Strategies for Building Communication During ConflictCommunication Conflict Image

“I’m sorry, if you were right, I’d agree with you.”

Robin Williams

One of the first steps toward resolving conflicts is to understand that each of us has power over whether or not a conflict becomes negative. Transforming how we think about conflict can help harness the direction and flow that conflict brings.

Carefully handled conflict can help us to shift from debate to dialogue, being at odds to being in a partnership.

In debate (e.g. position based approaches), we declare our positions.

In dialogue (e.g. interest based approaches), we recognize and satisfy interests with both parties looking for common ground.

Interest based approaches such as creative problem solving, collaboration, negotiation and mediation, define conflict in terms of equality of rights and power. This type of approach enables the parties to explore and understand the sides of a conflict.

Asking questions and listening carefully are the most effective ways to move from debate to dialogue in conflict resolution.

Try the following questions to begin the shift:

  • “Help me understand why that is important to you.”
  • “What concerns do you have about this?”
  • “What would be wrong with…?”
  • “What could I do to make my proposal more acceptable to you?”
  • “How does this fit into your plans for the future?”
  • “What would be your proposal if I were able to meet your interests?”
  • “What are your reservations about doing it this way?”

Some surveys report that leaders spend over 18% or more of their time dealing with conflict.

Remember conflicts can provide opportunities for mutual growth and understanding. They can bring out alternative ways of thinking, behaving and moving the organization and its people forward.

Using an interest based approach focuses on the immediate conflict and the overall relationships. Choosing to promote the relationship rather than staying divided in an “I vs. you battle” keeps the work environment positive, respectful and focused on the future.

Resource: Resolving Conflicts at Work-Eight Strategies for Everyone on the Job, by Kenneth Cloke and Joan Goldsmith

“Master the art of communication. The ability to communicate effectively with people from all walks of life will differentiate you from most peers and position you for success in whatever endeavor or career path you pursue.”

Jeff Rachor, CEO, Pep Boys