Dealing with conflict can make for some difficult conversations. There’s good reason for this. 

Difficult conversations usually involve subjects we care about deeply.  Think about it: if we didn’t care, we wouldn’t be dealing with conflict at all. We would simply disagree, and call it a day 

Why is it dealing with conflict important? 

Humans crave safety. Our brains are wired for this. We will do whatever we can to maintain safety and stability in our lives.  

However, safety and stability are not always in our control. We live in a social world ,and therefore outside factors will inevitably impact how safe we feel. To keep safety and stability at a level that makes us comfortable, we need to deal with the things and people that are messing with our ability to feel secure. 

As an example, you are a business owner. Soon after you hired Susan, you realized that she’s not a good fit.  

The problem is, she’s also very nice. You feel bad about the thought of confronting her to let her know that she will be terminated, so you don’t.  

Not confronting her may make you feel better about yourself as a nice person who kept an even nicer person employed, but here’s what you have also done: 

  • You have opened more channels for mistakes to happen, problems to emerge, and disgruntled clients to call and ask to speak with you personally. 
  • You have shown the other team members that a work ethic like the one demonstrated by Susan is acceptable. They may soon decide to be 15 minutes late like Susan is because, hey, she did it and nothing happened. 
  • You’ve also shown your team members that you are not a trustworthy boss, because you have not done what you need to do to protect them and your business.  
  • You feel anxious, and unaligned as you have not maintained a work environment that supports your business values. You are now unable to focus on business building functions because this thing with Susan is always percolating in the back of your head.  

Have the Sweaty Conversation

One of our favourite books here at TDS is The Big Leap by Gay Hendrick. Hendrick says, “Behind every communication problem is a sweaty ten-minute conversation you don’t want to have. However, the moment you work up the courage to have it, you collect an instant reward in relief as well as open a flow of communication that will allow you to resolve the situation.” 

A 10-minute sweaty conversation is a perfect description. It doesn’t have to take long to solve the problem. In fact, it shouldn’t. But it is nerve wracking to get up the courage to do it. 

Here are our best 5 Tips for Dealing with Conflict: 

1 – Get really clear on what you really want the outcome of the conversation to be. You must convince yourself before you try to convince others.  

We’re usually pretty good at knowing what bothers us or what is not working. However, sometimes knowing why that is requires further digging. The why is more important than the what.  

Susan from our example above is constantly late- that is what she does. But why is that a problem to start with? More importantly is why is this a problem for you?  

It might be that one of your core business values is punctuality. You grew up with a father who always said to you, “5 minutes early is on time, on time is late, late is unacceptable.” Now as a business owner, you strongly believe that being on time is linked to effectiveness. That belief is your why. and that’s what you will say to Susan.  

Maybe Susan will then be inclined to share her why with you. Maybe Susan grew up in a family setting where nobody was ever on time for anything. Time is fluid in her culture, and she does not link being on time to effectiveness.  

Now the conversation with Susan is not so tough, is it? Now you and Susan are talking about your backgrounds and what made you who you are now. This will open pathways to resolve conflict if either of you is willing to shift. And if you’re not, then you can choose to proceed with your decision to terminate Susan, but it will be a smooth and natural process. It will not be conflict-infused.  

2 – Recognize that people don’t come in two defined categories of “good” or “bad.” 

Because we want to be fair to others who are nice, we feel guilty talking to them about problems, because we don’t want to hurt their feelings.  

At the extreme end of this, I have seen people in unhappy marriages waiting for their spouse to hit them or push them for them to justify to themselves that it is time to leave. They wait and hope that their spouse turns completely bad, for them to justify actually making the decision to end the marriage.  

This is unfair to both partners, because one person is not working with all the information.

3 – When it isn’t working for you, check to see if it’s working for them. 

We often have feelings of guilt and sometimes even shame at the prospect of telling someone; 

…this doesn’t work for me, or  

…you don’t work well in my company, or 

…I no longer want to be in this marriage as I am unhappy . 

We get so entranced in the weight of our own feelings and worry that we forget that the person on the other side is probably not having the time of their life either. It’s possible they are also avoiding having the conversation with US. Viewing the situation from their perspective can often help you summon the courage you need. 

3 – Drop the guilt and shame, and choose courage and authenticity instead. 

If you are a kind and loving person, having a conversation with someone about what you really want will not take that away from who you are. 

In fact, you are navigating a tough conversation in order to be truthful to your wants and needs, while also being open and receptive of the other person’s wants and needs.  That is kindness at its very core.  

5 – Win-win outcomes are a myth.

You will always give up something when negotiating a conflict, your goal should be to gain more than you lose.

Going after win-win will set you and the other person for failure. I always tell my clients at the beginning of the mediation that I encourage them to be optimistic that they will reach a resolution, but realistic knowing that they will not get everything they want. If the other person will give you exactly what you want, you would not have conflict to start with.  

In his book Never Split the Difference, author Chris Voss says, “It’s not the guy across the table who scares us; it’s conflict itself.”  

Change the way you look at the situation from you against them to you and the other person against the problem. 

I am always shocked at how simple most conflicts are to diffuse with the help of a neutral third party. That’s what mediation is all about.  

At Trusted Divorce we offer our Zero Risk Divorce Prep Session. This session walks you through your divorce in just 90 minutes. At the end of that time, you’re either ready to file, or well on your way to a constructive mediation. 

Book your Zero Risk Divorce Prep Session for our introductory price of $350 by clicking here.