How do you handle conflict?
How do you and others react to conflict? – I often use the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) personality instrument when working with teams and individuals. One of the striking differences in personality types is how they react to conflict. ‘Thinking' types usually enjoy conflict and will even play ‘devil's advocate' and argue for something they don't necessarily believe in. While ‘Feeling' types generally enjoy creating harmony and often actively avoid conflict.
Having talked to many people about their MBTI types over the years, it has become obvious that Feeling types not only avoid and dislike conflict, but many of them have an almost primordial fear of it. They will say things like, ‘I get fearful of physical danger when someone gets angry', ‘I am afraid that it will get out of control, someone will get hurt', even if the situation is highly unlikely to come to physical violence. It is therefore no wonder that these people avoid conflict and find it hard to be assertive with others. In fact, in one organisation it became obvious that the Thinking types, who were in the majority, would often be oblivious to the negative impact of their interactions with the Feeling types. They would say things like, ‘But we were just having a discussion about X', not realising that the Feeling types were seeing it as a conflict rather than a discussion.
For a summary of MBTI types click here to read the back issue of Inspire from 2009: How do you handle different personality types?
‘Conflict cannot survive without your participation.' Wayne W Dyer
What do you consider to be a conflict? – In your view, is conflict an all out row and shouting match? Is it a difference of opinion? Does it result in you falling out with someone else? It is worth taking time to think about your work and home life and the situations where conflicts arise. This could be over how work is organised, planned and executed; the direction that the team or organisation is going in. Within a family, conflicts might arise about how you make decisions on holidays, who does what in the house or how to set boundaries for children. Perhaps others view something as a conflict when you think it is just a minor disagreement.
How do you view conflict? What is your reaction to it: do you enjoy it or fear it?
‘Better than a thousand hollow words, is one word that brings peace.' Buddha
What are the positive sides of conflict? – Being a ‘Feeling' personality type myself, I spent decades avoiding conflict and seeing it as potentially disastrous. Therefore when conflict did occur I was not good at handling it. Nowadays, I have learned how to manage my emotional responses to conflict, and I am therefore able to handle these situations in a much more constructive manner. Now I recognise that conflicts of opinion or different ways of doing things, if discussed in a rational way, can lead to a greater understanding on both parts and often lead to a better way forward.
What benefits have you experienced from conflict?
‘A dog is not considered a good dog because he is a good barker. A man is not considered a good man because he is a good talker.' Buddha
How to have constructive conflict – here are a few pointers to making conflict a constructive process:
- Mastering your emotional reactions – this is the first essential step. Whether you are experiencing a flight, fight or freeze response to a conflict you need to manage your emotional response in order to be able to handle it in a calm and rational manner. (See right hand column for public workshop related to this.)
- Listen, ask questions and listen some more – seek to genuinely understand where the other person is coming from, what is behind their views, actions or decisions. If you really listen and show that you are seeking to understand them, they are more likely to listen to your viewpoint.
- Remain in an assertive adult mode – calm, rational discussions where you listen, ask questions and then put your ideas or views across are more likely to make an impact than if you become emotional in your communication with others.
- Acknowledge emotions – this might be about acknowledging the other person's emotions or your own. You might want to reflect back to them that you understand that they feel strongly about the situation or decision. If it is your own feelings, then ‘own' them. For example, say, ‘I am feeling frustrated with the situation', rather than ‘You frustrate the hell out of me!'.
- Aim for win-win – recognise that conflict is not about who is right or wrong, it is usually about differences of opinion. Aim to have a win-win outcome where both parties feel happy with both the outcome and the process by which it was achieved. If you have a win-win outcome as your ultimate goal you will find a way forward that is satisfactory for everyone.
- Agree to disagree – some people find this hard to do, but we don't always have to agree on everything. I have a good friend who is a practising Catholic (and who reads Inspire!) and we sometimes have big differences of opinion on certain topics. We listen, we debate and often we have to agree to disagree and respect the other person's right to have a different opinion.
- Take time out – if you find yourself or the other person becoming emotional then take some time out, either 5 minutes to get a cup of tea, or leave it until another day when both parties have calmed down and had time to think about things.
What actions do you need to take to enhance how you manage conflict?
‘A mind at peace, a mind centered and not focused on harming others, is stronger than any physical force in the universe.' Wayne Dyer
For training and coaching in effective ….
- team working
- communication skills
- conflict management
- performance management
…. call Melanie on 01865 377334 or email by clicking here to arrange a time to speak in confidence. For more information about Grovelands visit our website by clicking here.
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