Conflicts of Interest

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13 Ways to Reduce or Resolve Conflict in 2013

January 23rd, 2013 at Wed, 23rd, 2013 at 11:30 am by Vivian Scott

Okay, we’re almost a month into 2013 so I say this is the year you stop telling everyone you’re not very good at conflict or that you’re a conflict avoider.  Actually, there’s no such thing as avoiding conflict, so let’s challenge each other to take a fresh perspective on everything from those little irritants in the grocery checkout line to the big, emotional issues with the family.  Here are thirteen ways to reduce and resolve conflict that should help in the coming months:

1)      Be the first to reach out.  It’s time to end that icy standoff and if you reach out to say so, you may be surprised with the response.  I’m not saying you have to say all is forgiven, but at least not having bad vibes floating around in the universe should give you some peace.  Briefly state that you’d like to resolve the tension, state where you think you could have handled things better, and then move on.

2)      Be mindful of what you say (and how you say it).  Don’t lose your ability to call it like it is; instead choose your words carefully.  “I’m concerned you’re not seeing the risk in this” is better than blurting out, “What an idiotic move!”

3)       Ask for what you need.  Rather than stewing about the fact that your partner isn’t reading your mind, tell her what you need.  Sift through your list beforehand so you’re not delivering an overabundance of demands.  Decide what’s most important and have a meaningful discussion about one or two items.

4)      Say you’re sorry.  Simply put, get rid of the “yeah, but you…”-type responses and admit your shortcomings faster, quicker, and better.  If you need the other person to apologize for a specific action, ask for that—but only after you’ve delivered a sincere regret.

5)      Say no.  This may seem a little out of place here, but simply saying no upfront to certain requests will keep you out of the doghouse later.  If you don’t intend to meet the deadline, provide the funding, or meet at six o’clock, don’t agree to it!

6)      Find a place for your anger.  I often ask clients if there’s enough hurt, harm, or public embarrassment that could be bestowed on the other person to make their own anger or hurt disappear.  There isn’t.  So, try to find a place for it and then, as much as possible, leave it there.  I often visualize packing up the “stuff” from others in a cart (okay, it’s a little red wagon) that I then pull to an imaginary sidewalk that doesn’t belong to anyone.  I leave the stuff there with the notion that it no longer belongs to me and that it’s not important to me for the other person to own it.  It is what it is and it’s no longer something I’m dragging around.

7)      Let go of needing to know why.  Of course you should get in the habit of asking good, open-ended questions or inviting the other person to help you understand their perspective, but once they’ve tried and you still don’t get it, it’s okay to stop.  If you never know why, then what will you do?  It’s silly to think that “why” stands in the way of you moving on.

8)      Focus on what’s good; build from there.  Is there anything about your relationship with the other person that works?  Find the common ground and work to make the most of it.

9)      Say yes.  Everything doesn’t need to be an argument!  Did you do it?  Yes.  Are you willing to listen to someone else’s idea?  Yes.  Can you try it his way without sabotaging?  Yes.

10)   Stop talking about it.  Conflicts are what we engage in, they are not what define us.  Refrain from giving the problem so much energy.  Plus, it may come as a surprise that people really are tired of hearing about it.  Venting is great but there’s a fine line between getting it all out and becoming obsessed.

11)   Consider the other person’s point of view (whether you believe it to be true or not).  I don’t have to agree with you to understand you.  For instance, I’ve been dealing with individuals who are struggling with addiction.  Do they think the way I do or do they do what’s best for them?  Heck no.  But, I understand their addiction has a louder voice than that of reason.  On a less dramatic note, it’s not that difficult in a small understanding to see how the other person could think you were up to no good.  And, their thoughts have a lot to do with the amount of and manner in which information is communicated.  Just sayin’.

12)   Smile.  This one is more on the side of reducing conflict.  Think about your demeanor and the message it sends.  Are you the crab apple at the grocery store or the person who can’t even conjure up a grunt in the hallway when you pass others?  If you’re only going to change one thing about the way you interact with people, this would be it.  Greet others with open body language, a smile, and a friendly hello and you can head-off all sorts of trouble.

13)   Don’t start it in the first place.  Oftentimes we are the ones who cause our own issues (though, I admit, we like to blame others first).  Is it really that big of a deal that Sue always uses your stapler or that your kids load the dishwasher from left to the right when everyone knows it should be loaded the other way?  Maybe it is; and you should ask for what you want.  But, if those little irritants continue, make sure you keep them in the little irritant category and not move them into full-blown conflicts.

Vivian Scott is a Professional Certified Mediator with a private practice serving King and Snohomish Counties. She is the author of, "Conflict Resolution at Work For Dummies" and a contributing author of "Thriving in the Workplace For Dummies" as well as "Managing All-in-One For Dummies" (Wiley Publishing). Ms. Scott is a Certified Mediator Member of the Washington Mediation Association and received their Outstanding Contributor Award in 2012. Her mediation cases range from assisting couples through divorce and parenting plans to creating new workplace environments for organizations of all sizes. You can learn more about Vivian by visiting her website at www.vivianscottmediation.com. or www.anytimeseminars.com

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