Support and Confront: The Art of Managing Conflict
- Friday, August 22, 2008
You may fear rejection by the individual that you are confronting. You may fear they will not receive what you have to say and don’t want to take the risk. So, you become co-dependent with that individual. This leads to greater problems down the road. The individual who needs to know about the issue lives in a vacuum and may continue in their hurtful ways creating an even greater problem down the road. You may also be construing a motive behind an individual’s actions that may not really exist.
Avoid Construing Motive Behind Actions
Let me give you a very hypothetical example. Let’s say that you are speaking to a group of people. In your audience is a man on the second row. Every time you speak this man coughs. Soon, the frequency of his coughs seems to coincide with your comments. It begins to unnerve you. You begin thinking that this man is doing this on purpose to distract you (you imply motive behind his actions). Finally, you have had enough. During the break you confront the man. The man responds in this way; “I am so sorry. I have a horrible cough right now and it is often uncontrollable. I will sit at the back of the room from for the remainder of your talk.” His reaction shows that he did not have a wrong motive behind his actions. However, you implied his motive by judging him before you got the facts.
This happens every day in a work situation. A boss makes a decision. The employee implies the motive behind the action, often resulting in a judgment being made. Whenever someone takes an action that impacts you negatively, our first step must be to go to the person and ask for clarification of the action as to why the action might have been necessary.
Some Practical Tips
When we hear statements that differ from what we want to hear, our tendency is to do a few things. We might respond by 1) interrupting the person; 2) start my response with a “No, you’re wrong” or “I totally disagree with you”; 3) or you may stop listening and start preparing a response to their position.
This is a wrong way to approach conflict. The first thing we must do is listen to their viewpoint and even affirm our understanding of their perception of the situation. Notice I use the word “perception.” In advertising we have learned that a person’s perception is their reality. It does not mean their perception is truth, it only means it is their reality for them until someone or something changes that perception to line up with the truth. Sometimes people choose to remain in a lie and there is nothing you can do to change it. You must allow them to hold that viewpoint without alienating the relationship. In other words, you agree to disagree and yet remain committed to the relationship. Granted, there are times when a break in the relationship will result and there is nothing you can do to prevent it. However, if we keep some of these ground rules in place, the likelihood of maintaining the relationship is good.
Reasons Behind Conflict
Over the last several years I have learned that conflict is often a symptom of something else going on inside of us or others in whom we are having the conflict. Let me explain through example
A few years ago I was in a contract negotiation with a man on a joint business deal. We agreed on the terms of the deal and needed my attorney to finalize our agreement in a contract. My attorney called my friend John to work out the details. However, each time my attorney would seek to review the details of the contract, John would begin to take issue with him. It wasn’t that what he said was not true, it was the manner in which the attorney spoke to him that John began to react to him. After a few days of this my attorney called and said he was at a roadblock with John, but he could not honestly say why since there were no particular issues that had not already been agreed to. I knew John’s history and discerned what was taking place.
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