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Dealing with Interpersonal Conflict: Try This Next Time

Workplace Conflict or Interpersonal Conflict?

Dealing with conflict is par for the course….  it’s a core responsibility as a leader. However, many of us haven’t had the opportunity to learn and acquire some of the tools we need to properly navigate rocky terrain in the workplace. Plus, dealing with human behavior isn’t easy. It isn’t for the faint of heart.

Our company’s intellectual capital and technical expertise is attached to a variety of personalities and attitudes. Each member of our staff has been brought on board because of the knowledge and skill he possesses for his particular position. We are confident that our staff possesses attributes such as analytic capabilities, logical reasoning, and problem solving. Yet, we are usually attributing such cognitive traits to individual roles and responsibilities.

Most of us want to get along with our cohorts – that’s the good news. Yet, when faced with interpersonal conflict, it’s not uncommon for organizational leaders to feel like confronting a top performer is too risky. What’s even more common is when organizational leaders believe that the issue can resolve itself or worse – that confrontation will cause the situation to completely unravel.

But we’re all human.

Believe it or not, eight out of ten people will misunderstand what we mean… in the heat of interpersonal conflict.

Remember, there’s a lot of power in silence. As a matter of fact, silence is a type of answer (it’s no answer!). However, it doesn’t always cut it – especially when situations need to be settled. Some tips for settling conflict include:

  • Paraphrasing. It gives you the chance to make sure you are understanding the situation most appropriately. It also gives the other person the feeling that you care enough to try to understand
  • Avoid absolutes. ‘Never’, ‘you can’t’, ‘you don’t ever…’, ‘it will never work’ automatically turns people off. Defenses go up and they won’t hear anything else you might have to say. Plus, there is always a better way to say an absolute without using an absolute phrase
  • Say what you mean. Avoid fluff or side-stepping the issue. Even if it feels vulnerable, it will get you closer to resolution faster. And that is the goal
  • Uphold and support a sense of belonging
  • Affirm the value of multiple perspectives. Diverse viewpoints and a variety of contributions strengthen an organization’s culture. Be sure to sustain this as a core and implicit contribution during the resolution
  • Take advantage of the opportunity to build self-confidence by reserving judgement and focusing on a healthy dialogue. Support self-efficacy
  • Uphold and sustain boundaries.

People just want to be heard. Remember that anger is a front for fear, worry, or frustration. Challenges that are handled with respect for the individuals involved will reaffirm the fact that she is not a debilitating stereotype.

Emotions are usually piqued and those involved are on edge. We can’t ignore the fact that those involved are palpably anticipating some type of action. Jolting people into action isn’t going to help matters. Bolstering competence while transforming a long-standing pattern or habit isn’t easy.

From a neurological standpoint, practicing tips we’ve learned or read about on platforms like ours can and will literally help us extinguish old habits. Our brains automatic response or default response can be replaced by a more effective one. The great news is that once the new habit has been stabilized and consistently practiced, reverting to the old habit is unlikely (note: deeply rooted attitudes or questionable personal values or affability issues do require a lot more attention!).

Truth be told, the alternative can be costly. We know how expensive it is to replace a top performer. We’ve seen other organizations unravel to the point of no return. We know the facts and figures that support those organizations who were at the tipping point caused by interpersonal conflict – those businesses whose personnel was ripe for tearing people apart or ignoring the reality until it was too late.

From start-ups to Fortune 500,100, etc., no one is exempt from this reality. The workplace is a living system – a system that oscillates dynamism. Practicing healthy conflict resolution helps tremendously in the workplace and it’s a welcomed trait we can carry over to our personal lives. Click here  to read more about dealing with conflict at work.