Managing ourselves in conflict

One of the many things I never learned as a kid, (along with learn how to win at chess and play the flute), was to deal with conflict. I didn’t need to. I quite literally grew up in a house where there was ‘no’ conflict. Not Disneyland, per se, let’s just say that we weren’t allowed to engage in conflict. Arguing wasn’t polite. Disagreeing was disrespectful. Conflict was for other families. Instead we had a special carpet designed to sweep all our sh*t under. Luckily it was a pretty big carpet. Small wonder then that when I eventually took a conflict personality assessment, I found myself decisively in the “avoidance” corner. Avoidance, hah, I’d rather sign up for a root canal if it would get me out of a dispute.

For a time, conflict avoidance worked pretty well for me. That is, until one day my sweet, darling offspring grew into relentless, conflict amplifying teenagers. Like heat seeking missiles within seconds they could target a vulnerability, aim, fire, lay a direct hit and sashay out of the room leaving nothing behind but a pile of shattered adult self-worth. Clearly, I had to up my game.

Several courses and a couple of certificates later in conflict, coaching, mediation (meditation) and negotiation, I’m inching ever so slowly towards feeling like maybe I-might-be-able-to-possibly-engage-in-some conflict. It also helps that my kids are away at school most of the year.

Here are a few of my take-aways: (in no particular order)

  1. Conflicts are not necessarily personal but arise from a value that’s been stepped on. Try to understand the value underneath to create common ground.
  2. Check your ego at the door. There’s no giant scoreboard at the pearly gates limiting admission to the winner’s circle. There is, however, immense satisfaction in releasing the need to win in the middle of a conflict.
  3. Nobody, and I mean nobody, will see the situation exactly the same as you. There is always another way to look at things.
  4. Since you’re only able to deal with your behaviour, manage your stress in the moment. Notice what’s going on in your body – heart rate, clammy hands, vision. How is this affecting your behaviour? Slow down breathing, practice reckless forgiveness, agree to disagree. (more on dealing with stress later)
  5. If possible, try not to make any major decisions in the heat of the moment
  6. Remember that successfully managing conflict applies to all areas of life. Practice makes perfect. I’ll never be perfect.
  7. We all need to save face. Ask yourself how can you help all parties come out feeling whole and intact?
  8. Be careful not to sacrifice the relationship for the conflict or the deed (unless you really want to end the relationship)
  9. Avoid blame. Try not to use words like always and never (except note 3). Try and let the past stay the past. Practice uncontrolled immediacy.
  10. If things get stuck, push forward: Where do you want to go from here? How do you want to move forward? What’s next?

To say that I actively practice all of the above in the heat of the moment would be a huge stretch (note family members nodding vigorously in agreement). But I am trying. “Consciously incompetent” as they say. I think I’ll have that etched on my tombstone.

What are some of the many things I can do to feel good while in a conflict situation? What have I done in the past that has worked?

How do I want to show up in when in conflict? Who do I want to be? How might my behaviour alter the outcome of the conflict?

If you’re interested in learning more about how you approach conflict, check out: style-matters-conflict-style-inventory

Add A Comment