I think that managing
conflict is like learning to ride a bicycle - it's easy when you get
some help balancing, and practice, practice, practice! The difficulty
most of us run into is that we expect ourselves to be good conflict
managers without having learned the skills, then we get mad at ourselves
for doing the same thing over and over again, getting the same predictable
results. We react habitually because we don't know any other way. We
didn't take conflict management in school along with science and math.
Our role models may not have had great skills either, so we end up dealing
with conflict the way our parents did, or vowing to take the opposite
In other words,
we muddle through, doing the best we can, getting the same woeful results,
not understanding why we get caught and not having tools to do it differently.
It's important to
understand this so we don't become frustrated with ourselves, and expect
Good conflict management
is a learned skill. In many instances it goes against our basic reaction
of "flight or fight." First we need to acknowledge the pain conflict
brings into our life and be willing to let go of ineffective habits
and knee-jerk reactions. Then we can concentrate on applying new behaviors.
Often when we decide to change ourselves, we want others to change as
well, so it's important to develop a "live and let live" approach.
One of the best
arenas for practicing conflict management is in our relationships with
others, particularly those we're closest to, because that's where we
get into the most difficulty. Below are Seven Strategies for Success,
which I find very useful.
- Notice your
body language and tone of voice. Are you projecting what you intend
- Listen, and
then listen again. Listen with your eyes and ears. Listen to what
the person is not saying. Listen with your heart.
- Let go of the
inner judge - that part of you that criticizes and attacks. Banish
your fault-finder by taking a deep breath and substituting a positive
thought instead. (This process is never ending, so you'll have plenty
of opportunities to practice!)
- Deal with the
present situation only - no past examples to score points!
- Ask yourself:
"Do I want to be right or happy?" Then decide. After all, you're the
one who gets to live with the consequences of your choice.
- Omit words like
NEVER, SHOULD and ALWAYS from your communication. These words tend
to escalate conflicts.
- Take full responsibility
for the communication. This means doing whatever is necessary to ensure
that you are creating an inclusive dialogue in which each person feels
seen, heard and understood.
You've noticed no
doubt, that these strategies are all for you, and not the other
person. That's because you're the one reading this article, so if you
want change, be the change you want to see happen! When we use
these tools, the Strategies for Success, we get to understand and appreciate
our human differences, which in turn revitalize and strengthen our relationships.
As the saying goes, "what goes around comes around," so give the very
best of yourself and be prepared to receive the best from others. Enjoy