One of the most important skills you can develop is how to deal successfully with conflict. Successful people seem to have an inherent understanding of what causes conflicts and how to resolve them quickly. For others, however, it’s much harder. A little common sense and looking ahead can go a long way.
There are a few common approaches to prevent or to overcome potential issues before they become major obstacles.
Conflict can arise due to poor communication. Someone may not say what they meant to say or perhaps misstate what they intended. Before you allow an escalation, ask questions. It won’t cause any loss of face, and may result in a quick resolution.
Often, conflicts develop as a result of unmet expectations on one side. If the other party expected something but didn’t get it or it didn’t happen, the conversation can become negative and closed. If a conversation seems to be getting rocky, take a step back and speak to the other person to try to uncover what just occurred.
Recognise differing perspectives
Keep in mind that conflict may arise due to people having different perceptions. You, or the other person, see things differently. This happens most often when one is dealing with someone from another organisation, background or culture. It’s easy to believe that we all see things the same way and then get derailed unexpectedly.
Honest and unintended mistakes often result in conflict. Before you let temperatures rise, check your understanding with the other person(s). Mistakes, even small ones, can erode credibility.
Watch out for emotional triggers
Beware of emotions. Fear of someone, loss of face; whether real or perceived; anger, and surprisingly even excitement can all result in unintended conflict. This may cause your interaction to go downhill.
Focus on preventing escalation
Conflict resolutions always start with one or both parties making an honest attempt at avoiding further escalation. This recognition, even if only by one of those involved, often causes a more balanced review to occur.
Take action to control the situation
Tactics to avoid escalation may involve one or more key steps including separating the parties, changing the location of the discussion, signalling empathy to the other involved.
Commit to working it out
Take charge of the process by committing to reach a resolution. A powerful impact occurs when one person takes this approach. It can turn down the temperature immediately.
De-escalate the conflict
De-escalation is next. This can be accomplished with a joint statement of the facts at hand. Always eliminate exaggerations, embellishments or personalities which may inadvertently apply judgments and re-create the cycle of escalation.
Cooler heads will prevail in even the most difficult conflict. Whether you are in a business or personal situation, you can take control of it by keeping cool. When you maintain your calm, it will be easier for others involved to get back to the task at hand.