Dealing with Conflict

“Can you help me/my team/staff/manager deal with conflict?”

This question is one I hear regularly.  It’s one that has a simple answer- “yes – I can”.  It's also one where the answer isn’t what the questioner wants to hear. 

When we have difficulties in our relationships, it’s much easier to point the finger, blame the other person and decide they're the one that needs to change.  This may seem like the easy way ... all you need to do is do this and this and this to make me happy.  Yeah right!!  The easy way is often the hardest route to take - see my previous article here.  What if the other person doesn't want to make you happy?  What if making you happy, makes them unhappy?  When we do the work that’s needed (translation:  change how we do things), the road becomes easier and disagreements become robust conversations rather than crippling, stressful, energy-sapping major events. 

Dealing with conflict is really quite simple and in my view, the key is listening to the other person.  When I say listening, I mean truly, deeply hearing what is going on for them.  I mean really understanding what it feels like for them, and what emotions they’re going through.  Listening is much more than looking like I’m listening, or hearing while I’m doing something else, or waiting for my turn to speak.  True listening is a full-body experience that requires us to connect using our rapport skills and hear using our intelligence and our brain, not just our ears.  When you do that well, there’s no space in your head to wonder if you’ve taken the steak out at home as you are fully involved in the conversation.

Once we know what is going on for another person, then we can start to deal with the difficulty and do the work, have the conversation, make the changes required.  When you have a disagreement, what are your expectations?  How well do you listen to the other person?  

We're all a work in progress.  I love the saying I heard from Ray Kroc, founder of McDonalds:  “Are you green and growing or ripe and rotting?”  What are you doing to grow your listening skills?