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Cracking the Conflict Code

April 19, 2018   By Patrice McGuire

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Cracking the Conflict CodeHow much is the avoidance of conflict costing your organization?  Wasted time.  Lost time.  Turnover.  Disengagement.  Reputation.  Quality.  Even the word “conflict” suggests a fight, battle or struggle.  When individuals approach a situation with the anticipation of conflict, chances are they will come prepared to defend, argue, blame or justify.   The alternative is they will minimize or water down their truth or even avoid the situation all together.  What does this cost your organization? 

Three Big Ideas:

Conflict.   Conflict suggests that there is an opposition of some sort.  People have different perspectives, ideas, experiences, etc.  Conflict might be two or more people with different opinions on how to create or improve something, or it may be different ideas on budget or schedule.  The problem is when we identify that there is an opposition, our tendency is to escalate our intention to convince or compel others and get them to agree with our way of thinking or doing.   At this point, it can become a dueling match and he who speaks the loudest and the most will get heard or, better yet, get their way.  Again, at what cost?  Damaged results?  Damaged relations?  Both?

Difficult Situation.   Difficult Situation suggests that there is a position that may be difficult to understand or even solve.  A difficult situation may be one that is sensitive, emotional, embarrassing or has significant consequences.  Addressing personal hygiene is a difficult situation.  Terminating an employee for poor performance is a difficult situation.  These are difficult because they make us feel uncomfortable.  We often must step outside of our comfort zone, and we don’t want to make others feel bad.   A difficult situation doesn’t necessarily suggest that there is an opposition or that two people are at an impasse.  It simply suggests that the issue or topic is something that is hard to talk about.  If we don’t address difficult situations, they often get worse.  Patterns continue.  People become disengaged.  What does this cost your organization?

Intention.  When there is conflict and there is opposition, we need to make sure we have the right motive or intention.  If our intention is to blame, convince, or get our way, our behavior will clearly reflect that.  If we don’t behave well, chances are others involved won’t behave well either.  Take the high road.  If we are involved in a conflict, we need to surrender our desire to be right or get our way.  Instead, we should focus on others and work hard to understand THEM.  The purpose is to hear them and learn from them.  You don’t stand to learn much new if you are the one doing all the talking.

Final Tips:
  1. It’s not about you.  It’s about understanding them.
  2. Ask good questions and allow others to be heard.
  3. Listen to learn.
  4. Good intentions always win...
  5. Treat others with dignity and respect.

At Living As A Leader, we offer a Leadership Development Series designed to produce leaders that can positively shape the cultural environment, reduce turnover and achieve crucial business initiatives. We do this by providing training, coaching and consulting with a focus on pragmatic communication tools for leaders at all levels of your organization.

For more information, contact Steph Kotlarek at skotlarek@livingasaleader.com

About the Author


Patrice McGuire

Facilitator and Coach, Living As A Leader®

Patrice has more than 25 years of human resource and training experience, working with leaders at all levels from financial services, manufacturing, retail, engineering and service organizations.

Email Patrice Patrice's Bio

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