Conflict resolution is one of the key characteristics of emotional intelligence. Since conflict is inevitable, conflict resolution is one of the most important skills to have as a successful leader. Because conflict resolution is not taught in school nor by most parents growing up, it is looked upon as being a self-taught subject.
The inability to resolve conflict is the cause of most divorces as well as the demise of many great businesses. Every ounce of energy spent on conflict is an ounce less spent on productivity. Conflict not only impacts the people involved but can also crush the morale of anyone close to the it. As a leader, it is your responsibility to embrace and work though conflict, not let it reduce productivity or damage long-developed relationships. Conflict can actually stimulate relationships if worked through productively.
When you find yourself in disagreement and confronted with conflict, here are a few best practices to remember.
Communicate Effectively (Don’t Text!)
Express how you feel face-to-face in a safe environment and stick to the facts. Deal with the issue in a timely manner, but wait until you can express yourself productively. Don’t forget to listen and allow the other person to express themselves. If the conflict is too intense, ask a friend, mentor, boss or family member to mediate. Do not walk away without a win-win solution. When a solution is found that begins to settle the dust and you both feel comfortable moving forward, allow yourself to let go emotionally.
Change your Vantage Point
Conflict is usually two-sided. Consider your role in conflict. Natural human behavior is to try to defend or protect yourself in a dispute. This can create the need to prove the other wrong instead of introspecting and identifying your role in the issue.
Once your emotions settle, try to view the conflict as an outsider looking in. Try to identify the real issue. Force yourself to disconnect so you can let your wall down and try to understand the other person's perspective. Sometimes conflict is not as it seems and there are outlying issues that impact the mindset. There may be history that has caused the individuals to be upset about something else and mistakenly taken their frustrations out on each other.
Be Willing to Forgive
Forgiveness is an important aspect of communication. If you do not approach conflict with the perspective that you are willing to forgive, there will be no resolution. Sometimes we hold back on forgiveness because we feel like we are relinquishing power, but forgiveness is a choice and is essential in resolving differences. Forgiveness has also been related to health because pent up anger and resentment can increase blood pressure and heart rate.
Attack the Problem, Not the Person
Avoid blame if you really want to be heard. Approach the conflict with a problem-solving attitude. Try to avoid proving a point and instead discuss the solution. Don’t get caught trying to defend your perspective. If you need to express yourself, use “I” statements rather than “you,” and avoid absolutes like “always” and “never.” Using the wrong words will limit your chances for recovery.
Apology is the Final Step
Apologizing is a very underused method but extremely valuable in moving forward after conflict. A sincere apology doesn’t always mean an admission of mistake or surrender, but it can mean that you apologize that the communication reached the point of confrontation. Apologies can act as a reset after an argument and allow the two of you to move forward. When you realize you have some responsibility in the conflict, apologize—it will feel good and mean a lot.