The Key Element to Managing Conflict Effectively

conflict2Managing conflict is a hot topic with several of my clients right now. Conflict is defined as situations in which the concerns of two people appear to be incompatible according to the Thomas Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument™ (TKI). Conflict isn’t necessarily bad, but it is an inevitable and sometimes stressful part of life, both at work and at home. As long as we have to interact with other people, we will have conflict because we all have different thoughts, opinions, needs, concerns and desires.

For many people, the first instinct when faced with a conflict at work or home is to defend themselves by fighting back verbally in attempt to make themselves right and the other person wrong. (Examples: “That’s not what I said.” or “You took that the wrong way.”) This actually makes the conflict worse by escalating it. When we fight back and defend ourselves, the other person must then fight back harder in order to defend themselves, and the conflict just heightens and continues.

Instead, the best thing to do when someone initiates a conflict is to just listen to what they are saying and paraphrase back what you heard them say and how you think they feel. (Example: “So what you are saying is that because I came home 45 minutes late you had to miss your appointment and you are really frustrated about that?”) This is Stephen Covey’s concept of seeking first to understand. It’s difficult to do without some practice, but it will diffuse the conflict, reduce strong emotions, and make it easier to deal with the real issue.

Stay tuned for future newsletters for more tips on how to manage conflict more effectively.

Peace is not absence of conflict, it is the ability to handle conflict by peaceful means. – Ronald Reagan

 “Where all think alike, no one thinks very much.”– Walter Lippmann

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