(C) Rhoberta Shaler, PhD
Previously, I mentioned that conflict is not a four-letter word. Neither is confrontation. But, both of these words can strike terror in the faint-hearted. Who are the faint-hearted? Those who do not have the skills required, and/or, those who do not have the confidence that comes from believing they have a right to be treated respectfully in all relationships and the skills to express it.
Conflict occurs when we have a difference of opinion, style, approach or desired outcome or goal. There’s no question that people are different, and they will find those areas of conflict. It’s natural. I’ll bet you could name three in your life right now, with names attached. If anyone thinks they are living conflict-free, they might want to consider the meaning and their understanding of denial! Beginning with our first breath, we have had conflicts.
It’s all in our values, beliefs and decisions whether or not we first identify conflicts for what they are. Whether you like to call it a difference of opinion, culture, or upbringing, it is a conflict. The first step is to identify them.
The next step is to air, manage, or, if possible, resolve them. I was recently working with a client who told me she had resolved her issues with her mother. I watched her verbally hop-stepping as fast as she could to tell me that her mother is a good person, lived a tough life, did the best she could, etc.. The more she spoke about this the shallower her breathing became, the quicker her speech and higher the pitch and volume. That just might indicate that the conflicts were not resolved!
The conflict exists, but what about the confrontation: the face-to-face meeting. Most folks put it off…indefinitely!
Confronting our own fears as well as having a clear picture of our view of the conflict are necessary steps to take before setting up a meeting. Here are a few good questions to ask yourself:
- In what situation, did or does the conflict arise?
- When did it first arise?
- Was it a one-time, long-remembered event?
- Is it an ongoing irritation, or all-out war?
- Is it a conflict of values, approach, beliefs, principles, style or competing outcomes?
- Are you very clear about your contribution to the conflict?
- Have you had a go at confronting this and felt badly about the result previously?
- Are you ignoring it hoping it will go away, or, one of you will grow out of it?
- Do you have the skills to feel comfortable, competent and confident enough to have a confrontation?
- If yes, what is holding you back from initiating a face-to-face meeting?
- If no, what plan do you have to acquire these skills?
Answer those honestly and you’re well-begun to finding a path to a productive, effective face-to-face meeting.
Are there any conflicts you’ve been submerging, denying, or talking about endlessly to others, without doing the work you need to do to move towards resolution? If so, they are continuously sapping your energy, even when you’re not thinking about them.
And, at work? There is a good reason that research shows that employees spend up to 42% of their time engaged in or trying to resolve conflicts!
Next post, I’ll add a few thoughts about the confrontation, the face-to-face meeting, itself.
To Your Successes!
Rhoberta Shaler, PhD
Catalyst for Communication & Collaboration
…helping you to optimize relationships and results