Communication Corner – Toolkit for Conflict

No matter your position in a company, there will be times that a visceral response to a situation threatens your professionalism. I have found my own “Monkey Brain” reacting unproductively to perceived threats, mostly unconsciously. It is important to recognize your reactions and modify behaviors to achieve desired outcomes. If we allow ourselves to react emotionally we will often find ourselves with regret.

Various stimuli can result in a rising tide of emotion. According to the Chartered Management Institute, “there are five causes of conflict:

  • Information: Something was missing, incomplete or ambiguous.
  • Environment: Something in the environment leads to the conflict.
  • Skills: People lack the appropriate skills for doing their work.
  • Values: A clash of personal values leads to conflict.
  • Identity: The participants’ sense of identity puts them at odds with each other.”

The focus of the toolkit provided here is you. Managing relationships at work starts with managing yourself. Firstly, ask yourself how you have come to understand conflict. In various stages of your life how have you seen adversity handled well? Badly?

A vital component to a healthy culture is healthy communication. Communication is cooperative. It requires active listening and patient speech. Sit for a moment before drawing yourself into battle and reflect on your values. Will the exchange you enter into leave you satisfied with your own behavior no matter the outcome?

“Win or lose, do it fairly!” – Knute Rockne

I have taken some time to reflect on this and develop a “Toolkit for Conflict.” Despite the overdone, “simple steps to achieving anything” feel of this, I will risk sharing my list of conflict in the hopes that it will serve you as well as it is serving me. Even after I initially wrote these words down I have forgotten, to my dismay and that of others, how important these steps can be. So as a reminder to myself and in hopes that we can shift our collective behavior to more rationally and effectively deal with adversity in our shared environment, here it goes.

1. Be AWARE of your reactions.

– In previous stressful situations how have you conducted yourself?

– What are the physical manifestations of conflict-based stress?

– What serves you?

– What is your intention?

2. OPEN the door. Don’t ignore conflict.

– Ask yourself, does this scenario warrant a response?

– Is this important?

– How will this impact you and others if you fail to respond meaningfully?

– Is change possible if you engage?

3. Show CURIOSITY. Ask questions to more fully gain UNDERSTANDING.

– What is the other’s point of view?

– “What do we need from each other in order to have a safe, useful conversation?”

4. REFLECT back what you have heard.

– Did I hear you correctly, when you said ____________?

– Did I pause for a moment of pause to silently reflect rather than immediately responding?

– Did you allow the other to ask questions?

5. Show APPRECIATION. The energy involved in managing disagreement requires a bit of struggle from both parties to navigate the emotions attached to friction. The new brain maps that can grow from healthy conversation are of great value.

Consider these tools. And please offer your feedback, ideas, and stories. We can collectively find ways to shift our culture to one in which adversarial relationships at work disappear. We can do more to remind ourselves that we share a purpose and have differences in how we might approach similar problems. That being said, when differences of opinion arise, creating some rules of engagement can allow for a more healthy work environment for everyone involved.

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