Dear Leader Who Avoids Conflict Like the Plague,
You just walked away from misunderstanding with a team member or client, and you’re starting to feel judged and want to shrink back. The thought of conflicts gives you a pit in your stomach, and you hope it eventually goes away instead of confronting it head-on.
As a leader, problems with people can be dealt with in a timely and gracious way. If you don’t, it can leave wounds that fester and get even worse over time.
For example, during my first coaching collaboration, I partnered with an artist to host a workshop to guide people to create vision boards of their life’s most important goals. I wanted to display my business cards and marketing materials for my 1-on-1 coaching programs, while my partner didn’t think it was appropriate to do so.
I got pretty upset since the intention of this workshop was to be a springboard to work with me long-term. I thought, How will they know what I offer if I didn’t have my booklets available? She just doesn’t understand!
I had to learn the hard way how to effectively deal with conflicts. In this week’s letter, I wanted to share with you some lessons in approaching these situations so that you are less stressed.
Collect your thoughts and calm your emotions.
Nothing turns a conflict into a heated argument faster than anger, frustration, and accusations. Mentally prepare for the conversation by taking a time-out to collect your thoughts and calm your emotions. A little prayer, deep breaths, and a personal break can help you approach it without your ego getting in the way.
Be curious, instead of confrontational.
A mantra to remember -- first seek to understand, so then you can be understood.
A simple way to resolve conflict is to go into a conversation with a heart posture of curiosity, and ask open-ended questions to get to the root of the problem. You can even use a script like, "So what I hear you saying is...." and backtrack their words so you're on the same page.
When you truly listen to what the other person is saying, it opens up the door for you say your piece. The tone of the conversation is much more effective when both parties have the space to articulate their point of view without fear of being judged.
Together, you can work out a solution that everyone can align with. It doesn’t necessary mean you have to agree on everything, it just means that you’re able to move on.
For me, this looked like being curious about why she didn’t want me to display my marketing materials. From her perspective, she didn’t think that a flyer with my programs would be necessary. After attending the workshops, she believed interested participants would directly reach out to me. Once I understood that, I could let go of wanting to display the flyers, and we agreed that having business cards with contact information would be a better fit.
Continue to improve with conflict resolution.
Instead of avoiding conflicts after it happens, you can be proactive about preventing them in the first place (or least try). When you reflect on why the conflict happen, ask yourself: “What can I do differently or make better so this doesn’t happen again?” It’s a tough question to answer. It could be clearly stating expectations up front or having firmer boundaries. It could mean streamlining a process, or asking less people for for their input. Conflicts can trigger feelings of insecurity because it touches on something we’re not particularly proud of, so use these as learning moments to improve your blind spots.
Conflicts aren’t really about the problem, it’s more about the way you communicate about the problem. When you set the tone where everyone will be heard, you change the conversation from defending yourself to creating a solution where everyone wins.
Let's chat - what a recent conflict you had to resolve? Do you tend to avoid it, or face it head on?Let me know in the comments below!