Benchmark Business Group

Your Response to Conflict

January 10, 2017

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Last week we left you with a challenge to look at how conflict is approached in your business. We asked if you approach conflict expecting a confrontation or a conversation. This week we want to explore that mindset a bit deeper.
 
When dealing with a conflict there will always be elements that you cannot control. It doesn't matter if the conflict is with a client, a vendor, or a team member. You can't control their attitude. You can't control their response. You can't control what has or hasn't already happened. You can choose to control your own approach to the conflict which in turn can greatly influence the way others react and the attitude they have. 
If you are expecting a confrontation, you won't just find it, you will help create it.
Take a moment and think about how you enter into a discussion in which you are expecting a confrontation. Body language, tone of voice and language is often very different than if you are planning a conversation. It's often more defensive. Sometimes defensiveness can come across as aggressive, accusatory, and even insensitive. For others, it can come across as passive, lacking credibility, and even uncertain. Either way, it doesn't help influence the interaction toward the ideal result. 
In a confrontation what is lost is the collaboration to reach an ideal result.
In many ways, a confrontation is a fight with no win-win in sight. It's you or them. On the other hand, a conversation implies that there is give and take. There is a willingness and openness to explore and create the right conversation to reach an ideal situation. Even if other parties come looking for a confrontation; your ability to control your own reactions and facilitate a conversation over a confrontation can influence the outcome. 
Remember, your position alone will not influence collaboration.
If you are a manager or an owner, an easy trap to fall into is that your position, by default will help create collaboration. The truth is that your position might influence the other parties' visible reactions. It's unlikely that during a confrontation an employee will yell or visibly disagree with you over issues they know might cost them their job. At the same time, it has no correlation to their internal reaction, which is the one that counts. If you want to influence their decision to collaborate and seek an ideal solution, then you must be a leader in your own approach and not just in title. 
Creating collaboration starts with you.
In order to get past a conflict, you are often forced to reflect very carefully on your own part in the conflict. As a leader, you may not play a direct part in the conflict, but your systems, processes, and culture will always be involved. Collaboration requires that you are willing to challenge your own assumptions, thoughts, and way of thinking. It means that you must examine the way your business operates to see if your systems and culture help create the conflict. If your immediate thought is, "but it's not me, it's them," you will miss a great opportunity to fix the conflict.

Conflict resolution must begin with you. Be willing to participate in an open and honest conversation that might ask you to take a hard look at your way of thinking and how your business works. If you're not willing to do this, you will just go through the motions and results will suffer. 
 
Join us next week for a few tips on how to approach a conflict with a mindset that will help create collaboration.

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