In the past, I viewed conflict resolution as war. I went in hot. My motto was, “I would rather you walk away feeling bad than I walk away feeling bad.” Then I switched it up slightly. I fluctuated between hot and cold conflict resolution.-I held in anger and resentment until, eventually, I reverted to my original motto, which was to read folks for the gawds. Thankfully, as I honed my professional skills in conflict resolution, I started to apply them to my personal life. As I grew, I understood that no one’s feelings have to be hurt to resolve conflict. Ideally, we all walk away enlightened.
Confrontation done right is a positive experience; how and when we choose to confront others is the difference between productive and destructive conflict resolution.
We can act in the moment by letting folks have it without thinking about the outcome. Sure, it might feel great at the moment, but what happens after? This is hot conflict which is a generally destructive conflict.
We can ignore issues and passively allow our boundaries crossed until we build and act on resentment. This is cold conflict, which is self-destructive.
The ideal time to resolve disputes is when issues are neither hot nor cold.
Warm conflict allows you to problem-solve when situations remain relevant (not too cold) but also not so heated that emotions burn the words as you speak.
Conflict resolution, done right, is a life skill that fosters peace within and around us. It is also a valuable skill for leaders to promote joy and collaboration amongst teams.
Activate these 4 steps to resolve conflict for yourself before you decide how, when, and why with others.
Confront the Issue
First, think about the issue from your perspective. Take everyone else out of the equation. Next, ask yourself what bothers you about the situation. Which one of your values is offended? Why? Now, communicate the issue to yourself, and write it down as needed. Remember this is your POV; leave space for other perspectives in step 4.
Now, order your steps by thinking about what you need.
Define Your Objective
Now that you understand what bothers you and why ask yourself what you wish to get out of the confrontation. Do you want to:
- Express your feelings?
- Share your perspective?
- Convey your boundaries?
In laying out what you hope to get out of the confrontation, you can order your thoughts and outline your words. Your forethought and planning will allow you to speak with purpose and provide time to cool down as needed. Remember, conflict is best served warm.
Pause- after defining the issue and objective sometimes we realize the conflict is within, so there is no need to confront anyone else but ourselves.
Frame Your Talking Points
Now that you have examined the issue and the purpose of confronting the involved individual(s), write what you want to convey with your goal and audience in mind. Craft the message as a warm resolution. If you come in too hot, they will respond just as heated or shut down. Once you can express yourself constructively, you are ready to share with purpose. Stay on your script, stay present, and remain open to reading or listening to the other side.
Know your audience and appreciate how the mode of communication will affect the delivery. Is this a conversation or an email? Reread your notes. Is this a message you would receive calmly? If not, you have some editing (and perhaps a little more waiting) to do.
As you move into the communication step, take a deep breath and manage your expectations. You may not get all of what you want, but there is value in preparing for conflict resolution, defining what you will and will not accept + knowing what you can expect of others.
With the above steps, you are walking into conflict resolution with clarity and purpose. Whatever method of communication you choose, state your POV, share the desired outcome, actively listen to the other(s), then stop, think, and wait. You may not resolve conflicts immediately, but once you communicate your perspective and listen to others, you have options:
a. Look for common ground
b. Agree to disagree
c. Accept the resulting explanation and apology with grace
d. Decipher if continued stress over it or them is really worth your time