Saturday, July 21, 2012

Stop Bitching! 6 Steps to Help Resolve Conflict

Hopefully you do not find yourself inconflict with someone or something but the fact it only happens occasionally means we are not well practiced in dealing with it.

So firstly we have to take some advise from someone who knows and deals with conflict regularly and has a logical approach to resolving or lessening the tensions.

The following steps are not necessarily easy to achieve but, as all good psychologists and councillors will tell you, you must really want to change. The Dalai Lama in his wisdom advocates that you 'be the change you are seeking in your life.'

With that in mind, here are a few key steps that may not resolve every conflict, but will certainly help to improve your interpersonal communications and ease your journey.

1. Drill down to find the real issue. 
If an when you get upset, you become flooded with hormones and emotions. Your mind can start to resemble a bee hive of activity, without clarity of thought and a lack of clear focus.

Your goal at this stage is to drill down and to really try to figure out what you are actually most upset about. It's not easy in the height of an emotional outburst, but your job is to keep drilling until you hit the core of what is most upsetting.

Once you get past feeling angry and thinking that your boss, colleague or friend is a jerk, you may find that there is something deeper that is really troubling you.

Are you upset that your boss called you out in a meeting when he knew you didn't have the answer or that you're really upset you weren't prepared?

Knowing the answer to why your emotions are triggered will have a profound effect on how you handle the situation.

2. Look for Positive Intent.
It's critical you do your best to determine the other person's positive intent. What's positive intent? Well, negative intent is when you attribute the other person's behaviour to them wanting to hurt you and do you harm.

When you are in the middle of a heated argument, picking up on 'negative intent' comes naturally. "Why is he/she doing this to me?" is a perfect example of assigning negative intent. The initial assumption is that someone is trying to hurt you or make your life more difficult.

It's difficult to resolve a conflict if you think the other person is hell-bent on doing you harm, it does happen but it's in the minority.

Instead, play detective and try to figure out their positive intent. What positive outcome were they trying to achieve? If all else fails, ask them!

Once you have uncovered this intention, understanding and empathy, if appropriate, can begin to flow more easily.

3. Step into their shoes. 
As with all these steps, it is easier said than done, especially when emotions are running high but if you really want to /need to resolve the disagreement or conflict, this is essential.

Pretend you are the other person and answer these questions: What are your goals? Which of the six human needs are you trying to meet? (See below)
  1. Certainty – the need to be safe and comfortable
  2. Variety – the need for physical and mental stimulation
  3. Significance – the need to feel special and worthy of attention
  4. Love & Connection – the need to be loved and connected to others
  5. Growth – the need to develop and expand
  6. Contribution – the need to contribute beyond yourself
What must I have been thinking and feeling in order to respond/react the way I did, remembering to continue to assume positive intent and that there is no truth, only interpretation.

The assumption is, when you can step into the other person's shoes you can begin to see and understand their interpretation which can help you resolve the conflict.

4. Focus on what you wish for.
Get clear on precisely what you need to have happen. Maybe at this point you realize it's not worth resolving the conflict, but make sure you are clear bout this.

Alternatively, you may decide that really need is to rekindle the relationship. Whatever it is, figure it out.

Stop focusing on what you didn't get and all the things that didn't work out and start focusing on what is possible and what you need to have happen now.

You may 'want' some penitent action from the other party, a heartfelt apology and a dozen roses, but what you should put this aside and think on what really is the minimum you need to resolve this conflict. Your answer will be your guide going forward.

5. Create a constructive plan.
You've taken a step back and tried to figure out the other person's perspective, now you want to cultivate a positive result. It's the time to determine the best course of action to get you what you need.

Should you send an email? A phone call? Call in a mediator? What can you do that will increase the chances you'll get your wish from step 4? Your game plan should focus exclusively on only those things you can control.

Sitting back and waiting for the other person to apologise is not an effective game plan because you can't control this.

So, what can you control?
  • Scheduling a meeting? Yes. 
  • Having a civil conversation about what happened? Of course. 
  • Taking responsibility for things you would have done differently? Absolutely. 
  • Do you see what's happening here? Of course.
You are controlling what you have control over to create an opportunity and an environment where an apology is possible, but more positively, a peace treaty, a ceasefire or a more collaborative relationship can be agreed.

6. Step UP and Step Forward.
Now that you know what you both, need and can you control, go get it started, no one else will get it done.

We have gone through this process with many third parties, and while some personalities and egos may still hurt and remain affected by what happened, they have a greater understanding and perception of the other party's "outlook." The success is seen when all parties get together to actively and openly participate in the dialogue.

Conclusion: Happy Ever After?
Resolving conflict is not a simple task, but by keeping these guidelines in mind, it can be less painful, more effective and less protracted.

For more information on the process and resolution of conflict contact me here at this blog.

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