Conflict is inevitable, but combat is optional.
-Max Lucado

Conflict! You have dealt with it, you currently are dealing with it at some level, and you’ll be dealing with it in the future. Conflict always comes from two groups. Those groups can be as small as one person all the way to millions of people. When two groups have conflict and begin fighting it out, it will typically fall into one of four categories.

  • Power: This is mine.
  • Data: My numbers are more legitimate.
  • Opinion: My opinion is more valid than yours.
  • Unnecessary: How I position myself and protect my area.

We’ll look at the one reason we can knock down the most and then a couple of ways to lessen the other three types of conflict.        

Unnecessary Conflict

Our language, tone, body signals, and the words we choose can cause many unnecessary conflicts. If you are a student in Emotional Intelligence, this would fall under self-management. Do you raise your voice often or when you get worked up? Do you use demeaning terms or phrases that challenge others? Are you offering up solutions, answers, or conclusions early in the exchange? When you offer the solution first, people will often challenge it instead of defining the problem. Be sure to pick words that are about the issue and not the person. You are likely shattering trust in your goal of getting your point across. Avoid direct blaming, instead describe the problem and how it impacts others.  

Have a strong sense of Emotional Intelligence

I’m teaching a class for leaders on Emotional Intelligence as I write this letter. What we have learned is that because of the way that the brain is built, information travels through your emotional portion before it reaches the logical part of your brain. That means that emotions always get the first say in things that happen to us. This can quickly escalate a conflict if not handled properly. Our emotional responses come from personalizing the issue. Separate the personal issue from the actual problem at hand. Deal with the personal issue later if warranted.

Selective Conflict

Do certain things just push your buttons, set you off, shut you down, or generally make you lose your cool? Think about the last several times that you didn’t handle conflict well and learn what the triggers were that got you derailed. Once you discover what sets you off and what your nonverbal ticks are (face gets flush, your temperature rises, etc) rehearse how you would handle it in the future…’s bound to pop back up again.

You cannot stop conflict from happening. It’s part of life. You can, however, learn how to minimize it and work through it in a professional and efficient manner.

Make a better tomorrow.