One small word that causes instant discomfort for the majority of the human race. This uneasy topic tends to trigger feelings of fear and the unknown. Conflict to most is not viewed as a good or positive thing, but rather something you want to avoid or pretend does not exist altogether. The truth of the matter is expressed emotions, opinions, and concerns are healthy and beneficial to discuss and debate. In the workplace, this can be something you are faced with every day and you must try to navigate what is appropriate, professional, and approachable when it comes to conflict with coworkers. Everyone has different levels of comfort when it comes to being able to deal with and handle conflict but whether conflict is your best friend or you shiver at the sound of the word, you can use the below tips and tools to help get you through any stressful workweek situation.
Shift Your Mindset: Be One With Conflict
This is the FIRST and MOST important step you can take to ease yourself into managing conflict better. You must shift your mindset to stop viewing conflict as negative and start looking at it as something that could SOLVE PROBLEMS FOR YOU. The amount of time alone wasted on just worrying about specific conflict situations and creating our own perceptions and realities in our heads is outstanding. If we took all that time, worry, and effort and put it into talking to the person or coming up with solutions to move forward we would all be in a much smoother, happier place.
You have to start telling yourself that the outcome of addressing your conflict will be much better than trying to bury it deep down inside and having it blow up later. It won’t be easy and it will take practice but once you’re able to shift your views to be positive and constructive you will find that conflict is really not all that bad after all. One extremely easy thing to do to help this shift is to say daily affirmations about how you will conduct yourself if something bubbles up that day, for example, “I will not act out of impulse”, “I will see both sides”, “I will evaluate all perception”. This may feel silly to do but setting intentions for yourself will work wonders for you in time.
Count to Five: That Old Saying
What your parents and teachers used to tell you when you were little actually has some recognizable benefits even as an adult. Go back to basics here people! When something happens at work that makes you want to blow your top off take a mental step back and breath. Channel your inner yogi and focus on the bigger picture. You don’t want to do or say something you will regret. You need to try your best not to word vomit all over your boss and instead go back to your desk or a private space and get your barring’s together. Think about what was REALLY said. What did they mean? Did they mean ill will? Are you overreacting? What can you do to make this better?
This is called re-framing. It’s a conflict management tool that helps you put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Start to re-frame negative statements into reasonable unoffensive statements that might be the deeper meaning behind what they said. For example, “you are such a jerk,” could be said like “You value the productivity of this business and want to see results quickly”. Or, “You are always putting me down and criticizing my work” could be said like “You are always pushing me to be better and see my hidden potential”. This is a crucial tool to use for not letting yourself create false perceptions. You need to talk to the person to really know what they meant, but this is a great exercise to do to help cool you down and act rationale beforehand.
Think of Solutions: You Don't Need to Have all the Answers, But You Need Some
After you have had some quiet time to think about and reflect on what happened now you are ready to start channeling your inner mediator. Start to brainstorm a list of possible outcomes and solutions to the problem. What can be done to make this better? Is it simply an apology or is a shift in daily behavior that has to take place? Look at what the other person has to do to make you feel better but more importantly look at what YOU can do to help you make yourself feel better. Be realistic about what you are asking and remember to be aware of others feelings when suggesting solutions.
You wouldn’t want to say something that hurt their feelings and puts you right back to square one. Be kind and cautious yet honest and real in your approach. One easy tip to remember in doing this would be to acknowledge things the two of you could do TOGETHER to make the situation better. How can you work as a team to move past this? Not only will it place equal blame on both people but it will also give you an excuse to grow closer, get to know each other better, and spend some real time with one another. You might find yourself a new friend ...
Face Your Fears: Grab it by the Balls
Okay don’t freak out - you can do this. You have to be able to look your conflict dead in the eye and tell it how you feel. This is definitely something that takes practice. Contrary to popular belief, confrontation is not a bad thing! It’s not frowned upon or illegal to let your coworker know they hurt your feelings or triggered a fuse inside. How will they ever know they upset you unless you tell them? In case you're late to the party, your peers aren't mind-readers and most of the time will fail to read between the lines. This is not their fault, but is something that can definitely be managed by you. Give yourself a hug and pep talk then approach the problem. Remember not to just spring this conversation on them, that’s not fair to anyone. Best practice is to set up a time to chat. This way they have time to gather their thoughts and be in the right head space as well. Use all the tips discussed above and you should have yourself a very productive conversation.
I hope that after reading this you feel a little more at ease with dealing with conflict in the workplace, at home or with friends. Always remember, conflict is neither good nor bad it just is!