How are you with conflict? Do you walk knowingly into it and see it as an inevitable part of life, or do you do anything in your power to avoid it? Or are you somewhere in the middle?
Conflict is unavoidable in the workplace, there will always be personality clashes, differences in opinion passionately expressed and issues around hierarchy, but it’s how you deal with it that matters. Not dealing with conflict and shying away from it can, at times, be detrimental to your own self-worth, growth and how you’re perceived by your team and colleagues.
You don’t want to be seen as a pushover or someone that others can intimidate or bully because of your dislike of conflict. Equally, you don’t want to develop a reputation as someone who kicks off at the drop of a hat. There are very few people who like conflict but facing it and dealing with it in a rational, professional and fair way is usually the best policy.
The key to handling any sort of conflict in the workplace is tuning into your emotional intelligence. Although living with an element of conflict isn’t necessarily a negative thing – it’s fine to agree to disagree and respect one another’s differences of opinion – what is unproductive is when opposing views become a destructive force, with the relationship breaking down as a result.
This can have an extremely detrimental effects in the workplace where people can’t just walk away from one another but need to find a way to get along.
We can all think of people who rub us up the wrong way or people we just don’t ‘get’ (notice how easy it is to make it their fault?!) and how quickly a disagreement can escalate into a full-scale drama. It’s having emotional intelligence that makes conflict OK and stops a disagreement turning into a negative force.
Emotional intelligence comprises four components which will help you during conflict:
Self-awareness – developing an awareness of the people and situations which trigger you and your typical reactions under stress
Self-management – knowing how to manage your reactionsand adapt your approach
Social awareness – developing empathy towards others and recognising emotions in them
Relationship management – using awareness of your and others’ emotions to manage interactions, including communicating clearly.
The best use of emotional intelligence when resolving conflict is to ensure you make calm statements of fact and remain open to other’s points of view. You can do this by asking open, non-leading questions and listening attentively. When each person really tries to understand the other’s point of view without judging, this is where resolve happens as having empathy, listening and working with facts rather than heated emotion works wonders.
Of course, you can say how things have affected you, but no one needs an Oscar performance as that trigger an equally dramatic response, completely detracting from the matter at hand.
Conflict is part of life and we see how not to deal with conflict countless times in the media (Trump, anyone?). By contrast take the time to observe when conflict is dealt with in an emotionally intelligent way and what you can learn from this.
For more on confident communication and dealing with conflict, check out Leading with Gravitas or sign up to one of our Gravitas courses.
I’d love to hear your thoughts.