Dealing with conflict

Conflict happens all the time whether it’s caused by a stressful situation escalating into something stronger, pressures of work, differences in points of view and even personality clashes. Here are a few tips to help get things back into perspective:

Tip No 1 – Remain calm. Often difficult to do, especially if you’re someone who’s not comfortable in dealing with conflict. Your presence will be mirrored by the person you’re in conflict with, so if you get uptight, it’s likely to make them more uptight too.

Tip No 2 – Body Language. Check out your body language and position yourself in a confident stance, but not confrontational. By standing (or sitting, depending on the situation) slightly to one side of someone rather than facing them, you are putting yourself in a position of authority but not one of confrontation.

Tip No 3 – Gestures. We may not realise this but the slightest hand gestures or eye movements will be picked up and read by the person you are dealing with. These form a large part of the ‘unspoken’ messages being exchanged between conflicting parties.

Tip No 4 – Confidence. Use confidence boosting techniques to support your remaining calm and in a position of authority. There’s a lot to be said for ‘counting to 10’ before stepping into a difficult situation.

Tip No 5 – Personal Image. Often overlooked is how we physically present ourselves to others. How you dress, the clothing you wear, the colours you choose, your physical height, your build, your natural colouring – all give a message to the person you are dealing with. You can learn to use this to your advantage in conflicting situations. It’s very powerful and entirely subtle.

Tip No 6 – Emotional Intelligence. Develop your ’emotional intelligence’ by understanding yourself on a deeper level. This allows you to recognise the emotions driving the behaviour and how you can learn to keep these in check while you deal with the situation. Always reflect back on what has happened and what you can learn from this.

Tip No 7 – Voice. The voice changes when we become agitated or annoyed. If we are fearful this will also show in our voice. Mastering voice control and pacing will help you to come across in a more authoritative manner. You will also lower your stress levels as you will feel in control.

Tip No 8 – Stress Management. You may feel very stressed when faced with having to deal with conflict at any level. Stress does have an immediate effect which can knock you completely sideways when it happens. However stress also has a long-term effect that manifests itself in sickness, anxiety, sleeplessness, weight gain/loss, and many other symptoms. Understanding stress, learning how to manage it and channel it positively, is extremely effective for both short and long-term health benefits.

Tip No 9 – Negotiation. Using good questioning techniques and having the ability to take the person through a step-by-step process to resolution is a key management skill. Practice open questions, probing questions and closed questions throughout the conversation as you work towards a desired resolution.

Tip No 10 – Preparation. Always prepare in advance of the meeting and look at a win/win situation for both parties. Make a list of the things you might be prepared to compromise on and those that you won’t. Have your ideal solution already worked out in mind prior to the meeting.

Some of these techniques take practice so by becoming more aware on how to use them in advance of any conflicting situation will enable you to deal with conflict efficiently and effectively – quite literally taking it in your stride.