Chances are, you've had to deal with conflict at some point in your life, and in your career. You might even have to cope with it on an ongoing basis. But it's not all bad!
Wherever there are people, there will always be conflict. If ignored or handled ineffectively, conflict can create hostility and disconnect with others. But, if productively managed, conflict can promote personal growth, better relationships and greater success in every aspect of life.
Just the facts, please!
When conflict arises, it's easy for people to get entrenched in their positions, for tempers to flare, voices to rise, and language to become defensive or aggressive. But you can avoid all of this by using the Fact-Based Approach in your conflict resolution dialog.
This approach is built on the idea that everyone involved should feel respected and understood. The discussion is based on objective facts, not personal attacks. The goal is to help each side develop an understanding of the other's position and to encourage both to reach consensus – even if that means agreeing to disagree.
Our ultimate aim is to resolve conflict by uncovering the key issues, finding the best solution and keeping everyone's dignity intact. For this, we used the Fact-Based Approach and follow these guidelines:
Step 1. Capture the facts.
Identify the actual facts, not emotions of the situation.
What really happened? The actions taken, circumstances at hand, results affected?
As soon as possible, after the conflict occurred, write down all the facts. Make a written note because within two hours of the event or situation, selective memory kicks in and half the story is lost. And be sure to separate the facts from emotion. (Example: Do not write: John is lazy and careless; that is judgement and emotion. You can write: John's report did not include any of my recommendations.)
Now, take some time to think about the situation, put it into perspective, and let your emotions dissolve a bit, perhaps overnight. The next day, review what you wrote. Now decide if you should still approach this person. Is this a battle worth fighting?
Step 2. Clarify the impact.
If you've reviewed the facts of the situation, and still feel it's important to confront the individual, be prepared to share the facts -- not emotions -- you have gathered. In a calm, professional, and collaborative tone of voice, ask the person if they would be willing to spend a few minutes discussing this specific situation. (Example: "Can we talk about the final report you submitted to the board last week?")
Share your perspective and be sure to ask the other person for their view of the facts? How do they see the situation? You might have missed something important that was not obvious or previously shared with you.
Once the objective facts have been acknowledged, you must be able to clearly articulate the impact that the person's specific behavior or actions, had on the organization, or the team or yourself.
The impact is an objective result. It can be:
- Caused the report to be late
- Led to late fees
- Resulted in lost business
Remember: It's not personal. Be sure you are evaluating the impact of the behavior, not of the person.
Step 3. Share feelings about the impact (not the person).
Your feelings do matter; but they can only be effectively shared if they do not attack the other person.
(Example: Answer the question: How did the impact make you feel? In this case: "Having my feedback excluded from the final report made me feel like . . . my opinion didn't matter; or my ideas are not taken seriously, or I'm not seen as an important part of the team.")
Step 4. Identify the root of the issue and solve the problem.
Hopefully, this approach has unwrapped the topic for an open and collaborative discussion. Now is the time to get to the root of the issue. Was this situation a result of an issue with process, person or structure? In other words, would a better process have solved this problem? Was this conflict a result of a specific person responsible for the oversight? Or, was the problem a result of a structural break within the team or organization?
Once the root of the conflict is identified, without hard feelings, those involved can objectively, unemotionally and rationally arrive at an agreeable solution to ensure this situation is avoided in the future.
Note: This blog is a summary of the chapter: The Good, The Bad and The Conflict from my book: PERFORM LIKE A ROCK STAR AND STILL HAVE TIME FOR LUNCH – SECOND EDITION.