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Unless you live in some remote jungle and only work with plants you will probably interact with lots of other people during your lifetime. The people I am talking about are not the strangers you make brief eye contact with for a second or pass in a hallway. I am referring to the people you consistently interact with on a daily basis. Your success depends greatly on these relationships. Life would also be much more enjoyable if conflict did not exist between you and them, but we all know disagreements are inevitable.

The problem is that many of us go through life trying to avoid dealing with conflict out of fear. We hope that if we ignore it, it will just go away. But the more we try to avoid it the more it builds, until eventually it escalates to a point to where there is serious damage to repair.

The funny thing about fear is that it’s really only a negative prediction about the future, and not reality. Whether or not we take action is governed by a simple ratio: our perception of danger versus our confidence in our ability to handle the conflict.

If we believe we can resolve the conflict, the amount of fear we feel is minimized and we will take action. This is why it is so important to teach our teams the mindsets and skills they need to give them the confidence to handle conflict.

The first step is to start with our mindset about conflict. If we tear it apart, conflict is really just conversation where there is a disagreement because of a difference of opinion or expectation. So what is so scary about talking about a difference of opinion or expectation? We can eliminate the negative emotional energy from the conversation by coming from a place of care and concern instead of judgment and criticism.

Next are the skills. The following 5 step process will give your team the tools they need to successfully resolve conflict. It will change the focus of the conflict conversation from who did what wrong to what can be done differently in the future:

1. Set up time to meet with the person you have a concern or conflict (they may not have time right at the moment) and keep this meeting private.

2. Be open and listen. Don’t come to the table with the solution if you don’t know the why behind their reasons or behavior.

3. Don’t get personal. Instead of saying ‘you did this’, say ‘I am not sure what you meant by’, or ‘can we talk about what happened today?’ Address the situation at hand, not the person.

4. Focus on the solution. Ask ‘what can be done to prevent similar difficulties in the future?’, versus ‘who did what wrong?’ It will not be perfect for anyone, but can be comfortable for everyone.

5. And if you can’t resolve the issue, have all team members involved meet together with whoever handles conflict resolution, and come to a guided solution together.

Ta-dah! Now on to more enjoyable relationships.

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