Difficult conversations are a part of life, family and business. Whether it’s providing feedback, disagreeing with someone, or sharing bad news, these conversations can create discomfort, angst and anxiety. When this happens, people tend to either push back or avoid dealing with the situation- both of these actions create additional issues. Sometimes you may go from a “bring it on!” mindset to an “I’ll avoid this at all costs” attitude. Avoidance and combative approaches are just two reasons these conversations get messy, drama-filled, and are often unresolved. In the workplace, it’s important to work on our conflict resolution skills to help manage conflict and maintain psychological health and safety.
So what do you do?
When there’s a conflict, a conversation needs to happen. But what if you’re worried about making the situation worse? Maybe you’re concerned about how the other person will respond.
So, in this case, what’s the best path forward?
3 Ways to Manage Conflict
Here are a few conflict resolution skills I learned from my 25 years working in conflict management, dispute resolution, mediation and facilitating team building sessions and team charters.
1 Check-in on your mindset.
How you think about conflict shapes how you show up, how you speak, the degree to which you welcome perspectives different from your own, and the outcomes. Instead of thinking of the conversation as something you “dread” or will be awful, reframe it to “this is a conversation where we can both share our perspectives to solve this issue together.”
2 Bookend for success.
Just like bookends, keep a pile of books from toppling over on the bookshelf; bookends have a role in conversations. The first and last 90 seconds in a dialogue shapes what happens in-between. The first 90 seconds set the tone; the previous 90 seconds shape how people feel when they leave the room. Practice how you start and close a conversation.
3 Bridges can help build understanding.
Bridges take people from where they are to where they need to go. Bridges help you get across open water or areas that you couldn’t otherwise reach. In dialogue, a bridge is making a connection between a person’s point and your perspective.
Bonus Tip: Replace “But” with “And.”
The word “but” is simple, just three letters, and it can pack a punch. The term “but” minimizes what was said before (essentially minimizing the other person, their perspective, or what was shared). Imagine someone saying to you, “that’s a great idea, but what I was thinking is that we could….” It feels like “that is a great idea, but mine is better!” Use the words “yes and” instead. “Yes. That’s a great idea, and I thought that we could….” You can also use this same approach in statements like “I can understand how that was frustrating for you, and, I observed that ….”
These 4 skills can help different conversations and confrontations turn into respectful dialogues.
Learn more about conflict resolution in the workplace
Conflict resolution skills are incredibly important in the workplace and can help to create a more psychologically healthy and safe work environment for workers. Here is some further reading on the topic of confliction resolution in the workplace.
Charmaine Hammond has worked as a Correctional Officer, a Contract Negotiation Specialist, and a Chartered Mediator for many years. She has presented to more than 400,000 people, trained thousands of people on Courageous Dialogue And Conflict Management skills, and helps people communicate without drama, fear, blame or avoidance.