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Practicing healthy conflict resolution skills helps us lead effectively

Monday, October 10, 2016

How do we speak our truth without trying to control the other person?  How do we do this while still being kind?  These are questions that arose for a client of mine regarding how to work effectively with a peer.  There has been great conflict between these two peers.  They are individuals who came from two different company cultures, who have different levels of tenure (one new to leadership and one an experienced leader.  They have very different ideas of how to engage employees, how to get the work done even though they are managing the same function for different customers, and how their teams should collaborate.  How do they resolve these issues skillfully in a way that results in better solutions than either of them could come up with alone without thinking our way is the “right way”?  It all starts with 4 important elements:

Listen to your intuition but challenge your fears:  What is true for us?  What do we prefer?  What will benefit us most and align with taking care of ourselves?  Our emotions can create a shadow that makes it hard for us to answer these questions.  Fear especially can impact this.  Fear creates worry and resentment and limits what is possible.  So use mindfulness, somatic awareness, journaling and other tools to help yourself be aware of how emotions might be limiting your awareness and actions through incorrect interpretations of what is happening.  In various situations with these peers, fear tells each leader that something won’t work when it might actually work or that they are being manipulated.  Fear also tells each of them that they have to be right when it really doesn’t matter. Fear causes these leaders to avoid setting boundaries when they are needed.  It blocks forward movement in collaborative efforts because the peers are really working against each other through their differences instead of leveraging their differences.  It blocks their ability to enjoy the process.  By journaling about these interpretations and challenging them, as well as staying in the present moment by connecting to their intuition, it becomes clear what the real situation is and allows better decision making.  Sometimes conflict doesn’t occur because the leader has dealt with their own internal conflict, fear and other emotions. 

Be clear about what is important and consider what shared goals are:  Do you ever find you are in conflict with someone and realize that it isn’t that important?  For instance, one of the leaders in this situation thought employees should tell both leaders when they have arrived for the day.  Ultimately, is that really important?  The bigger shared goals of treating each other with kindness and respect and getting the work done efficiently outweighed small items like this which involve micromanaging an employee.  On a broader scale, you might ask:  what is for my wellbeing, for the wellbeing of the other person and leads to peace in the relationship?  Peace in the relationship doesn’t mean hard issues are not discussed, but means that greater peace arises when we realize that we matter in the relationship but so does the other person.  It means that the differences become less threatening because we realize we both want the same shared broader goals and can work toward that together.

Use thoughtful, timely, kind, necessary words:  I love the phrase “say what you mean, mean what you say, but don’t say it mean”.  There is a balance between being firm and clear while still having compassion for the other person and kind toward them.  Sometimes, silence that is coming from a loving heart is the answer because it is not time to say something; maybe the other person is overcome  by emotions.  In that case, it is not the time to share your perspective and expect that it will be able to be heard.  The previous steps help with this step because if your communication is coming from your most skillful intentions based in care for yourself and others, you won’t need the other person’s approval or validation of what you are saying.

Listen to the other person with compassion:  Compassion is more than being nice to someone.  It involves listening to each other without formulating replies in our heads, suspending all judgment, giving the other person undivided attention.  Paying attention to your body can be very helpful with this….especially attending to your breath.  Where are you breathing?  Are you breathing in your chest, your middle torso or your lower torso?  This will help you pay attention.  Compassion naturally arises when we are in the present moment.  Notice thoughts that block compassion.  Notice emotions in the other person and emotions in you.  Try to put yourself in their situation.  We are often unaware of the pain others experience.  Hurt people hurt people.  Even if the other person is being angry, underneath they might be hiding pain.  By seeing the other person with compassion, the differences between these leaders can be seen as different ideas of getting to the shared goals.

These four elements help improve relationships and accomplish goals in a more beneficial, long term way.  Each leader being able to be aware of themselves and what arises in them around difficult situations and conflict helps them to see that there are gifts in difficulty like the lotus flower grows from mud.

For assistance with resolving conflict and leadership/team development, contact Liesl Piotti at 727-215-2039 or to help you through Redirections’ coaching process.