We all face conflict at some point in our day, whether professionally and personally. Conflict at work, while unfortunate, is to be expected. Everyone is different. Differences lead to conflict when individuals cannot agree. And because conflict is inevitable, it’s best to prepare so that we can handle ourselves when disputes arise. As a leadership consultant who has worked with smaller companies and Fortune 500 companies, I have developed what I call the “5C” approach to handling conflict.
Here are the five ways to approach conflict in the workplace.
Every conflict has sides. Before deciding how to resolve a conflict, make sure to listen carefully to what each party is saying. Careful listening is one of the best ways to handle conflict as it allows you to validate others’ ideas and let them know that they are being heard, regardless of whether you agree or not.
Let both sides present their ideas. Make sure that one group doesn’t interrupt the other, reserving comments during this phase. This presentation of ideas isn’t about establishing whose argument is better, but about carefully listening to each side. Perhaps these seemingly opposing ideas can be combined for a more effective outcome — but you and your team won’t know it unless everyone learns to listen carefully to each other.
When conflicts arise, emotions and anxieties are heightened. To avoid worsening the situation, make sure that your teams learn to understand each other, even when they don’t agree. Part of being able to listen carefully is being able to understand and accept others’ ideas. Remember that you’re not always right, and your ideas aren’t necessarily the best. Remind your team of this, as well, as you mediate the conflict.
Careful thought and consideration are important. After having your team listen to each other, give them time to consider what they have said. Have them summarize their points of agreement and disagreement and ask them to work together on a compromise. Keep an open mind, and make sure that your team members keep their minds open to others’ opinions and ideas.
How we respond to conflict can intensify tension. Conflicts worsen when the arguing parties become emotional, and the argument becomes personal. The best way to handle conflict is to stay calm: Calmer minds produce clearer ideas. Keep yourself and your team calm. Avoid showing signs that you agree with one group and not another. Show your team that you can keep calm and reasonable. Insist all parties talk to each other in a relaxed and civil manner. Don’t let emotions overwhelm the situation by making sure no one shouts, makes offensive comments, or blames.
Be sure you have all the facts before making any decisions to resolve a conflict. Clarify the points first, taking into consideration each person’s different perspectives. For instance, if a conflict arises while the team is deciding how to solve a problem, try to identify what each team member perceives as the problem. Different perspectives on the same problem will lead everyone to consider different solutions. Let everyone present their ideas without interruption so that you can all get the relevant facts you need to make an informed decision. As with careful listening and consideration, be sure to listen to each person and consider the facts they present. Be thorough in your investigation.
All four C’s should help your team to work together in resolving the conflict. With each of these tips, you’re focusing your team on addressing the shared problem instead of attacking each other’s personality. Because you and your team carefully listened, considerately looked at the situation, calmly discussed perspectives and conscientiously looked at the facts, you can all cooperate despite initial disagreement.
Letting everyone be a part of conflict resolution teaches your team how to handle conflict for themselves. The next time they find themselves disagreeing, they are less likely to need your intervention.
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