Top tips: How to manage conflict

1 Check yourself
The famous Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung once wrote that people make decisions by using preference for either feeling or thinking. feeling person bases their decisions on personal values, putting themselves into the situation of the person affected. They define fairness as treating everyone as an individual.
A person with preference for thinking, on the other hand, removes themselves from the emotional state and makes decisions based on practical logic. They define fairness as when everyone is treated the same.
Consider which preference you may have, and remember that when you deal with conflict you need to explore and balance both logical and emotional preferences.

2 Listen actively
For the majority of people caught up in conflict, the issue in question is at that moment the most important thing in the world. Nothing is more likely to make the situation worse than the idea that you are not listening with your complete attention. So turn off your phone, go somewhere quiet, stop talking and listen to what they have to say.

3 Acknowledge
Controlling your own emotions during conflict is difficult enough but trying to control the emotions of other people is even more challenging. It’s very easy to make judgement based on your own values, for example, ‘I wouldn’t be upset, or angry if that happened to me’. However, the other person is angry and upset and that feeling is real even if the reason behind the cause isn’t.
People in pain – even if it is self-inflicted – want you to acknowledge what they are going through. So do just that. Agree that they are feeling these emotions. With regards to the reason, stay neutral.
Say, “You seem really upset”. Do not say, “I would be upset too”. Say, “It sounds like you are very frustrated with the situation”. Do not say, “I understand how frustrating it is”.

4 Reframe
Reframing is the ability to get people to see situation from different view. This can be done by changing the words that are used so that the context of the statement is more positive. It attempts to put the speaker in the frame of mind that is required to resolve the dispute.
It takes time to master this skill so practise by selecting words that are viewed as negative and try to think of the positive version of that word. An obstacle, for example, can be viewed as challenge. Someone who is described as impatient can also be described as keen.
Once you have handle on this try reframing whole statements.
“‘My mother consistently interferes in my life: she won’t let me do anything,” can be reframed into, “It sounds like you have very protective mother”.

5 Test the reality
The two most important tools that any quality mediator utilises are WATNA and BATNA: short-form for ‘Worst Alternative to Negotiated Agreement’ and ‘Best Alternative to Negotiated Agreement’.
One of the biggest myths about conflict is that the larger the issue the more difficult the resolution. In truth, the complexity of the conflict is mainly governed by the people involved and not the issues. I’ve seen million-dollar disagreements settle far more easily than disputes over few hundred dollars.
WATNA and BATNA get people to see the likely consequences of continuing their current path of disagreement. They help them decide if they need to change their position.

6 Summarise
Summarising not only allows the speaker to feel heard but also enables transition to new topic. It assures the parties involved that progress has been made. The key is to be concise, remain neutral and only paraphrase if it’s sensitive issue as the precise wording is crucial. If you are unsure, the following phrases will help:
“Let’s see where we are…”
“We’ve resolved these issues…”
“You’ve agreed on…”
“What you are saying is…”
“We are left with the issue of …” M

Mark Wager is leadership coach with Elite LD. [email protected]

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