My recent group coaching sessions uncovered two aversions to conflict themes. One, most people avoid conflict for fear of hurting a person’s feelings and two, fear of disrupting the harmony. However, people’s feelings are often hurt more by prolonging honest feedback and artificial harmony is just that, artificial! It comes down to how do we manage ourselves when we need to approach a potential conflict situation. What stories are we telling ourselves about ourselves and about others? Here’s a few of my suggestions:
Pause, breathe and ask yourself:
- What do I want to accomplish with this conversation?
- What stories am I telling myself about this person? Are my personal biases affecting my ability to listen?
- How can I demonstrate curiosity instead of judgement?
- What questions do I need to ask to fully understand?
Most of us are conflict adverse, so let’s just say it’s not easy but we cannot avoid conflict because it will always appear at some point. The longer we leave it unaddressed the bigger and unhealthier it gets. However, conflict in small doses at regular intervals will sound and feel more like healthy debate between trusting individuals if we have the courage to work on how we manage ourselves. Healthy conflict is how we come up with the best decisions, uncover different opinions, it’s how we learn to trust each other when we resolve an issue together and it’s how people grow when they receive constructive feedback.
If we demonstrate a combination of empathy and directness when approaching a potential conflict situation, we have a better chance of people understanding our intentions. What does that sound like? I like to use the sentence starters like: I notice that…. what’s happening? Or I’d like to talk to you about…. How do you see things? Find the language that works for you. Practice it out loud and then ask yourself if it sounds judgemental or curious. Are you using “you” which is often blame, or “I” which is what you observe.
It’s worth the time to improve our ability to deal with conflict. Let’s face it, we have enough stress without having artificial harmony or disharmony in our lives.