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Reducing Conflict Starts with You

November 10, 2015 by Jackie Lauer

There’s a saying that goes “You take you with you wherever you go”. You are the common denominator in every one of your relationships. What does that mean when it comes to conflict?

When we’re in conflict, it’s so easy to blame the other person. You may label them as a bully or obnoxious or a pain in the posterior. They may, in fact, be all of those things. That doesn’t get you off the hook.

How are you contributing to the situation?

You play both a positive and negative role in every conflict. It’s important to recognize that it is completely possible that you and your opponent are both wrong and both right.

If you’re currently dealing with a difficult situation, you may not be too happy with that idea. Don’t dismiss it. Acknowledging your role gives you power.

When you are aware and are able to objectively observe yourself and others, you can take control of the situation. By control, I don’t mean psychoanalyzing your “opponent” and trying to figure out how to get under their skin. That won’t actually improve the situation.

Instead, start by knowing and understanding yourself. What are your emotional strengths and weaknesses? What triggers you?

When you understand these three things, you can recognize how your behaviour is part of the problem. When we’re emotionally triggered, we’re not putting our best selves forward. “They’re acting like children” is a pretty accurate description of two people in conflict.

Think of the other person or people in your conflict. How are you reacting to them? Does their mere existence make you crazy? Could they be reminding you of someone else? Are you really open to anything they have to say?

When you’re honest with yourself about your attitude, you’re tone or any passive aggressive behaviour you might be flinging at the other person, you’ll have an understanding of the part you’re playing.

Consider the other person

Chances are you may be triggering the other person in your conflict drama. They may not particularly like spending time with you either. Try to observe them without judgment. What are their motivations for their position?

Trust the other person’s intentions even if their delivery isn’t great.

Empathy is critical. Have a genuine curiosity about what the other person thinks, feels and wants. It’s not easy. When we’re stressed or triggered it takes every ounce of our EQ (emotional intelligence) to practice empathy. Being mindful of both yourself and the other person, and wanting to know both sides of the story will help relieve conflict and will help you build resilience.

You can only control your own behaviour

Now you have the information that can help you change the conversation. If you’re using sarcasm and it’s inflaming the situation, stop it. If you’re quick to react with passion, take a moment and bring calm to the situation.

In the end, you can’t change anyone else’s behaviour, you can only control your own. However, you can influence others. Don’t be surprised if your opponent picks up on the change from you and, in turn, they change their behaviour.

On the other hand, if the conflict doesn’t improve, you can make the choice to walk away from the situation. Always find a way to leave so that both parties come away with their self worth intact. It’s not about tearing the other person down. If you’re the leader, it falls on you to model that. No matter what, always look for ways to learn from any conflict.

Remember, you won’t win every battle, but it isn’t about winning anyway.

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