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Resolving Conflicts at Work and at Home
Why Not Just Have It Out?
What Are Some Strategies?
- Use your ears.—Active listening involves body language, like leaning forward, nodding your head, and summarizing what you have heard with statements like, "As I see it, you are saying…" When others see that you take them seriously and do not interrupt, they are likely to budge from rock-hard positions. "Good conflict management requires getting as much information as possible," says Patrick Williams, PhD, psychologist and personal business trainer in Palm Coast, Florida.
- Stay cool.—In business negotiations, cooler heads usually prevail. For instance, if a usually obliging supplier seems stuck on an unusually high price, resist the urge to shout: "That is crazy!" If you are angry, take time to cool down. Take some deep breaths. Buy yourself some time by saying "I need some time to think about this." Defuse your anger by going for a walk, listening to music, or writing down your thoughts. Clear your mind to make room for some creative solutions.
- Do not take sides.—Another way to neutralize difficult people is to move to the same side of the table, rather than to sit facing them. If you set up a chart or poster that you can both face, you will make the point that you are two people with a common interest, trying to work out a mutually agreeable solution.
- Keep quiet.—Sometimes silence is golden. If one person is opinionated or emotional, threatening or demanding, quiet can be unsettling. Many aggressive people are troubled by silence amid heated discussions and back off untenable positions just to break the silence.
- Take responsibility.—A good way to reduce conflict is to decide what each person is responsible for. "We all make choices," says Sharon Keys Seal, a conflict resolution coach in Baltimore. "And when it comes to missing or making a deadline, delivering results or excuses, one makes a choice. Often, people are just in the habit of making excuses. But, if you ask them to make better choices, you will put him or her back on track."
- Try a little kindness.—Seal suggests using kindness in business and at home. For instance, if you have a spare moment and see somebody in a hurry waiting for the copy machine, let him use it first. "In a dog-eat-dog business setting, kindness will put peace into your heart and create friends all around you," Seal explains. It also puts people off guard so that they temporarily forget whatever it was they were upset about in the first place.
- Avoid stumbling blocks.—Peel Health in Brampton, Ontario has published some general guidelines for resolving conflict. They recommend that you watch out for communication blocks, such as arguing, withdrawing, blaming, not listening, or changing the subject. Try to avoid jumping to conclusions, mind reading, or having unrealistic expectations.
What Is the Best Way to Solve Conflicts at Work?
What Is the Best Way to Solve Conflicts at Home?
How Should You Handle a Conflict?
- Choose the time and place.
- Agree on the topic to be solved.
- Agree not to interrupt each other.
- Describe the situation, how it affects you, and what outcome would please you the most.
- Paraphrase what your opponent says, both to buy yourself time to think and to make sure you understand exactly what has been said.
- Speak quietly. It gives the impression that you are in control of the situation and may give you a psychological edge.
American Psychological Association http://www.apa.org/
Mental Health America http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/
Canadian Psychiatric Association http://www.cpa-apc.org/
Canadian Psychological Association http://www.cpa.ca/
Conflict resolution. Academic Leadership Support website. Available at: http://www.ohrd.wisc.edu/onlinetraining/resolution/index.asp. Accessed March 3, 2010.
Conflict Resolution/Peer Mediation Research Project website. Available at: http://www.coe.ufl.edu/CRPM/CRPMhome.html.