Conflict to most people is a bad word. To me, conflict is an opportunity. An opportunity to learn, learn more about others, situations and myself. My rule on conflict is to Walk towards it and address it in 24 hours. Let’s talk about my story and my 8 easy steps to deal with conflict.
Conflict is Not Bad
Conflict is not a bad word but many perceive it that way and run from it. The Merriam-Webster dictionary definition of conflict:
1: competitive or opposing action of incompatibles: antagonistic state or action (as of divergent ideas, interests, or persons)
2: mental struggle resulting from incompatible or opposing needs, drives, wishes, or external or internal demands
Learning to Deal with Conflict
Early in my career, I thought to deal with conflict was throwing dynamite in the middle of the issue and watching things blow up. At least the issue would be out there but would it be resolved. My early philosophy didn’t always go so well. My pride in not being scared of conflict smacked me in my face in the middle of my career.
In the middle of my career, I faced some difficult times. The way I was dealing with conflict wasn’t serving me well. People were avoiding me and I was yelling louder because I thought they weren’t getting my point. My manager at the time hit me hard with feedback. Long story short, I went into my shell, deciding to not share anything and not trusting anyone. So I wasn’t facing conflict which was rare for me and I didn’t feel like myself. At my worse, I was just attacking. Why face conflict when the stakes are too high and it was easier to walk away? Why face it when it could be things I didn’t want to hear?
Not Good At Conflict?
Looking back I realized I wasn’t good at conflict. I was just good at calling it out. Not helping resolve but mostly making it worse. Then I went into the mode of everyone who was against me. What if everyone was or is “against” you? Why face conflict when the others were on the good side or in the favorite circle? Or what if you put yourself out there and nothing happens?
In my position at work not facing conflict wasn’t helping me move things forward or my career. All of my actions weren’t me as I was angry, quiet, withdrawn and passive. The worst feeling was I felt stuck and I hate feeling that way.
Face Conflict or Walk Away
My manager gave me a choice – I could face the conflict or walk away. Meaning continues to not be myself and eventually get walked out of my job or quit my job. Or face the conflict get back to myself and keep the job that I truly loved. I decided I needed to keep moving forward.
Walk Towards the Conflict
This is when I was given some of the best advice I have ever been given. My manager said “Walk Towards the Conflict” If you don’t it will still be there tomorrow and the next day and it may escalate.
Walk Towards the Conflict is a key mantra as it will still be there the next day and the next. You have the power and a choice to deal with the conflict or letting it eat at it you. Why would you carry that baggage and fear for the next day and the next day? Hold onto that negative energy when you know you would have to deal with eventually. To me conflict is like a thorn in your skin., it doesn’t get better until its out. One great resource that I refer to often is the book “Crucial Conversations”
Are you Avoiding Conflict?
Are you avoiding conflict? Right now you are thinking of a conflict situation and you are full of anxiety, frustration, and anger. Your heart is starting to race and your palms are sweating. You don’t want to admit that it’s fear but it is. Your body is tense. So tomorrow you go back to work and you are right back in with that same situation looming over your head. Every time that subject or person comes up your body tenses up. You might start feeling defensive. Maybe you shut down. Shutting down could be in a meeting you do give input when you should be giving input. Shutting down could be missing out having a great conversation with your significant other or friends, colleagues because all you can think about is the “situation”
Don’t Lose Sleep
Your sleep is being affected as you toss and turn thinking about the conflict and either how upset or angry it makes you or maybe thinking about how you will “get back at the other person” You’re avoiding that person, you are short with people and you are withdrawn. Its all you think about so you miss out on your kids telling you something important that happened in their life today. It’s affecting your body, your productivity, and your ability to be present. Are you seeing a theme here? How is it not dealing with this conflict serving you? YES, YOU?
Goal – Deal with Conflict in 24 Hours
My goal is to deal with conflict in 24 hours. Now is this always possible no but that is my goal. Why? I don’t want the conflict to affect my sleep for more than one night:) Another reason is I have an issue looking at someone in the eye if I have a conflict and to me that makes me feel fake and not my true self or them. Let’s go, 8 Easy Steps to Deal with Conflict.
8 Easy Steps to deal with the conflict?
1. Start with the end in mind
How do you want the outcome to look?
2. Keep emotions in check
Yes, this may be the hardest one but it’s important to not get defensive, anger, yelling or crying. This will also help if the other individual does get emotional if you keep yours in check they usually will come back down off of their emotional high. So keep taking deep breaths and if you need to pause take that uncomfortable pause to regain your composure!
3. Assume Good Intent
There are conflicts that get out of hand because we make up crazy stuff in our brains about the other person. Don’t make assumptions. Assuming good intent means you don’t let those items take over in your conflict discussion.
4. What are you willing to own in the conflict that occurred?
Say it out loud to the other individual. This doesn’t mean its all your fault but let’s admit that typically a conflict has at least two people that added to the issue.
How do you see this conversation going? This will help you from ensuring you say what you want and need to say. It will make sure you don’t get too defensive or pointed. You want to make sure you don’t forget anything.
6. Make sure you give that person time to talk as well
Remember you have practiced and they have not. You will hear things that you misunderstood or something that was left out.
7. In the end, each of you needs to come to an agreement on what you will do to deal with the situation at hand and what you will do better next time.
8. Remember to breathe.
At the end of this conversation do you feel better? Do you feel lighter? You may be wondering why you waited so long to talk about the conflict at hand? You may be kicking yourself because you didn’t sleep for 3 nights stressing over it. Maybe the entire situation happened because the other person didn’t understand where you were coming from in the beginning. This may have been a big misunderstanding. I have been in conflict situations where things got really bad and I found out later the other person just found out a loved one was diagnosed with a terminal illness. See! It’s better to deal with conflict in 24 hours.
Not every conflict ends well. There are times where it will take multiple sit-downs to deal with the situation at hand. Typically this happens when you have let multiple conflicts pile up. Just remember that if this happens you are at least walking towards the conflict and not walking away. Each time you deal with a conflict you get better at it. You are brave!
By dealing with this conflict sooner than later you have gotten yourself unstuck. You may have saved your job or career. It may have helped your marriage or your relationship with a friend. Bigger yet it saved your health from suffering because you hold onto it too long.
Here is my challenge to go out and deal with one conflict today. Big or small just do it! Practice and use 8 Easy Steps to Deal with Conflict. You got this!