Peace vs. Resolution
Therefore, it is key that leaders demonstrate restraint when their people engage in conflict, and allow resolution to occur naturally, as messy as it can sometimes be.
~The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick M. Lencioni
People are uncomfortable with conflict. I’ve seen it over and over again. I’ve experienced it within myself multiple times. Conflict can have undesirable outcomes; it can get us worked up; and it can damage relationships if it isn’t handled properly. And so… we avoid it. Not exactly the best approach, but it is certainly a common one.
One place where conflict is inevitable is in the workplace. People generally get into conflicts with those they spend the most time with. So, work is definitely one place where conflicts are going to take place.
Here’s the thing about conflict, though. It doesn’t have to be ugly, awkward, or damage relationships. More often than not, those things happen because we don’t handle it properly.
For some people, because of their experience with conflict in the past, they try to smooth things over. They want a quick peace. Peace is a good thing, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that the tension is over. Quick peace usually means people go back to their corners and calm down. The conflict isn’t resolved, but it is glossed over. When this happens, the conflict will return. Not might. It will. Why? Because we don’t need quick peace, we need resolution.
The temptation, especially in the workplace, is to put an end to the conflict so as to create a better work environment. The reality, however, is that conflicts need resolution so they don’t keep coming up. So, how can we do that? How can we seek out resolution instead of quick peace?
Take a Breath
First and foremost, we have to calm down the situation. When we act out of our passions and our emotions, we have a tendency to say things that we will regret. We aren’t as measured or thoughtful with our words. The focus is no longer resolution, but winning the argument. That rarely works. Because where there is a winner, there is a loser. And some people don’t handle losing well, especially when it comes to arguments.
So, the first thing we have to do when facing conflict is press the pause button, take some deep breaths, and calm down.
Try to See Things From Another’s Point of View
Secondly, when we are in a conflict, it’s difficult to see any other point of view apart from our own. We are so convinced we are right that whoever we are in conflict with must be wrong. What we lack in times like this is empathy.
We don’t put ourselves in the shoes of another. We don’t consider their point of view, or the reasons why they think they way they do. We just want to be right, which means they must be wrong. That’s no way to resolve our conflicts.
We can’t build strawmen, knock them down, and then feel better about ourselves. We just end up running over and pushing down the people we are supposed to be working with.
Focus on the Best Route Forward
So many of our conflicts come about because we think we have the best path forward, or at least the best path forward for ourselves. But, especially in the workplace, we need to remember that it’s not just about us. We need to be able to see the big picture, which we don’t often do. We get pretty myopic at times.
Sometimes, the best path forward in the workplace is one that may create more work for us. It may be frustrating on our part because we have to learn a new skill or approach to something that we’ve always done a certain way. But, what if it really is the best path forward for everyone involved?
We have to be willing to inconvenience ourselves from time to time if that’s what is best for everyone. Because, as much as we think it might, the world doesn’t revolve around us, and sometimes, the best thing we can do is realize that if we want to bring about something more than a quick peace; if we truly want resolution.