I would estimate that 90% of my clients are avoiding a conflict-based conversation. Who can blame them? Not only are conflict-based conversations uncomfortable, these individuals have experienced ZERO training in how to effectively manage conflict in the workplace.
Most successful leaders would tell you that conflict is good. Respectfully discussing opposing opinions or deficient performance in proactive and healthy ways are good for an organization. Some clients (although only a handful) love conflict! They see conflict-based conversations as a great way to make significant progress in resolving problems and building relationships.
One of the best strategies to manage a potentially conflict-based conversation is to follow Steven Covey’s fifth habit of highly effective people – Seek first to understand, then to be understood.
Most folks go into a conflict-based conversation with their guns blaring. They believe they have an argument to win and they intend on winning it! In reality, the more you know about how your colleague feels about a situation, the better position you are in to handle your differences respectfully.
Next time you have a difficult topic to discuss with a colleague, start the conversation with the following questions:
- Can you tell me why you feel this way?
- Why do you believe this is the best way for us to move forward?
- Are you open to hearing other options that might work equally as well?
I guarantee you will have a better conversation, your colleague will be very surprised by your strategy to understand before being understood, and your will raise your visibility as a leader who manages conflict proactively and respectfully.