There are some people who genuinely enjoy a spirited debate or a dash of controversy, but there are many others who dislike conflict and try to avoid confrontation at all costs. Unfortunately, disagreements occur in even the most peaceful workplace, and it is an essential leadership skill to be able to address and resolve them before they spin out of control. Unresolved conflicts can lead to frustration, stress and, often, an eventual blow-up that is much worse than if you confront the problems early on.
If you are a non-confrontational person, you may feel uncomfortable at first expressing what you think or how you feel in an argument, for fear of causing anger, disapproval or hurt feelings in the other person. Instead of concentrating on the negative aspects of a disagreement, focus instead on the positive results you hope to achieve through conflict resolution.
1. Keep your objective in mind.
When you decide to talk to someone about a problem, write out the main points you want to make beforehand. This shouldn’t be a list of grievances or complaints but an outline of why you are concerned about the situation and what you propose as solutions. Putting your thoughts onto paper helps you organize what you want to say and reinforces your reasons for wanting to start the conversation. Think of the main outcome you would like to achieve as a result of this discussion, and edit it down to a single sentence. Keep this “cheat sheet” on hand in case you get flustered or need to jog your memory.
2. Be assertive but cooperative.
Start by reading these simple assertive communication tips and reflecting on how they can be helpful in your current situation. Recognize that your concerns are valid, and resist the temptation to take the easy way out by avoiding the tough issues or being overly accommodating. Be direct, yet tactful, honest, yet respectful. Listen to the other person’s perspective without interrupting and expect the same courtesy in return.
3. Strive for a win-win outcome.
Approach the conflict resolution process as if you are trying to solve a puzzle, rather than trying to start a fight. If you dislike confrontation, this method may be more in tune with your personality style, and it is much more cooperative and productive than simply arguing. Focus the conversation around what goals you hope to achieve and what different solutions are possible to reach these results. Even if you already have one particular idea in mind, be open to alternatives and various forms of compromise.
Are you a non-confrontational person? How do you approach disagreements at work?
Learn more about EDSI’s conflict resolution resources.