When there is a disagreement or clash of interest between people, healthy conflict is necessary to restore or improve the relationship. If someone has a small cancerous tumor but they don’t have it removed because they hate operations, chances are that tumor will grow and be much more of a threat to the health of the individual. It is similar with conflict. Most people avoid it. But when conflict is done well, it has the opportunity to help restore the health of relationships.
To resolve a difference you have with someone, you have to talk through it. That is conflict, regardless of how big or small the difference is. Here are three guiding principles taken from Stephen Covey’s landmark book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People.”
1. Begin with the End in Mind
Before the conflict conversation, think about the outcomes you are hoping to achieve. What do you hope the other person will be thinking and feeling? You might hope they think differently. You may want them to feel, by the way the conversation goes, that you care about them and respect them.
Once you can clearly define how you want them thinking and feeling, the next two principles will help you achieve these desired outcomes.
2. Seek First to Understand, then to be Understood
This usually works best if you make a genuine effort to understand their side of things. Sometimes you might learn something that changes your view of the situation.
Start by stating the facts of the difference. For example:
- Employer to employee: "I’ve spoken with you about being tardy to work twice in the last week and you came in late again today. What’s going on?"
- The statement establishes the facts. The question seeks to understand. It’s important to start the conversation respectfully and with an absence of frustration. Frustration can convey that you don’t care much about the person and don’t respect them.
- If the employee says something like, “I’m truly sorry, I just found out last week that my wife has cancer and it’s rocking my world," the employer’s response will probably be different than if the employee has been sleeping through his alarm.
3. Go for a win-win
If you enter into a conflict conversation and are only interested in proving yourself right and the other person wrong, you are not engaging in healthy conflict. A win-lose solution in a relationship, meaning one person wins and the other loses, is really a lose-lose. The relationship will become unhealthier and will have more unresolved conflict as a result.
If you decide before the conversation you will try your best for a win-win, even if it turns out that you are right and they are wrong, you will be doing your best show that you respect the other person. This is essential for anybody interested in truly dispelling conflict in a healthy manner.
Are you dealing with conflict in a way that benefits your business?
About the Author
Glenn Hansen is a Partner at OneAccord. For 25 years, he was a highly successful retail management senior executive in the consumer electronics industry. Achieving extraordinary results and leading profitable sales and retail stores, he builds teams with synergy. He has led teams to success in vastly different sales environments for both products and services.
Glenn is an exceptional sales trainer and motivator. He has a talent for building effective strategies amidst complex challenges, and takes strategy to execution to achieve and exceed goals.
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