Everyone knows that if you get two or more people in a room, they’re not going to agree on everything. That means there will be conflict, which we’ll define as disagreeing with anybody about anything.
Therefore, the only way to avoid conflict is to avoid other people. Most folks find the life of a hermit unfulfilling, so it behooves us to learn how to resolve conflicts well.
This is particularly important in teams. Progressing through the stages of group development (forming, storming, norming, and performing ala Bruce Tuckman) is essential to building a high-performance team and achieving the best financial results.
Many teams get stuck in the “storming” stage because they’re unable to resolve conflicts quickly and constructively, so negative feelings like anger and frustration get progressively worse and begin to interfere with communication, teamwork, and financial performance.
This phenomenon is a direct result of the leader’s lack of skill in this area. He/she is the 800 pound gorilla in the room and the exemplar for everyone else in the organization. Being good at conflict resolution is essential if you want a high-performance business.
The two techniques:
Reflecting. You “reflect” what you hear from the other person. This allows you to make sure you heard them correctly as well as to slow down the conversation so your emotions don’t run so high that you can’t think clearly.
The Other Person: “I don’t think you care about me at all. You always treat everyone else better than me, and you never do what I ask you to do.”
You: “Just to make sure I understand, you’re saying that I don’t care about you whatsoever. In addition, I always treat everyone better than I treat you and I never do anything you ask me to do. Is that correct?”
The Other Person: “I never liked you anyway. You’re ugly and your mother dresses you funny.”
You: “If I’m hearing correctly, you have never liked me because I’m physically unattractive, you don’t like how I dress, and you think I’m overly dependent on my mother. Is this right?”
Of course the last example is a silly one, but you can see how this technique takes the sting out of a purely emotional attack like this absurd one by examining it rationally. It also slows down the interaction so that you don’t get “hooked” by a negative emotional attack. If you lose your temper/composure, the interaction changes from a negotiation to a win-lose school yard fight.
BARB. This technique is for requesting behavior change from the other person. The acronym stands for:
Behavior: What behavior to you want the other person to change? Be sure you focus on behavior and not on “character.” There’s a big difference between, “You’re often late to the team meetings” and “You’re not a team player.” The first is negotiable and changeable, and the second just leads to a “Yes I am/no you’re not” school yard fight.
Affects you how? How does the negative behavior affect you; i.e., how do you feel about it?
Request for alternative behavior: What more constructive behavior are you requesting instead?
Benefits of the new behavior: What are the benefits of this new behavior for the other person (if there are none, then why would he/she want to change?).
You: “I’d like to ask you to change something you’re doing. You’re often late to the team meetings. This is very frustrating for me because you miss the early discussions and have to be caught up on what we’ve already talked about. This wastes everyone’s time. If you’d be willing to get to these meetings on time, I think you’d find that your team mates would see you as a stronger team player and would be more supportive of the initiatives that you bring forward.”
You get the idea; you’re negotiating about changeable behavior and selling the benefits of the change to the other person. Basically you’re talking about your feelings and their behavior.
These techniques may feel a little awkward at first because they’re new, but they work like a charm in getting to a win-win solution to conflicts, and isn’t that the whole point?
- The trick is to think and feel at the same time so you’ll have access to both your rational intelligence and your emotional intelligence to make the best decisions. If you lose your temper/composure, you lose access to your rational intelligence and you’ll inevitably do something you’ll regret.
- Talk about your feelings and the other person’s behavior. Don’t tell the other person who they are or what they’re feeling; it will always create strong negative emotions that get in the way of solving the conflict and moving on.
- Remember that avoiding these inevitable conflicts always results in storing bad feelings. Sooner or later these bad feelings will erupt and create great destruction in their wake; i.e., the “build and burst” pattern.