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From Conflict to Connection: How to Clarify Perceptions at Work and Elsewhere (3 min read)


Despite massive literature has written about interpersonal conflicts and the fact that humankind has a history spanning thousands of years built literally on top of this, one question never fails to pop up: How do we resolve these annoying and time sucking conflicts between colleagues and others on a daily basis?


There are many answers to this question but one thing for sure is that our perceptions taint the way we see the world. That’s even truer when we’re in the middle of a conflict that stirs up our emotions.



As powerful and useful as our perceptions may be, we often fail to notice their existence at all.



Only by bringing perceptions out into the open can we see them for what they are. Then, we can decide if we want to keep them or change them. This is the beauty of “making the invisible visible”.


Can you spot any of your own habits in each of these below? The change in perceptions help us view conflicts in a way that promotes longer lasting resolutions.



Change the Way You See Your Conflicts


  1. Focus on the present. Put aside old resentments. Forget that your colleague ate your sandwich last summer.

  2. Define the major issues at hand. It’s easy to attribute your irritations to incorrect causes. Especially you have 10 millions tasks in front of you. Ensure that you and your business partner are disagreeing about the exact same situation. Otherwise, it may be masking a deeper issue.

  3. Seek common ground. Shift your attention to your shared objectives. You both want the company to do well, whether that means reducing costs or creating more revenue streams.

  4. Distinguish between needs and wants. Before you started kindergarten, you probably figured out that your needs take priority over other people's wants. That strategy may have gotten you extra bedtime stories then. As an adult, it’s better to be precise so you know where you can negotiate.

  5. Break things down. Tackle complex projects one step at a time. A meeting about revising time sheets will be more effective than trying to fix the entire company in an hour.

  6. Establish priorities. Separate essential tasks from things you can come back to discuss another time. As long as your daughter is revising very hard trying to get the best grades she can, you can live with her unmade bed for a little while.

  7. Generate options. Let go of demands and ultimatums. Co-create to propose alternatives you can both live with. The best solutions are ones that make everyone involved feel like they gained something of value.



Change the Way You See Each Other

  1. Hold yourself accountable. Be honest about your part in the conflict. You’ll feel more motivated to cooperate and have a better sense of where to begin the discussion.

  2. Consider your overall relationship. Place the conflict in the context of your whole relationship. A lifelong friendship matters more than agreeing on the same school board candidate.

  3. Remember positive qualities. Reflect on what you like about the person you’re in conflict with. Think about your coworker’s good work ethic, even if he chews his food loudly.

  4. Listen with an open mind. Put aside what you have to say for the moment and just listen. Ask questions to gather further information. Restate key points to ensure you truly understand and that you both are on the same page.

  5. Acknowledge sensitive issues. We all have different topics such as politics or religions that trigger strong feelings. Acknowledge these issues open and honestly to minimize getting into a landmine of conflicts.

  6. Switch places. The best way to understand another person’s position is to put yourself in their shoes. Respect their needs and opinions. You can try to understand someone, even if you disagree on their points. Avoid telling people to calm down. If you wouldn’t like someone to say certain things to you, then refrain from saying these to others.


Conflicts are an unavoidable part of life. They teach us about ourselves and others. By knowing how to get through them, they strengthen our connections with each other overtime. Clarifying our perceptions is a skill we can all learn so we can manage our conflicts more effectively without hurting our most important asset, the human network of relationships.


StartFragmentOver to you now: Have you noticed any conflicts that could have been avoided? What did you do about that, and what was hard or easy during the conflicts?

I’d love to read your comments. Email me at nikitta@centricquest.com


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