I recently took some training at my day job on giving and receiving feedback, the psychology of high performance, and some HR and hiring issues. Over the course of that training, a few major things really stuck out to me, but one of the biggest was how terrible we are at dealing with conflict. My ears perked up when the instructor gave a simple model of dealing with conflict that actually makes sense. More on that shortly.
A part of our challenge with conflict is because we are so terrible at listening. We all took training to learn to communicate our thoughts and ideas – reading, writing, math, speech, etc. all are focused on helping us learn to formulate and share our thoughts – but how many of us took any training on listening? I know I didn’t, except for some on-the-job training when I worked at a call center years ago. The point is, we haven’t been taught how to listen, and we generally are pretty awful at it because our main goal is to get our point(s) across instead of understanding someone else’s.
If you couple our difficulty in listening, and our desire to be heard, with the supposed anonymity of being able to do and say what we want on the internet without any real recourse, it is no surprise that the comments section of most blogs and millions of posts on social media are a communications disaster. Frankly, we just don’t want to listen – we want to talk. The result = conflict.
A Conflict Model
I need to give credit to George Wright, from Wright One Consulting, because he’s the one who shared what I’m about to. However, I know it isn’t original to him. It is just an idea that we all need to see repeatedly…
What We Usually Do
What We Ought To Do
See the difference?
We usually approach conflict as a “you vs. me” situation. The reality of it is that it should be a “you and me vs. a problem we’re trying to solve”. But it’s so simple…if we would just embrace that simple strategy when in conflict with others! Dealing with conflict would simply be an exercise in good communication.
What’s the takeaway? Understand that the person with whom you’re in conflict is probably not a jerk who hates your guts and must be destroyed. He is probably just a normal person who is frustrated because you don’t understand his point, and you’re too busy trying to make him understand yours. How about trying to understand his perspective first?
Dealing with Conflict by Listening
Now, there are absolutely a few jerks who hate your guts and whose arguments you need to destroy. Your job is to become more in tune to how to respond to conflict by listening. I’ve been using this strategy for several weeks now and it is amazing how well it works. Give it a try!
Especially in today’s world, where everyone is supposed to be offended, no one can have an opinion different from mine, and we’re all unique and special (even though in many ways we’re not), becoming a better listener and recognizing that most of the time, conflict is not the same thing as a personal attack, will make a huge difference for us all.