Most of my life I've been a conflict-avoider, sweeping potential disagreements under the proverbial rug. But these days I seem to face contentions head-on, boxing gloves poised and ready. This is good, for the most part--running from conflict rarely solves anything. However, now that I'm not afraid to take on the hard conversations and can bring up the minors before they become majors, I realize I could use some fighting skills. It seems I'm doing it all wrong -- taking things personally, bringing up past issues that have nothing to do with the present, throwing in hurtful digs, albeit slight and 'hidden' (but not really). I shut down after I speak my peace and am closed-minded and judgmental when the other person expresses their side of things, wounding my dissentient and getting my own feelings hurt in the process.
So I write this article for me. And for any of you who struggle when it comes to conflict resolve.
We've developed bad habits
Of course, we don't make fighting a goal. In a perfect world, we'd tune into our emotions well before conflict arises and use these wise old friends to guide us as we manage our behavior, thwarting tensions before they erupt into battles. But then again, we're human, imperfect and immature and insensitive at times, so it's highly likely disagreements will evolve into fights. Most of us have picked up some poor habits, as early as childhood, and haven't learned there is a better way.
But before we look into acquiring some new fighting skills, let's determine first if your conflict management needs some work. Here are some things you don't want to choose to do when troubles arise:
Fail to listen to the other person's point of view with an open mind
Instead of seeking to find common ground, fight for your own way or ideas
Do most of the talking in disagreements
Feel extremely uncomfortable when conflict arises
Don't use tact when voicing your concerns, rather, you demean the other person and/or their ideas and/or use crass language to prove your point
Say things like "always", "never", and "everyone thinks this way..." (as if you know how everyone else in the world thinks or does things)
Bring up the past to prove your point of "Here we go again..."
Use put downs and demeaning words, saying things you know you'll regret later
View the other person as an adversary or foe because they don't agree with you
Think things like, "If only they would change, this could be resolved."
Quit and run away before the conflict is resolved
Use dishonesty to put an end to the conflict rather than being authentic with your feelings
View yourself as more superior, smarter, or 'a better person' because of how the other person is feeling/acting
Which of these best describes your boxing tactics?
It starts with Self-Awareness
Whether you choose one or all of the above when conflict hits, learning a new way of fighting can take some work. As with any behavior, we can make shifts in a new direction, but it's not always easy. But devoting effort to the development of conflict resolve skills will serve us well when the next battle comes along.
“Bravery is the choice to show up and listen to another person, be it a loved one or perceived foe, even when it is uncomfortable, painful, or the last thing you want to do.” ― Alaric Hutchinson
So where do we bad fighters start?
First of all, as with most things -- becoming self-aware is a good initial step. Take note of the poor habits you use when fighting, write them down, and take a hard look at them. Do they serve you well or do they usually escalate the conflict, or cause further avoidance? How do you feel when you act that way? How does it make the other person feel when you act that way? Most likely the things you're writing are not the most positive. It's OK. Recognizing the need to change often comes from acknowledging the hurt we are causing ourselves and others.
Managing our behavior
Now that you're ready to make some shifts, simply acknowledging bad behaviors is not enough. And just erasing them won't help either. As with the breaking of any old habit, it's beneficial to have a new toolkit at your disposal full of actions to replace ineffective behaviors. Here are a few to try:
Separate the person from the problem. Don't let yourself go down the path of "this person is bad, wrong, selfish, etc." because they have a differing opinion. Fight the desire to label them and instead, focus on the disagreement at hand.
Lay down preconceived ideas. It's easy to think you already have everything figured out before the conflict even begins. Be present and ask clarifying questions where needed so you're sure you understand their viewpoint, not your interpretation of their viewpoint.
Take a deep breath and slow down. An overload of feelings can cause an amygdala hijack. The amygdala is the part of the brain that processes our emotions. Because the emotional processing in our brain happens much more quickly than the rational side, if the amygdala perceives the situation is at a "fight or flight" level of danger, it will trigger a response that shuts down the rational side of our brains, causing us to say and do things we'll regret later. Trust me, this is something to avoid.
Listen to understand. Stop thinking about what you're going to say next and tune in to what they're saying, and not saying. Watch for body language (are they agitated, are they scared, etc.) and attempt to hear what they need/want in this situation, not just what is coming out of their mouth.
Before speaking, ask yourself, "Will this help or hurt the situation?" Sounds simple, but it's very effective! Choose your words carefully and be sure not to throw out insults or put-downs in the heat of the moment.
Remind yourself that their way may be a better way. Be curious. Have an open mind and think of the conversation as a way to brainstorm creative new ideas rather than taking offense because they don't agree with you.
“When we aren't curious in conversations we judge, tell, blame and even shame, often without even knowing it, which leads to conflict." -- Kristen Siggins
Don't attach judgments about their character because of their opinions. Again, separate out the issue from the person and fight the urge to jump to conclusions about their moral integrity just because you don't like what they're saying.
Be aware that the other person is experiencing his/her own set of emotions. There may be drivers going on that you're not aware of -- past hurts, disappointments, or struggles that the other person is dealing with. Offer some grace, in the moment, as you seek to understand the why behindhumi their actions or words.
Find a way to say something valuing about the other person. Even if you don't agree with them, making the other person feel valued for who they are, in the heat of an argument, can do wonders to diffusing anger and frustration levels. A great sentence starter is, "You know what I like about you?" then fill in the rest with a sincere, kind word.
"A soft answer turns away wrath." -- ancient proverb
Remember that the goal here is coming to a solution that works for both parties, not getting your own way. This may mean you have to reach a compromise where both of you give up a little to arrive at a peaceful outcome.
I know, easier said than done. If this list seems daunting, pick just one goal and focus on it for the next few weeks. Talk to a coach or counselor about the areas you struggle most with and seek an outside opinion on how you could begin to make some shifts. Then get out there and practice.
For those of you (us) who have done it all wrong, going back to that person and offering a sincere, "I'm sorry" can do wonders to soften pain of the blows you delivered. It takes humility and courage to admit our errors and ask forgiveness of the other person. They may reject you, scoff at you, or even attempt to continue the fight -- but these three magical words can do as much for your own angry heart as it can the other person.
Unless you live on an uninhabited, deserted island, where you have no contact with others, there will be conflicts on the road ahead. Coming prepared with healthy, helpful tactics will enable both of you to stay standing at the end of each round. Even better, as you work on your own conflict management skills, you may come to realize that it was never a fight at all, but a passionate interaction between two unique and worthy individuals, on the same team, working toward the same goal, each offering the gift of learning something new.
"We meet aliens every day who have something to give us. They come in the form of people with different opinions." -- William Shatner
This article was written by Amy Sargent.
Click HERE to Learn more about her work.
Are you someone who builds trust or someone who tears it down?
The ability to build trust is a competency of high emotional intelligence. Being trustworthy means to be ethical when working with and relating to others. It means doing the right thing even when you know no one will find out. When you are a trust builder, others have confidence that your actions are consistent with your words and know that you have their best interest at heart -- not only your own. If you are a trust builder, you demonstrate respect for others’ experiences, understand the hurt that deceitfulness can cause, and bring more value to relationships than pain.
Those who are strong in this competency tend to share information about themselves and don't keep secrets. They treat others consistently and with respect, and maintain high standards of personal integrity. They maintain a lifestyle that they don't have to hide from others. When you hear them talk about something, you know that their actions will match up with their words, and you can count on them to deliver on their promises and commitments.
Those who aren't so strong in this competency aren't able to build open, candid, trusting relationships. They've most likely developed a reputation for lacking integrity, and often make promises that they do not keep. They will do what serves them best even if it means undermining another person to get what they want. They lie about little things, and lie about big things. If you ask them what their values are, you may get the 'deer in the headlights' look, as they often have troubles defining their standards in the name of being 'open-minded' or 'non-judgmental'. They tend to blame others for their mistakes and withhold information to keep them out of 'trouble.'
“Earn trust, earn trust, earn trust. Then you can worry about the rest.” --Seth Godin
It's impossible to lead without being able to build trust. When others begin to doubt you, they will think twice about following you and question whether or not you are worth teaming up with. They will mistrust your ideas and direction, and worry that you may be putting YOUR best interests before their own.
It's true that it takes a long time to build trust but only an instant to destroy it. One self-centered lie or act of deceit can ruin how others view you for days and months to come.
Why are some trust breakers? For many, the practice of deceit stems from deep-rooted fears…fear of being accepted, fear of being known, fear of punishment, fear of self, fear of being held to expectations, fear of letting others down, fear of being disliked, fear of being an disappointment...the list goes on and on. The thing is, we all have fears. We all want to be liked and accepted and valuable in others' eyes. But the difference between trust builders and trust breakers is that the trust builders face their fears by understanding that honesty and authenticity are what bring about those results, where trust breakers think dishonesty will get them there. But a life of deceit won't bring about deep, meaningful relationships that we all desire.
“It is true that integrity alone won’t make you a leader, but without integrity you will never be one.” -- Zig Ziglar
Not sure if you're a trust builder or a trust breaker?
Look over these statements, and give yourself a score for each, using this scale: 1= Always, 2=Almost always 3=Occasionally 4=Almost never 5=Never
1. I share my thoughts, feelings and decision-making rationale.
2. I am able to establish trusting relationships.
3. I am open to others' ideas and willing to be influenced by others.
4. I treat people with respect.
5. I am able to influence others as a result of talking with them.
6. I have developed a reputation for integrity.
7. I treat all people fairly.
8. I say what I believe rather than what I think people want to hear.
9. I strive to behave consistently with my expressed beliefs and values.
10.I practice what I preach.
11.I focus on solving problems rather than blaming or hiding.
12.I admit my mistakes.
13.I deliver on promises and commitments.
14.I ask others for their opinions.
15.I listen to people's thoughts, feelings, and concerns, and am able to feel empathy.
16.I solicit feedback about my performance.
17.I acknowledge the contributions and worth of others.
18.When there is a problem, I work directly with those involved to resolve it.
19.I treat people consistently.
20.I follow through on the things I commit to do, even if it's not convenient for me.
Now, add up your scores and see where you land, below:
1-20 - Your ability to build trust is high
21-40 - Your ability to build trust is moderately high
41-60 - Your ability to build trust is moderate
61-80 - Your ability to build trust has room for improvement
81-100 - Your ability to build trust needs serious improvement
“Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.” --Stephen R. Covey
If your ability to build trust needs some work, take heart. We are talking about behavior--what you do, not who you are. Behaviors can be changed. If you would like to shift from being a trust breaker to a trust builder, here are some developmental tips to try:
Team up with an emotional intelligence coach to help you set goals and hold you accountable as you begin this journey.
Practice listening to others in a way that allows you to know what's on their minds and in their hearts.
Always deliver on your commitments. No excuses. If you are one who tends to promise then cancel --stop making the promises in the first place.
Be emotionally available to those around you -- share the things in your heart without stretching the truth to make yourself look good.
Never knowingly mislead or lie. If you catch yourself doing it -- stop and admit the truth. It's so very freeing and you'll find people respect you when you admit it in the moment.
Articulate your values to those around you and ask them if your actions match up.
Admit your mistakes without blame or shame.
Get in the habit of putting others' needs in front of your own.
Check to see if what you do in secret matches up to your public persona -- if not, in which arena are you not being true? Then ask yourself why. Just being aware of the gap is a good start to changing behaviors.
Forgive yourself of past mistakes. If you've spent a lifetime lying, it's never too late to come clean and make a fresh start.
The next time you find yourself in a situation where you're not sure if you should be honest or not -- keep this in mind:
“For every good reason there is to lie, there is a better reason to tell the truth.” -- Bo Bennett
Putting aside your patterns of lying, deceiving and hiding, and stepping into the brave new world of integrity will open up the doors of opportunity for stronger, healthier relationships. Yes, it's going to take some work and effort. It may feel uncomfortable to begin to let others truly know you. You may face rejection and at times, disappoint people. But though it's can be a difficult process to shift behaviors, it's worth it. Becoming someone others can trust will help you develop the connection, both at work and in your personal life, that you need and desire.
This article was written by Amy Sargent.
Click HERE to Learn more about her work.