Pretending the problem doesn’t exist is not a strategy for dealing with conflict. But it seems to be most people’s default reaction.
The thing is, we live with people, work with people, eat with people, ride trains with people, sleep with people. People are everywhere. And inevitably, where people are, there is conflict. Neil Denny, divorce lawyer, mediator and author of Conversational Riffs; Creating Meaning out of Conflict shares his five tips to help deal with conflict in order to minimise the stress it creates in all of our lives.
Deal with it.
We tend to avoid conflict as long as we can for two reasons: denial and non-assertive patterns of behaviour. But conflict itself is not the source of stress. It is what we do with it — or don’t do with it — that creates the stress.
Give up on the need to be right. You do not have conflict until the moment you defend yourself. Up until that point you only have a differing opinion. Learning to let go of this defensive response is key to reducing the hold that conflict can have on us and the stress that it creates.
I am not suggesting that you roll over and give way whenever disagreement arises. Instead, watch out for your defensive responses and choose a different response. Get curious about that other opinion. Ask more, tell less. Resist the need to defend yourself.
Accept not knowing.
Accepting that we are all fallible, that none of us are perfect, and that all of us are capable of being wrong is a very powerful technique. Once we accept this, we become much more flexible and able to respond to conflict. As a result, the stress that it causes is greatly reduced.
We attribute unattractive or malicious motivations to the people we find ourselves in conflict with by assuming that they are dishonest, careless, stupid, or some other character flaw. But the stress within conflict is often made worse when we do this. Because why would we, after all, want to communicate with them?
As long as we perceive the problem as being the characteristics of the other person then we cannot do anything to change that. We cannot change somebody else. But if we focus on seeing the problem as the problem and not the person then we create the chances of doing something about it.
Shift from blame to contribution.
Try to banish ‘blame’ from your lexicon and simply replace it with contribution. Here’s what happens when you do:
Firstly, you stop demonising the other person, once again.
Secondly, you dramatically lower the heat of the conflict and the language within it.
Thirdly, you recognise the complexity of conflict dynamics and introduce a collaborative tone to attempts to resolve it.Finally, you challenge yourself to examine how the things you have said and done might have led to the position and start to create possibilities.
In summary, adopting some of these shifts to your own responses to conflict will enable you to move forward through conflict, to resolution. As a result, the stress of unaddressed conflict or dysfunctional conflict dynamics can be greatly reduced. If ever in doubt, do not hesitate to consider appointing a mediator or facilitator to help deal with specific issues.
by Neil Denny.
This is an excerpt from The Stress Report.
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