We have all seen the YouTube videos of workplace conflict that make us laugh. I use a compilation for training that is hilarious, that is, unless you are the one in conflict. The reality? Workplace conflict, either between partners, staff, or employees costs businesses billions of dollars annually. Now, you do not have a billion to lose, but you may be losing sleep and pulling out your hair. I once had hair before mediation work. Now look at me!
Seriously, after ten years and thousands of hours of mediation, I want to share a few quick tips on how to avoid conflict:
- Let it Go. You can even sing along with Frozen if you want. My experience after mediating hundreds of cases is the first option to avoiding conflict is just letting it go. In a number of cases with thousands on the table, the best option was walking away. The cost and risk of litigation was simply too high. Or, parties may consider the relationship more important than the settlement. The next time you are weighing responses to a potential or current conflict, your first and best option may be letting it go.
- Listen. We have two ears and one mouth. A wise person once said we should use them in direct proportion! Instead of defending or seeking to establish a position, simply listen to the other party. The trick? You need to REALLY listen, not just feign it. As a mediator, one of my greatest skill sets is listening. People want to be heard. If they are not heard, they will find a way to be heard, which is usually counter productive to a constructive outcome. When people are heard, they feel valued. When people are valued, they become more flexible and willing to follow instructions or come to agreements.
- Seek to Understand Before Being Understood. This tip is similar to the last one on listening, except this goes to the next level. When you have listened and can state the other party’s interest, you have traveled a long distance toward resolution. The other party knows you understand at a deeper level what is driving the conflict and how to creatively problem-solve some solutions. The conflict turns from US vs THEM to WE attacking a problem to solve together. That, my friends, produces energy and cooperation, which results in some very creative outcomes.
To learn more about how to manage and mediate conflict, you may be interested in our next training.