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Communication Challenges: Conflict

When working with people, conflict is inevitable. It can can be challenging and even exhausting at times.  As a recovering people-pleaser, I have a natural tendency to run away from conflict and hope that somehow if we avoid talking about things than the situation will eventually improve. Of course, the situation usually doesn’t improve and even if it appears to improve, there may be underlying anger, frustration and trust issues that will make the long-term relationship very difficult.  So what do we do? If our focus is helping people work together better, how can we manage conflict? Join me this week, as we discuss 3 ways that we can address conflict in a in a productive and positive way.

  1. Be honest.  One of the reasons I promote using video during online meetings is so that we can really see what is happening during a conversation. When you look at other people’s facial expressions and see concern, disgust or disconnection, be honest about it. Be willing to bring it up so that you can discuss it. Something that has worked for me in the past is “It looks like folks may be confused or concerned. Let’s discuss this further.” or “It looks like folks may not all see this the same way. What kind of things do we need to consider in order to move forward?”
  2. Facilitate the conversation. Most folks are not going to be comfortable with conflict, so it takes a courageous leader to face the conflict and encourage productive conversation in order to better understand and address the conflict. Even if you are not the leader of the team, if there is conflict that is not being addressed, be willing to be the one to facilitate the difficult conversation. Be honest (see #1) and use your “Seek first to understand, then be understood” skills (Stephen Covey).  Help the other team members feel comfortable with conflict and honor the opinions and perspectives of others – even if some of the team members would like to dismiss them. Be willing to ask questions of specific team members. Let the group know that it’s ok to disagree in order to come to a positive and productive decision.
  3. Give space and time.  Sometimes the conflict cannot be managed in one meeting or one conversation. If things are particularly heated and emotional, one of the best things you can do is to schedule a follow-up conversation. You may need to have some individual conversations prior to having another team conversation in order to better understand the conflict and communication challenges.  When you meet together again, use #1 (Be honest) and #2 (Facilitate the conversation) to move forward in a positive and productive way. 

And remember, the conflict may have absolutely nothing to do with you even though it may feel that way!  This time of year can be particularly challenging for a lot of people who have faced significant loss.  Folks may be a little more “on edge” than usual because they are experiencing tremendous pain.   As you incorporate all three – honesty, facilitating the conversation and giving space and time, consider giving some extra grace too! 🙂

How are you going to apply these to your current communication conflicts?

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Photo by jean wimmerlin on Unsplash

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