If you’re like most of us, you probably don’t particularly like conflict and you may go out of your way to avoid it. In fact, conflict often sits below the surface, taking days, weeks or even years to truly surface. While it’s a part of life, it can be deeply uncomfortable and cause a lot of stress and anxiety, which is why it’s particularly important for leaders to become adept at conflict resolution.
When we’re faced with confrontation, we tend to take on a ‘win/lose’ mentality. Focussing on winning means that we’re less likely to be receptive to feedback, open to resolution or able to come to an agreement. This is why it’s crucial to transform confrontation into a conversation to achieve the best outcome possible for both parties.
Four steps to turn confrontation into a conversation:
When you find yourself facing conflict, start by acknowledging any frustration the other person is expressing. This doesn’t mean we have to agree with them – we can disagree with them and still show empathy. Even if they’re asking for something that you can’t deliver you can acknowledge them and move them towards discussing alternatives. Sometimes people just need to be heard and acknowledged.
2. Ask Questions
Questions are a great way to explore the underlying issues causing a conflict and move away from confrontation and towards a conversation. Start by asking an open-ended question and make sure you’re asking the question with sincerity rather than from a place of attack or defence.
3. Pay Attention to Your Body Language
More than 90 percent of communication is nonverbal. Take notice of the tone of your voice and ensure that your body language appears open and receptive rather than defensive. It’s not enough to be using words directed at de-escalating the conflict, your body language has to match.
4. Provide Feedback
If you’ve had a confrontation with someone and succeeded in identifying issues to be worked on be sure to acknowledge them positively when they change their behaviour. If the issue persists be sure to acknowledge it in a timely manner. The phase following a confrontation can be quite revealing. For example, if the person is an employee and they fail to change their behaviour or address the issue at hand it may become apparent that they’re not the right fit for your organisation.
Leaders who embrace these steps become very adept at dealing with confrontation and winning respect in the process. Make no mistake, leaders who are great at conflict-resolution dislike confronting people as much as anyone else but have learned to pick and choose their battles, often anticipating conflicts before they even materialise. For example, a leader who has issues with one of their employee’s performance may wisely opt to deal with these issues as they arise rather than waiting for the problem to spread.
The next time you’re in a situation where there’s the potential for conflict try to open up the dialogue rather than avoid discussion. This will likely lead to much better results and prevent confrontation down the line.
Want to learn more strategies like this to gain your winning edge in business? Book a free Mind Strength Coaching Discovery call with Dr Jodie today.