Managing conflict courses in Auckland, Wellington and all across New Zealand
If you ask a series of managers what was the number one area of their job that they dread the majority of them would say dealing with conflict. Its human nature to be wary of conflict in the workplace yet conflict is incredibly beneficial; in fact positive change can rarely occur without conflict you just need to know how to manage it
Elite LD runs courses that help Managers and teams deal with conflict in an effective way. The courses focuses on making people aware of the psychological preferences in how people deal with and perceive conflict as well as the six main tools that are required to manage conflict
Mark Wager, founder and Director of Elite LD summarises the six main factors:
Be aware of your own emotional state.
Carl Jung, the famous Swiss psychiatrist once wrote that people make decisions by using one of two preferences. People either have a preference for “feeling” or a preference for “thinking”. A feeling person makes decisions based on personal values. They put themselves into the situation of the person affected and then make a decision. These people define fairness as when everyone is treated as an individual. Yet a person with a preference for “thinking” removes themselves from the emotional element and makes decisions based on practical logic. They define fairness as when everyone is treated the same.
Neither preference is better than the other, in fact in order to make decisions we have to have a balance of both preferences. Consider which preference you may have and remember when you deal with conflict you are exploring both preferences, logic and emotional.
Demonstrate active listening
For the majority of people who are caught up in a conflict, the issue in question is at that moment the most important issue in the world and nothing is more likely to make the situation worse than the suggestion that you are not listening with your complete attention. Turn off your phone, if possible take them somewhere quiet, stop talking and listen to what they have to say.
Acknowledge the emotion
Controlling your own emotions during conflict is difficult enough but trying to control the emotions of other people is even more challenging. Its’ very easy to make a judgement based on your own values e.g. I wouldn’t be upset or angry if that happened to me. However, they are angry and they are upset and that feeling is real even if the reason behind the cause isn’t... People in pain even self-inflicted want you to acknowledge what they are going through so do just that. Agree that they are feeling these emotions. With regards to the reason, stay neutral.
Do say “You seem really upset” Do not say: “I would be upset too”
Do say “It sounds like you are very frustrated with the situation” Do not say “I understand how frustrating it is”
Reframe the conversation
Reframing is the ability to get people to see a situation from a different view. This can be done by changing the words that are used so that the context of the statement is more positive and attempts to put the speaker in the frame of mind that is required to resolve the dispute. This is a difficult skill that takes time to master so practice by firstly thinking of words that are viewed of as negative and think of what would be the positive version of that word. E.g. an obstacle can be viewed as a challenge. Someone who is described as impatient can also be described as keen. Once you have the handle on this it’s time to look at reframing complete statements.
‘My Mother consistently interferes in my life, she won’t let me do anything” can be reframed in a more positive way into ‘It sounds like you have a very protective Mother”
The two most important tools that any quality mediator utilises are WATNA and BATNA which are short form for “Worst Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement” and “Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement.” One of the biggest myths about conflict is that the larger the issue the more difficult the resolution is. The truth is the complexity of the conflict is mainly governed by the people involved and not the issues. I’ve seen million dollar disagreements settle far easier and quicker than disputes over a few hundred dollars. What WATNA and BATNA do is to get people to see the likely consequences of continuing their current path of disagreement. If people can see this path then they can better decide if they need to change their position.
The ability to summarise is an invaluable tool in dealing with conflict. Not only does it allow the speaker to feel heard but it enables transition to a new topic and encourages the parties involved that progress has been made. The key to be a good summariser is the ability to be concise, remain neutral and only paraphrase if it’s a sensitive issue or the precise wording is crucial. If you are unsure then the following phrases will help:
“Let’s see where we are...”
“We’ve resolved these issues...”
“You’ve agreed on...”
“What you are saying is...’
We are left with the issue of ...”
When I teach people how to should deal with conflict I always remember the words of the pioneering journalist Dorothy Thompson, as someone who was the first American journalist to be expelled from Nazi Germany in 1934 due to her interview and subsequent book on Adolf Hitler who was very used to the concept of conflict. Dorothy Thompson wrote:
“Peace is not the absence of conflict but the presence of creative alternatives for responding to conflict – alternatives to passive or aggressive responses, alternatives to violence”.