Autor: Emilia Wasiuk (TMiTC Expert)
Are there any rules? Is there any positive power? What is the relation between a conflict and sandpaper? A few thoughts and tips from me experience.
In past weeks I had several interesting conversations about the best way to deal with difficult situations, especially with conflicts. You may think that I will try to describe some kind of a recipe on how to solve them. Well, no. There is no general prescription suiting all situations. People are different and circumstances may be different in every single case.
An avalanche of memories was rushing through my head during these meetings, recalling various difficult situations, both private and professional, including multicultural aspects. In fact I was trying to find some 'gold standard’, something that worked and helped to deal with hard cases almost always. And you know what? I found four approaches, or we can say good practices, that authentically worked, so far. In my opinion, these are fundamentals of making progress in a conflict situation.
I want to share them with you, but please bear in mind that they are not fixed recipes. Each situation requires much more than these four recommended tips. I am sure, however, that following them you will be able to move forward in a given ‘fight’.
Let's review these practises.
1. Apart from the situation in which we know we are dealing with a toxic person or manipulator, the most important factor is to assume that our interlocutor has GOOD INTENTIONS. It is crucial. Of course it's not easy to stay open-minded during a conflict. Strong, and mostly negative emotions are trying to conquer and take over our thoughts. Many of us may say under pressure something regrettable once the situation develops. It usually makes the dispute even more difficult. But the good thing is that it is really possible to take control over emotions. Next time when you argue with someone just try to remember that negative tone and harsh words might be hiding good intentions. Sometimes it’s all about a bad day, bad news, health or family problems. In such a situation it is best to take time, a few hours or even a day, to let the emotions calm down and then resume the conversation.
Moreover, some situations are so difficult that it's truly hard to wake up our courage and start talking honestly: with a workmate, with the team, with the leader, with a parent, with the partner, with kids. But trust me, it is worth to fight the reluctance of taking on an honest discussion. Sometimes just making the decision to talk about the problem changes a lot, especially in the attitude towards the given problem, which is now not going to be ignored any more. By remembering about the good intentions hidden under the negative emotions and uncomfortable words, you may change the level of difficulty, help yourself and others to control the situation and finally: make the conversation easier.
2. AUTHENTIC CURIOSITY. Your true will to understand the other person’s perspective is the next crucial ingredient. Wake up this curiosity in yourself about someone’s way of thinking in a difficult situation. Try to recognize his or her ‘why’ of proposing given solutions. Try to recognize what exactly stays behind someone’s bad tone and the strong emotions. It is not easy but it's worth and important to go through the storm to see the ground because then you will identify the source of the conflict. It requires your self control, and it is possible to learn how to stay calm in a difficult situation. I also had to master the way of staying outside the emotional domain during the interpersonal storm. Sometimes behind a huge affair lies something trivial, easy to repair and actually not worth paying for with our health, time, emotional distress and our hard earned relations. Take this into consideration.
3. Also, it is important to allow others to have their own opinion. We all should RESPECT someone's DIFFERENT POINT OF VIEW. It is tactful, and actually more productive in a conflict situation. It reflects our high standards of conduct and shows how open minded we are for a different view. It truly pays to learn from others. Honestly, I am disappointed that we are still meeting people depreciating others for having contrasting opinions, a different 'why', especially given their own flawed reasoning.
4. Something working great for me: I always ask the disputants to forget the differences standing between both sides of the conflict and FOCUS ON SIMILARITIES. You may ask: 'how do you want me to forget about the differences during the conflict, when emotions take over and I want to launch my enemy to space and never see the person again?". Well, it is possible. Everyone may acquire that skill and learn the proper behaviour. A good starting point is to consider applying in your everyday life my suggestions from steps 1. and 2. above. When you will try focusing on the strengths, on the commonalities between you and the other person, you will quickly see how big and positive impact this change of attitude has on the situation. You will also see that the tone of the conversation and the atmosphere will improve.
That is it. A lot? No. Easy? No. Possible? Yes.
There is one more thing worth realizing: an interplay between a conflict, trust and sandpaper. Have you ever considered that relation?
The fact that we argue with someone and after having a pointed conversation we are still able to go out together for a lunch or have a coffee, we laugh together and still effectively work together - means a lot. A conflict is a gift, however packed in a sandpaper. It’s not gentle "in touch", but it refines you every day. I believe some of you may know that teams in which conflicts never appear are not entirely healthy, because natural hidden tensions have no way of getting smoothed out. Conflicts are sometimes natural safety valves releasing steam accumulated under the everyday work pressure. As such, they do not automatically mean something is wrong with the team members. To say something honestly people must be able to trust each other. Of course there are many types of disputes. Considering the power of conflict, if there is no trust, then there is anxiety of even getting into one, which sometimes is necessary to fully present someone’s point of view. As a result, people are quiet, disengaged. At a distance such a team may superficially seem not proactive at all. However, the truth may be far different. It may be a team of passionate people whose enthusiasm has been vanquished by the fear of being dragged into a professional conflict. This is much worse than the actual conflict itself.
Getting to the end, when emotions are turning from negative to positive, we are starting to feel that we are not having a conflict - we start feeling that we are facing an interesting challenge and an opportunity to learn something new. But we have to be open minded, with the authentic will to understand and help someone. To solve the problem in a good manner does not mean to do whatever it takes ‘to close the case’! To ‘solve the problem’ you need to understand its nature and find the genuine source of the issue. If you are leading without being curious what motivates someone’s reactions and decisions, someone's 'why', and additionally you believe to be an unquestionable oracle of truth, you will obviously fail, sooner or later. I have seen it several times in business.
To sum things up, all the aspects I shared with you above proved to be really effective practises to turn the light on, to clarify the situation and make relations much stronger.These suggestions originate from my experience and have worked on my professional path. I wish they become helpful also for you and will:
*I would like to say 'Thank You' every single person, who shared with me a difficult story, who trusted me and asked for my support to solve the conflict, who taught me and helped me to deal with my difficult situations and everyone, who was advising me during creating this text. Thanks!
EMILIA WASIUK - Absolwentka Zarządzania zasobami ludzkimi na Uniwersytecie Jagiellońskim w Krakowie. Specjalizuje się w obszarach takich jak: motywacja, komunikacja interpersonalna, negocjacje, przywództwo, budowanie angażującej kultury organizacyjnej oraz rozwój osobisty i zawodowy. Jest certyfikowanym praktykiem w zakresie analizy indywidualnego stylu działania w sytuacjach zawodowych, oraz w badaniu inteligencji emocjonalnej.
Pasjonuje ją człowiek – jego potencjał, możliwości rozwoju i motywy działania, oraz nowoczesne technologie wpływające na jakość naszego życia.
Swoje 9-letnie doświadczenie zdobywała współpracując głównie z firmami o profilu technologicznym, konsultingowym i rekrutacyjnym, odpowiadając za obszary HR tj. rozwój pracowników, projektowanie i wdrażanie rozwiązań HR, działania employer brandingowe, a także z zakresu business development. Działała zarówno w środowisku startupowym jak i korporacyjnym. Obecnie jako HR Business Partner na obszar Polski w firmie CRIF odpowiada za wdrażanie, rozwijanie i usprawnianie rozwiązań i procesów w obszarze: rekrutacji, onboardingu, rozwoju zawodowego, szkoleń, zaangażowania i satysfakcji, oraz kultury organizacyjnej.
Prywatnie jest pasjonatką podróży, salsy, muzyki filmowej, literatury i kina science-fiction, kultury i sztuki starożytności oraz strategicznych gier planszowych. Od najmłodszych lat ceni sport i aktywny wypoczynek na łonie natury.”
Talent Management in Tech Companies AGH