Updated: Oct 26
Conflict got you feeling sour? Here are some practical tips to help you make lemonade out of your conflict lemons!
Conflict is tricky and it's more likely to leave us with a sour taste in our mouths than a solution we can savor. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to make conflict a little more appetizing and palatable!
So if you're ready to dig in, let's drop the food puns and explore some del'ish'ous tricks to help you cook up sweet success the next time tensions reach a boil. Ok, really this time, I'm done with food puns :).
Trick #1: Get Down: Treat everyone as if they were a child.
I don't intend to imply that you should pat people on the head and flash a fake smile whenever they babble things that you don't understand or throw a tantrum. On the contrary, when children fuss, complain, or attempt to communicate with adults, we don't push back. We press in!
Think about it. When kids act out, we naturally exercise a little more patience, use less complex language, we get down on their level, and work intentionally to generate understanding. We accept that the burden of finding a solution to any problem is our responsibility because we are more capable and better equipped. In turn, we don't hold it against them when they fail to communicate effectively, we don't take their conduct personally, and we offer reasonable concessions to appease them when appropriate.
This can feel like coddling, but it isn't. Extending grace and demonstrating to others what it looks like to elevate the conversation is actually covering.This can be a treat for the people we are in conflict with, and it tricks you into thinking more compassionately about others, instead of critically.
Trick #2: Get Free: Be emotional. Really, it helps!
Conflict can lead to strong emotions and those emotions block your ability to think rationally. Resolving conflict requires you to be reasonable and rational, but if you're bottling up rage, anger, sadness, or fear, you may only be able to think about survival, not solutions.
This is why it's important to address your raw emotions before you step into conflict with others. Own your emotions, scream and shout a little, let the pressure out, and label how you're feeling. Then, see if you can reframe your negative thoughts into positive self-affirmations. Doing this can effectively move your brain from survival mode to strategy mode.
Regulating your own emotions is a trick that many haven't mastered, but it's a real treat when you figure out the recipe that works for you (sorry, food pun, couldn't help myself).
Trick #3: Get Honest: Speak to your elephants.
Many of us have adopted a bad habit of stepping into conflict conversations while avoiding the elephant in the room; working through conflict can be miserable! This is both a mistake and a missed opportunity. Building off of Trick #2, once you have accepted how you're feeling, have an honest conversation about that big elephant with the person you are in conflict with before you try to settle disputes with them.
What might that look like?
"I have to be honest, I don't want to be here. There's a part of me that doesn't care if things blow up. The story I'm telling myself is that I don't care what happens, but I know I do. We're supposed to work this out, and deep down, I know that our relationship is more important than my own emotional thoughts. I've been avoiding this, but I'm here now because I'm ready to try to fix this. I'll need your help keeping my head in the game."
This is incredibly honest and on the surface, it might even appear inflammatory. So why say this out loud?
Because both of you are likely already saying this in the back of your heads anyway!
When you don't say the thing you're thinking about, both of you will be more focused on the voice inside of your head than the voice that's right in front of you.
The trick is making sure that you aren't passing on any judgmental statements or accusations. Read the above paragraph again and notice that it's only focused on taking ownership of self and is not assigning blame or passing judgment to the other party. This lowers barriers, decreases opportunities for offense, and reduces the need for objections; that's a real treat. It also opens the door to shared experiences and establishes common ground, two critical components of building rapport.
Bonus Trick #4: Get Help: Ask for help.
The reality is that the simple tricks shared above aren't complicated, but they can be hard implement. Sometimes, we simply need help getting the cart across the finish line. That's where good help comes in!
As a conflict consultant and coach, I work 1-on-1 with individuals just like you to help you learn how to navigate conflict within yourself, your team, and your organization more effectively. I'll introduce you to some of the same techniques and strategies I used in high-stakes interrogations and hostage negotiations, and show you how to deploy those strategies to resolve conflict in your own life.
Interested in learning more? Click here or the link below to learn more about me and what we do at Conflictish™.
If you're ready to become a conflict-competent leader, ready to build up your leadership presence, and ready to improve how you show up when 'ish is blowing up, schedule a discovery call with me today! I'd love to see how I can help you get your 'ish together!
Ryan Dunlap is a conflict strategist and the founder of Conflictish, a conflict strategy consultancy that specializes in workplace conflict and sexual misconduct. From tarnished rapport to squeamish conversations, Conflictish is on a mission to help leaders get their 'ish together.