in the conflict, your contribution, as well as the desired outcome.
Take your Temperature. Are you emotionally charged and angry? Will you be able to think before you speak or do you need time to cool down first?
Approach the person positively to gain their interest in resolving the conflict.
Seek Permission and agreement to resolve the issue. Ask the other person for permission to resolve it (e.g. Can we discuss this, as I’d like to get your input and clear the air/resolve this).
Listen to identify, understand and acknowledge their concerns, as well as verify assumptions. Ask what it is they need and listen objectively with the intent to acknowledge the other person. Listen to understand, empathize and help. Making sure they feel heard is showing them a form of respect and doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to agree with them.
Personally, I advise caution when using reflective listening, to ensure that it’s genuine and is made using your “own voice.” Rather than saying “what I’m hearing you say is…”, I suggest a variation that fits more naturally in the context of the discussion (e.g. I think I get what you are saying, can I speak for you for a moment to check this out? Or “can I paraphrase for you for a moment?)
Own it and Apologize- if you realize that you’ve make a mistake, own it and apologize. Acknowledge it and discuss the win-win outcomes.
Focus on Interests, not positions to negotiate and manage agreements- Negotiate a win-win outcome. When discussing the different ideas, be clear and specific, pointing out the benefits of each. If agreement is reached, restate and agree on action steps.
Overcome obstacles- If reaching agreement is difficult, ask the person to share what it is they would like. Try to understand the underlying WHY they want it. Also, ask what they consider obstacles that would prevent it from working.
Follow through- Both successful resolution and your credibility are at stake when an agreement is reached, yet you don’t take the agreed upon action.
If you are interested in hearing more on Breaking Through to Conflict Resolution, you can listen to my interview on the Cheri Hill Radio Show.
Allison S. Tabor, CPC, CPSM, Owner of Coppia Communications is an Executive Coach, Consultant and Facilitator. Certified as a Professional Coach, DISC and OnePage Business Plan® consultant, she specializes in communication, strategic planning and the coaching of entrepreneurs, CEOs, executives and their teams.
Having led a successful structural engineering business she owned with her husband for over 23 years, she draws from her business ownership experience. Being a highly effective thinking partner, Allison motivates and assists business leaders and their teams, helping them bring out their best thinking, communication and performance.
Also, as a facilitator for the Women Presidents' Organization (WPO) www.womenpresidentsorg.com, Allison leads two peer advisory groups of Bay Area multi-million dollar entrepreneurial women presidents and CEOs in order to bring the "genius out of the group" and accelerate the growth of their businesses.