Overcome Conflicts With This Simple Exercise

Despite our best efforts, sometimes a conflict at work is just unavoidable. You and your colleagues may both have the interests of the company at heart, but a difference of opinion at one point or another is inevitable.  When this happens, the way you approach the situation will affect the outcome. Let’s look at an emotional intelligence exercise we can use to understand how our response to conflict and improve our odds of a positive ending next time.

Think back to your last conflict with a colleague or boss. Not just a small disagreement, but the kind that keeps escalating and leaves you at a loss as to how the situation could ever get better. How did you feel in the days or hours just after it happened? Did you consider your reactions, or were you more focused on what the other person did wrong?

When I first moved into a leadership position, I often brushed off conflicts as inevitable without really reflecting on how the conflict played out. I knew that my intentions were good, so I didn’t take time to consider how I could have handled the situation better.  Looking back, this was not a good approach. There are always things we can do to improve the outcome of a conflict, and it’s important to reflect on our behavior in order to respond better next time.

So, let’s consider your most recent conflict. Try to remove yourself from the situation and play it back in your head as an outsider watching the situation unfold. As the conflict escalates, ask yourself these questions:

  1. What emotions do you see in yourself?
  2. What about in the other person?
  3. What could you say to help calm your colleague?
  4. Can you think of any constructive ideas to resolve the conflict?
  5. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. How would you react to your proposal?
  6. What misunderstandings do you see? How can you address them in a constructive way?
  7. What could you do to avoid escalating the situation? What organizational or personal limits can you apply?

Try to brainstorm as many possible answers to these questions in relation to your last conflict.  If you get stuck, ask for help from a trusted colleague, coach, or mentor. By asking these questions now, you’ll be better prepared to consider them, and respond accordingly, the next time you have a disagreement at work.

Did you try the exercise?  I would love to hear how it worked for you. Leave a comment or send me an email to let me know!

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