3 Simple Questions to Help Manage Conflict Situations

Monday, 26 December 2011 06:30
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If you have a pulse, you will have occasion to address conflict situations. Experience has taught most of us that amicably resolving conflict usually doesn't occur by getting the other party to "see things our way", although quite often that's precisely what each of us initially seeks to do. There must be a better way, right?

Yes, there is. To learn more, read on, dear friends....

3 Simple Questions to Productively

Manage Through Conflict

Ask and Answer These Queries Before You Act.

Conflict is to be expected in the course of human interactions. It can happen in social situations as well as in the workplace. The key characteristics of a conflict situation are that the parties have very dissimilar and often emotionally charged views regarding how it should be handled.

The challenge with conflict is how to resolve it amicably, if this is at all possible. Those who are able to diffuse volatile disagreements possess a very valuable and useful skill set. For instance, contract mediators are sought after to help settle disagreements that have escalated to the point where they can't be managed through simple negotation between the two parties.

While I am not expert in mediation, I have learned to apply some basic principles to help me (and others) to work through difficult situations where conflict has arisen. My friend and running buddy Dick Dickerson (who also happens to be a successful businessman) shared these with me a couple of years ago. They impressed me so much, I wish to relate these to you, as well.

Start by first confirming to yourself that the relationship is important and that you are committed to seeking to resolve it productively. Once you have done so, ask and answer 3 simple questions:

What is the other party's point of view?Why do they feel the way that they do? Will it improve the situation for you to do as they wish?
You'll notice that no where in these questions have I mentioned the necessity for the other party to consider and appreciate what is important to you...which is almost always where each of us initially focus. Hopefully, we can get to the point where this occurs, but it is not where we should start.

We often become so heavily invested in rationalizing and defending our own point of view that we don't allow ourselves to look beyond this to appreciating the others' view. Once I focus on intensely understanding the other party's point of view, I am better able to judge its merits (and what is driving the other party's viewpont). I find that very often, in achieving this insight AND demonstrating to the other party that I do in fact understand, I can begin to develop solutions that will help improve the situation for both parties. 

To be clear, I am not saying that one must give in to the other party's point of view in order to advance the dialogue. I am saying that in order to achieve progress at least one party must try to see the disagreement from the other's viewpoint (and rationally and objectively test the assumptions that drive it). This empathy should help establish some common ground and help both parties to break gridlock.  

Now...if only U.S. Congress and Senate would be willing to follow this guidance. 


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