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Conquering Conflict

Are you frustrated with your boss or irritated at co-workers' annoying habits? Do some customers' behaviours infuriate you? How do you react in these situations?

In today's workplace, there are varied people with diverse perspectives and behaviours. Disagreements occur because people hear, see and interpret things differently. To resolve disagreements with people who have divergent perspectives, try the following.

Understand how unproductive thinking patterns develop
Because we are exposed to more input from our environment than we can assimilate, we classify the information into categories. This serves as the basis for making generalizations that help us define and understand our world. Generalizations are useful, if accurate.

Generalizations influence our assumptions, which in turn affect our understandings and relationships. They cause us to stereotype and prejudge people. "Older workers are set in their ways." "Younger workers are irresponsible." These stereotypes may be true sometimes, but not always. Individuals with rigid stereotypes usually don't alter their views when they meet people who don't fit the mould.

Question your assumptions and stereotypes
Your partisan lenses often determine how you view others. Do you pigeonhole people to expect certain behaviours because of age, colour, ethnicity, or other characteristics? Do you put labels on your enemies?

Ask questions to identify your assumptions and establish a sound basis for future communication. How valid are the conclusions you've drawn? Are they based on research? To what extent do they colour your experience?

Note how you stereotype people. Most people are complex. Understand their viewpoints so that you're not surprised when they express them. Enjoy each other’s differences.

Since you learned false stereotypes, you can unlearn them. Replace stereotypes with attitudes based on sound research. Understand and communicate with those who look, act and talk differently. View conflict as a normal process which can enrich your life.

Develop productive behaviours
Acknowledge that a conflict in a relationship may be partially due to your unfounded assumptions. Here are some conflict resolution skills suggested by Jack Hamilton and Elisabeth Seaman of C P & R Services and other experts.

1. Be assertive. State your perceptions, share your thoughts and feelings, and make your needs and desires clear. Colleagues may not know that your unfriendliness is due to a tight deadline.

Watch your body language. For example, when speaking to others, maintain eye contact. This conveys honesty and confidence.

Stick to the facts. Avoid words like "always" and "never." These seldom describe reality and often elicit defensive reactions. Make specific request rather than complaints.

2. Become tolerant, understanding. Are you annoyed at co-workers' incompetence? Are you hypercritical of others? Respect others and value their opinions. Respect is a key ingredient in nourishing relationships. It requires trust, equality, empathy, and connectedness in all kinds of relationships. Recognize the dignity, worth and humanity in all people.

3. Listen. Conflict accelerates when people don't feel heard. Listen to what people are really saying. Consider their viewpoints carefully without defensiveness.

Try to understand the message even if you disagree. Pay attention to what is said without interrupting, judging or offering solutions or ideas. Ask questions when you're not clear about something. This will enable you to get more information and demonstrate your interest and concern. "Please tell me more about that."

Summarize what you hear the person say to correct misunderstandings. Let the person know you hear the emotional content of the message. Listen between the lines. What's the person feeling but not saying?

4. Share your thoughts with the person. Discuss the factual basis of each other's thoughts to learn new truths and get a different interpretation of words spoken or actions taken. Give merit to another's view until you can validate its accuracy. Then change your view if new information proves you wrong.

5. Agree on a solution after developing a factual understanding of the assumption that lead to the conflict. Think of creative ways to deal with conflicts. Act on those that are valid.

Continue to learn
Read books, view or listen to audio or video tapes that address interpersonal issues. Take courses to enhance communication skills. People skills are crucial for most jobs. Greater understanding and acceptance of others will enable you to resolve day-to-day differences smoothly and be a happy, productive person.

Questers Dare to Change Your Job and Life by Dr. Carole Kanchier offers many tips for conquering conflict: 

https://www.amazon.com/Questers-Dare-Change-Your-Life/dp/1508408963