Kakie's Corner

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Three Simple Steps for Managing Conflict

Posted by KakieF on August 22, 2011


Recently I was recently having coffee with a friend who is an executive leadership and communications consultant and we began talking about dealing with conflict. I listened to her speak and it made me think about the significance of the communications courses I took as an undergrad in college.  I was in awe soaking in her experience and wisdom. What I heard from her was that it is all about getting clarity, understanding interpretations and asking the right questions.

What is it about the word “conflict” that makes us uneasy? Simple, but complicated, because in order to overcome the issues that come with it, we have to learn it. THEN we have to practice it until it feels normal and believe me, that is no easy task.

Below are some steps that I hope will help you for managing differences.

1.       Clarify and ask: “Are we working on the same problem?”  Seek to understand what the issue is. People often tackle symptoms, not the root cause of things so it is our responsibility to seek to understand the issue at hand by asking:

  • Is there a pattern in the murky-ness that is continuing to repeat itself?
  • Is it your pattern?
  • Does the blueprint belong to someone else?
  • Could it be a little of both?

Ask the other person how they would define the issue at hand and listen.  Follow that up with another question that says; “Tell me more about that. What does it look like to you?” You might be very surprised what you learn. In today’s world we often are so action focused that we try to jump to a solution before understanding a problem.

2.       Try to identify the other person’s role. I’m not saying take their personal inventory. We have to acknowledge and recognize everyone has blind spots and filters that create bias. Ask questions and seek to understand because we all contribute in different ways and guess what? Not participating and ambiguity are all methods of contribution. The choice to do nothing is a decision.

3.       Take Ownership. This is an important one because we have a responsibility to ourselves to ask; “What is my contribution in this situation?”

Conflict is complicated and uncomfortable for many of us because we have different social styles and we interpret meaning differently. Growing professionally is this ongoing journey and for many and each role gives us opportunities to pick up tools and put them in our toolbox. Some of us move forward and seek out more. But once in a while, we may have put one of our resources on the shelf in the garage and forgotten about it. In this conversation with my friend she reminded me what I already knew. I just needed to hear it from someone else.   Please share below, What makes managing conflict successful?

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