Ever feel like you’re not being heard? Frustrating isn’t it? Yet, despite knowing these frustrations, we all, on occasion, fail to practice healthy communication when faced with conflict situations.
It’s in conflict situations in particular, that lines of communication need to be open, clear and direct. Rather than shying away or keeping silent, healthy communication becomes key to successfully managing relationships.
Whether you fear confrontation or simply don’t know how to address it, you’re responsible for facing it (albeit sensitively) head on.
So how do you fare in dealing with conflict with family, friends or colleagues? Where would you say your strengths lie? Are you an initiator or an avoider? A peacemaker or a tyrant?
Check yourself against these characteristics of healthy communication to see how you’re doing in conflict situations.
#1. Choose the right people
If you have an issue with someone take it up with them. Simply put, speaking behind someone’s back is childish, immature and disrespectful.
By all means speak to a trusted friend to express your feelings and get advice about how to address your concerns, but anything other than that is unhelpful.
Also, it could be necessary to have other people in the room. If that’s the case, be sure you’re able to rationalise their presence and input.
#2. Choose the right time
Trying to talk about an issue when you’re about to leave for a family function or start a meeting is probably not the best time.
Instead, plan some time when you know you’ll be free from distractions and where you won’t risk the possibility of ruining what would’ve been a good night out or productive meeting.
#3. Choose the right place
Talking about an issue at the family function is equally not a particularly good idea. Nobody likes to feel awkward, and quite frankly, it won’t help.
Determine beforehand a neutrally non-threatening location where you can share openly and freely.
#4. Choose the right method
Speak face to face where possible. If not, as a last measure, by phone. Don’t email. Don’t text. And don’t air your issues on Twitter, Facebook or any other social networking platform.
#5. Ask for permission
Going in like a wild boar will probably result in more conflict and lots of damage that’ll need reparation.
Once you’re clear on what the issue is and confident that talking is necessary to gaining a resolution, check first that the other person is happy to have a discussion before proceeding.
They may not be aware of your concern so giving some forewarning may prove helpful to them.
#6. Set ground rules
Before starting a conversation you want to ensure that both parties feel safe.
This can be as simple as agreeing that what you discuss remains confidential, and that if at anytime one or the other is feeling uncomfortable, that the conversation can be stopped and reconvened at a later time.
#7. Listen actively
Allowing space for the other person to talk is important. Not only does it give them the chance to be heard which communicates value, it also allows you the opportunity to really understand their perspective.
If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of active listening, you’ll know the value of it.
It’s very important in the process of conflict resolution, as Stephen Covey says,
Seek first to understand, then to be understood.
#8. Accept responsibility
Be willing to admit when you’re wrong.
Acknowledging personal responsibility is a sign of good character and strength, not weakness, so be willing to accept any part you’ve played in the situation, even if that was being ignorant or unaware.
#9. Have solutions
When presenting an issue or problem aim to provide a solution. Or at very least, if you don’t have any solutions, make a request for support rather than simply dumping your concerns and complaining.
#10. Keep trying
Tenacity, determination and courage will be the key factors in your ability to successfully handle conflict. It’s not easy, but it’s worth it.
With us all having different wants and needs conflict is inevitable in every relationship, so keeping in mind the benefits of maintaining healthy relationships is a helpful motivator when faced with a decision to address any issue.
Using these practices, keeping an open mind, and trying your best to keep lines of communication open, will help to ensure that you resolve conflict well.
Over to you…
What other good practices would you add for managing conflict? Add your thoughts in the comments below!