- Early Intervention
Most adverse situations in life are best dealt with as soon as possible, and conflict is no exception. Try and resolve the issue earlier rather than later.
- Take a Pause
Before you ‘set someone straight’, take a pause to reflect. Even a few seconds between thinking and speaking can make a big difference.
- Get all the facts
Many people in conflict situations become emotional before they have all the information they need. Sometimes when all the facts are gathered, they find that an assumption which was made about another person was incorrect. As they say in the military, ‘time spent in reconnaissance is seldom wasted’.
- Choose one good thing
If you are in conflict with someone, choose one particular characteristic you like about that person and focus on that. They may be good at an aspect of their work. They may adore their children. They might barrack for the same football team as you. A focus on this one aspect can give you a boost to engage with that person. Then you can start to deal with areas of conflict.
- Bite size chunks
Don’t try and deal with all of the areas of disagreement at once. Partialize the problem. Choose one topic, and sort that out first. Allow some time to pass to ensure the resolution of this area has held. Then choose another area.
- Let go of the unimportant things
When we are in conflict with another person our ‘personal antennas’ often work overtime. We are extremely sensitive to things the other person does. Be prepared to allow some of the little things to ‘go through to the keeper’. There is no point in a battle for the Ashes over something that has little consequence.
- The mirror principle
In any conflict situation it is very rare that one person is one hundred per cent responsible. Quite often the behaviour of one party is mirrored by the other and vice versa. But the mirroring is often like one of those mirrors that distort our images at the Royal Show. People in conflict are often being passive or aggressive towards one another, rather than straightforward and assertive. In almost all cases both parties need to start from a position of taking some level of responsibility for the conflict situation they are in, and then learning more about their own conflict style.
- Ask yourself good questions
Good quality questions give us good quality answers. ‘Will I still be concerned (about a particular issue) in twelve months time?’ This is a good quality question because it gives us a time perspective. As a rule ‘how’ and ‘what’ questions give us better answers in conflict situations than ‘why’ questions. ‘What can I do to improve the situation?’ or ‘How can I learn from this conflict?’ are better questions than ‘Why is this happening?’ ‘Why’ questions can lead us to blame ourselves or others, rather than take us forward.
- Try and refill the reservoir of goodwill
If an opportunity presents itself to do or say something positive to a person with whom you are in conflict, give it a try. It may be the start of rebuilding some goodwill. But anything said needs to be sincere. And anything done needs to be done well.
- Know when seek outside help
Some conflict situations can be resolved between the parties themselves, or through the intervention of management or human resources. Others are more protracted, and need specialist help. Developing ‘the wisdom to know the difference’ is of great benefit to everyone involved.