Friday, June 12, 2009

How to have a conflict.

Every once in a while we find ourselves in a situation that escalates into an argument - or worse - full on conflict. The place where, "fight or flight" kicks in. You can turn tail and run, or, dig your heels in, ball up your fists, and go for broke. I suppose there's a third option - the possum solution - go quiet and hope it blows away.

Most folks I know usually have one method and that becomes their go-to strategy. This weakens them not only in conflict, but in negotiations and personal affairs. Knowing the strategies can help you decide how you wish to engage with them and how to achieve an outcome that let's everyone involved feel like a winner.

7 Responses to Conflict
What follows are the seven strategies I have seen people use. I've ordered them from most to least toxic and have added strategies to overcome them, where appropriate.

This person is a freight train, pushing their one-sided ideas by any means necessary. They often leave a trail of pain, hurt, intimidation or humiliation in their wake. There is no attempt at seeking to understand or even hear any other points - it's their way or the highway.

Solution: I have found most bullies operate from a place of fear. Ask open-ended questions about their position to get to the root of their concerns and work to address them in the context of your ideas. In this regard, I have often been a fan of the Socratic method of asking questions that will direct their responses toward the solution that I favor. While this can be time consuming - making small moves to prod the towards the solution - it is often the best method for breaking through the one-sided resistance toward a mutually agreeable solution.

There's nothing to this response - there is none. Effort is made to avoid the situation. Ducking phone calls, not showing up too meetings, being emotionally distant are all signs of this type of behavior. Not being present means no resolution can be achieved.

Solution: Persistence. Only when the person feels their ideas are valuable will they come out of their shell. Remaining open and willing to hear them out is often the only recourse. That said, it's still no guarantee they will wish to work with you, but you must try!

This response presents itself as giving in, to let the other party win. This is a dangerous one, since it usually means the person is bitter inside and may seek retribution at a later time.

Solution: An awareness of your audience and an overt willingness to listen is the best preparation you can make in this case. Being open in your communication style and immediately addressing any repercussions will, over time, let them know you are aware of their method and you are working hard to come together to find common ground.

The duality of this message often leads to trouble, rather than being honest about their feelings. Many times the person will appear to agree though there is usually a contingency involved, and this may not be spoken. It might sound something like, "I agreed to work late on Monday to get the Filbert project out, but I assumed that meant I could come in late on Tuesday." Tuesday was never mentioned or agreed upon, and when that person wasn't available it caused issues.

Solution: Be specific. Make sure that all details are covered and address any contingencies that may be introduced by asking the person to detail what their perception of the outcome will be.

A good compromise is a balance between each parties position. While both may gain, it is also expected that each will give-in on particular points in order to maintain the relationship. It's helpful in that both feel heard and have not given up on the important points that they want.

Solution: Remaining flexible and including other points of view will ease the way to making concessions.

Problem Solve Together
This method throws requires that individuals give up on the specific way to achieve a goal and instead partner with one another to figure out a new solution to achieve the outcome each participant desires.

Solution: Determine what's important, then wear each others shoes. Focusing on the desired outcome - from the perspective of the other person - really helps when thinking of solutions. You know what you want, incorporate the new knowledge into your thinking and you will benefit everyone.

Change your mind*
Not every situation can end with everyone getting what they want. Sometimes, you can change what it is that you want. After the facts are presented, changing your mind to what the other party wants because it is now what you want - because honoring their wishes is what you want to do. This might sound like giving in, but it's actually the opposite. Supporting the other person pleases you, because you know it will make the other party happy.

* The important thing to remember with this tactic - is that you can't save these up like bargaining chips for a later time. You give in freely because this is the person you want to be. Otherwise, it's just a Cover! move.

Negotiating is one of the best things I have the pleasure of doing. Knowing the different techniques people employ have allowed me to uncover details, feelings or motives that have lead to stronger solutions and better outcomes. I wish you the same successes - please let me know how it works for you.

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