In the first part of my article Conflict Management, I discussed how you can recognize conflicts and avoid escalation.
I have tried to illustrate the problem of conflict of objectives with an example between a sales manager and a production manager.
Important: Recognize conflicts early!
The earlier you recognize and address a conflict or a perceived conflict, the better it is. If you are lucky, you can Solving conflicts or at least defuse it.
In conversation, a supposed conflict can often turn out to be a misunderstanding. In fact, there are no conflicting goals at all.
But recognizing this is only possible if you talk about it. If, on the other hand, you avoid the discussion, you ensure that the conflict or the alleged conflict continues to grow subliminally and thus escalates.
You should not avoid conflicts!
Some people believe that you should avoid conflicts as much as possible. But this is not possible. As soon as we act with others, there will be conflicts. This cannot be avoided.
The question is: How do we deal with it?? Conflicts do not simply go away. People have different values and ideas and often contradictory goals.
Sometimes you can resolve conflicts by talking about them, sometimes not. But by addressing them, you can at least ensure that the conflict doesn’t escalate.
Please always remember: Avoiding conflicts does not mean harmony! On the contrary, avoiding conflicts disturbs harmony. Conflicts can be turning points for better togetherness!
How to recognize conflicts?
How can you now recognize that a conflict is simmering subliminally? Every conflict begins with tension. But not every tension is a conflict.
Now and then opinions can clash, it gets loud, without that it is already a conflict because of that. But you have to watch out when opinions take on rigid forms, when previous behavior changes into the negative.
Typical conflict signals
- There is no more talking openly with each other!
- Information is deliberately withheld!
- Teasing, gossip and sarcastic remarks increase!
But in addition to these signals, there are also less obvious conflict signals such as increasing disinterest. So only the bare minimum is done, decisions are not made, errors accumulate or regulations are interpreted and followed in an increasingly pedantic way.
These signals may or may not indicate a simmering conflict. Whether it is really a conflict and which problems are hidden behind it, this has to be checked in each individual case.
But for this you need to be active. You need to address the behavior you notice and you need to ask about it. You need to take an interest in the other person and try to understand them.
However, you may also recognize in yourself feelings or behaviors that indicate conflict, e.g.B. Anger, sadness, annoyance. Then allow yourself the luxury of noticing these feelings first, without judging them and without assigning blame.
Then think about why you are really upset, disappointed, or scared? Is it a reaction to someone else’s behavior, z.B.
"My boss is bugging me with his micromanagement."
Or is it, for example, the fear of losing the job because the economic situation has deteriorated dramatically. The sooner you take your emotions and feelings seriously, the better you can use and control them.
What you can control..
Changing another person’s behavior is usually long and difficult, sometimes even impossible. You also have no control over many situations. You will not be able to change the economic situation. However, you have full control over how you respond to it. You determine this yourself.
Therefore, don’t suppress your feelings and wait for the kettle to boil over, but listen inside yourself to recognize conflict situations, analyze them and manage your own behavior.
Well, if the conflict situation has not yet escalated resp. you have been able to de-escalate the situation, you can often find a solution together. This solution unifies the conflicting goals, or the goals can be somewhat adjusted in a way that resolves the conflict.
Not every conflict can be resolved!
It may well be that a strong conflict of interest remains. You just can’t get the targets on top of each other. Nevertheless, both parties agree on a reasonable coexistence.
One understands and accepts that the goals of the other side contradict one’s own goals and finds at least a workable compromise on how to work together reasonably anyway.
Each side makes small sacrifices to their own goals in order to move forward together. A win-win solution. This is also an acceptable solution.
Even the realization that you can’t work together and therefore better separate is ultimately also a solution that is better than the further escalation of the conflict.
In strongly escalated conflicts
Sometimes a situation is already so messed up – the conflict has escalated to the point – that the two sides in dispute can no longer find their way to each other on their own. In this case only a third party can help, i.e. someone who mediates. The task of the mediator is first to de-escalate the situation and then to try to find a solution together.
For this I recommend the podcast episode 81: My interview with Hans-Jurgen Lenz. In our conversation he describes in detail how he succeeded as a moderator to de-escalate and clarify a strongly escalated conflict. Listen in. It is worthwhile!
Search for the cause!
If you recognize that there is a conflict, always ask yourself first:
What is the reason for the conflict? Why did the conflict break out? What situation has triggered the conflict?
Investigate the cause. What do the parties want? What feelings move you and what do you suspect in the others?
However, before addressing the conflict or behavior towards the other person, put yourself in his or her position. What would you do if you were in the position of your conflict opponent??
How would you behave? Make sure you don’t automatically blame him or her. We are often too quick to pigeonhole the other person: "He’s bad" or "He’s stupid!" and I am the good one.
But almost always it is not so. Each side usually contributes to the conflict escalation. It is better to first assume good things about the other person. That is why it is always said in court:
"In doubt for the accused!"
Behave in this way especially if you yourself are rock-solidly convinced that you are in the right. Please keep in mind:
"The more you feel you are in the right, the higher the chance that a dispute will arise!"
Conflicts often escalate because one side assumes the other has bad intentions.
Try to understand the other person!
You observe your employee coming to work unpunctually again this month. In addition, he appears totally overtired. He probably turned night into day again with his buddies, drank too much and didn’t get to bed until 4 or 5 o’clock.
That’s enough. This time you’ll get a warning letter. Why? Well, that is clear. This guy seems to care more about his personal pleasure than his job. That’s not how it works.
Your employee has actually turned night into day. He is really completely overtired. But only because he finished the final report for the major project on time. He worked until 4:30 in the morning to satisfy this customer, who is so important to your company.
And you? You are making a pig out of him because you imply that he has put his private life before his professional life.
That’s why: When conflict situations arise, and especially when you get angry. Take a step back and ask yourself:
"What are, or at least what could be, the other person’s good intentions??"
Even if this may sometimes be difficult. You avoid thereby that the conflict escalates.
Resolving or at least defusing conflict: 7 tips!
1. Research the cause!
So why did the conflict erupt? What feelings does this conflict cause in those involved? Who suffers the most?
2. Avoid putting the blame on others!
Look for solutions and not for culprits!
3. Change the perspective!
Try to understand the other person’s motives? You need to be empathetic about it, even when it’s hard to do so. Let the other side finish and really listen first – without judging.
4. Assume positive things about the other side!
"When in doubt, give the accused the benefit of the doubt!"
5. Be open about how you feel,
But avoid insults and insinuations. Talk about your own feelings, i.e. what this conflict means to you and what it does to you emotionally.
6. Ask the other side what proposal they have for resolving the conflict.
Let his solution be explained to you in detail. Ask and offer a slightly modified solution or an alternative if the proposed solution is not acceptable.
7. Accept help!
When the situation has already escalated too far, often the only way to de-escalate is to bring in a third party as a moderator, mediator or conciliator.
The inspirational quote
"I don’t need to read books to know that the basic theme of our lives is conflict; all my clowning springs from this realization."
- Dealing with Conflict Part 1: How to recognize conflict and avoid escalation!
- Book: Solving Conflicts: Practical tips for successful conflict management
- Book:Resolving conflicts through nonviolent communication e from managers
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