Some people chase conflict and thrive on being argumentative. But, for most of us, arguing is not on our list of daily to do’s, especially at work.
However, even if we don’t actively seek confrontation, I can assure you conflict will arise in professional situations. Learning how to handle stressful situations and avoid clashes in a professional way, will separate you from being viewed as a jerk or a polished communicator and leader.
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Let’s look at three areas of conflict to help you better manage hard conversations and difficult situations at work and in life.
Is There Really A Conflict Or Did Your Feelings Get Hurt
One of the biggest causes of conflict I see from all levels of professionals is hurt feelings. I have witnessed this with both individual contributors and managers repeatedly throughout my career. In business, it’s important to remove personal feelings and focus on professional ideas. There’s no room for the walking wounded.
If you sometimes find yourself mad or offended at work, it’s time to analyze why you get your feelings hurt when you’re criticized by a boss or peers.
For example, you may believe you’ve established an open door policy with your team, but are you prepared to hear candid feedback on your performance as a manager?
As an individual contributor are you prepared to have holes poked into your awesome idea? Are you open to viewing something from someone else’s perspective?
To succeed professionally, you have to be objective about your performance and ideas. Sometimes you’ll hear no. Sometimes you won’t get support from your team on a big idea and you may even be told you’ve failed.
When these things happen, your role isn’t to immediately fly off the handle with anger, but rather to take a step back and listen. Listen to what your colleague is trying to tell you versus how their message makes you feel. Think objectively to find the truth in their statements. With reflection, you’ll often see their criticism was constructive and you did miss the mark.
Reacting with anger to what I like to call “big people talk” at the office is unprofessional and will damage your professional reputation. Don’t force conflict just because your feelings are hurt and you choose to react poorly to a situation.
Are You Unable To Let Go
Conflict may be born of past mistakes; meaning, let go of the past. If you find yourself constantly picking at a boss or peer about something that took place 6 months ago, stop. Everyone makes mistakes and trying to constantly “teach” someone by continually beating the same drum causes unproductive friction.
Having said that, let me clarify that I’m a full supporter of friction on my teams. As a leader, I believe there has to be some friction in business. Without a little back and forth, your team and company will become stagnant and new ideas will evaporate or may be implemented without fully exploring the best options.
In my opinion, friction is good to grow ideas and drive business. However, if the friction is caused by Debbie Downer who is constantly harkening the past mistakes of everyone in the office, that’s unacceptable.
Both you and your peers will be happier at work and more fulfilled if you make every effort to get along. Holding grudges about insignificant mistakes will only hold you back as a professional.
When Conflict Arises, Measure Your Approach
Sometimes conflict is necessary. We don’t live in a utopian society. Hard conversations need to happen at times and conflict will arise. If you learn how to handle difficult situations professionally, you’ll avoid most arguments.
Keep in mind difficult conversations usually get out of hand when one party pushes it to the point of arguing. Regardless of the situation, choose to not be that person.
Whether you’re receiving a difficult message from a boss or peer, or you’re delivering a difficult message, think before you speak. Consider your audience and build your communication in a way that reaches their professional aptitude.
A difficult conversation with your CEO should sound very different than it would with your front line customer service team. Reacting to a situation without thoughtful consideration may cause you to say or do something you’ll regret. As you approach a difficult conversation, step back and think objectively. Try to see the other person’s perspective clearly.
Find Your Voice And Professional Purpose
As you climb in your career you’ll find your involvement in difficult conversations will naturally increase. For this reason, it’s important that you begin to develop your professional communication style early in your career. Ask yourself how you want others to perceive you.
When your approach is “my way or the highway,” you will not go far as a leader.
If you can’t take constructive criticism, you’ll never become a leader.
Fail to appreciate your team and find yourself constantly thinking everyone around you is an idiot? I guarantee conflict swirls around you because you unknowingly cause it with your arrogant behavior.
Take time to decide today who you want to be as a peer, colleague, professional and leader. Take control of your behavior, how you react to stressful and difficult situations and make a decision to not be the cause of unnecessary conflict. That doesn’t mean you become a doormat, it simply means you continually polish your professional demeanor and communication skills.
Focus on not overreacting. Try to find the most professional way to respond to difficult conversations. If you continually look for opportunities to professionally communicate and problem solve, you’ll find difficult conversations will become easier and your peers will be more receptive to your thoughts and advice.