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checkmate“Whenever you’re in conflict with someone, there is one factor that can make the difference between damaging your relationship and deepening it. That factor is attitude.” –William James

Conflict can arise for many reasons: different points of view, our communication approaches differ (e.g., some people are very direct, others want to first consider others’ feelings and perspectives, etc.), spending large amounts of time together or in close proximity to one another, dependence on one another to “get the job done” or expectations aren’t clearly communicated and therefore, aren’t lived-up-to.

There are many situations where conflict can be healthy. For instance, when disagreements are communicated in a supportive environment that fosters new ideas or ways to solve problems or when tension brings awareness to a growing problem in the workplace that needs to be addressed. In these types of situations, the conflict, when managed well, brings about a healthier work environment, better ideas and stronger relationships.

The approach that we choose to take when engaged in a conflict makes all the difference. And the attitude that we take towards the person and situation is a clear factor in how successful the outcome will be. When we take the vantage point that, ultimately, we are all working towards the same goal, we open ourselves up to being willing to hear and consider perspectives that are different from our own. In addition, when we focus on the issue instead of making it about the other person we avoid creating an environment that puts the other person on the defensive.

To work successfully through a conflict, take time to ask questions of the other person to clarify what the disagreement is and truly listen to their responses versus thinking about our rebuttal. Discuss what each person would like to see happen and brainstorm multiple solutions together. Then evaluate each solution to determine their pros and cons before agreeing on one. In addition, consider the other person’s feelings and be aware of the words that you choose to use. Avoid using ‘absolute’ words like “always” and “never” that will put the other person on the defensive and escalate the conversation.

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