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How to use Communication to manage Conflict

Have you ever been in a verbal conflict?

Sure you have!

It is one of the most common experiences, be it in our work lives or personal lives.

Conflict doesn’t just mean loud, raised voices or anything so extreme, it is any disagreement where two people, even if friends, are not on the same page.

There are many types of conflict - some conflicts can be short term, others long term, some very plain to see and others hidden under the surface. Some are objective/task oriented (so no one takes it personally) but others are relational and can be difficult to navigate. Naturally, many are a blend of the two, so it’s good to tease out the components and deal with them separately, if possible.

Everyone responds differently to conflict - some avoid or ignore the situation, some accommodate the other person and call it a day (“it’s not worth my time to argue”), still others might try to find fair compromise, and if we really have some extra time we might even find a “win-win” scenario where everyone gets what they want (wouldn’t it be great if that happened all the time?).

Think about your toolkit - what do you utilize when trying to de-escalate the situation?

In general -

  1. Try to ensure most people get a fair amount of speaking time, if it is a group.

  2. Focus on impact, what is the negative outcome? e.g. “If we do it this way, the downside is we have more operational costs”, or “when you shut down discussion, the team feels we have no say in the matter”

  3. Ask a question or two to get people to outline solutions - “what resource will help you overcome this, how can I help?”

  4. Validate the other’s opinion - they have a right to their perspective, even as we try to find common ground.

  5. Capture the discussion in writing e.g. a post-meeting email at work, so that both sides acknowledge the outcome and next steps.

There’s obviously much more to be said on conflict (and feel free to bring up this topic in our sessions!) but in essence, conflict isn’t necessarily a terrible thing, it’s just the speed bumps we experience as part of a longer journey.

Closing thought - not all of our conflicts can be resolved, but they can be managed. And sometimes that's good enough.

Questions? Feel free to hit reply and ask away.