Conflict is an inevitable part of most leaders experiences. It can be at the root of some of their best ideas -— or their worst failures. Whether they get good or bad outcomes out of conflict comes mainly from how they respond to it, both emotionally and behaviorally. Numerous books talk about how to handle conflict from a behavioral standpoint. They encourage people to listen carefully to the other person in order to understand his or her perspective. They suggest transforming conflict from an adversarial process to one that involves collaborative problem-solving. When things go wrong, they recommend reaching out to the other person to try to get communications restarted.
These are all tools that any of us can use. They're good ideas which can help people resolve conflicts that result from their different interests, needs, and values. But it's not that easy to be calm and rational -- or even to remember these rules -- when you are in the midst of exploding. The best approach? Learn how to cool down and slow down when you are faced with conflict and feel your emotions rising. The best news? We can help you do just that.
We use an assessment instrument that, among other things, measures people's hot buttons -- the behaviors in others that tend to upset us and cause us to get angry or otherwise emotionally off balance. (You can try a free version of part of the hot buttons portion of the assessment here.
Knowing more about what causes you to get upset when you are faced with conflict can help you figure out why these behaviors upset you and help you adjust your reaction to them.
In addition to knowing what triggers your emotions in the first place, there are techniques that can help you cool down when you feel your emotions rising. Traditional approaches include taking deep breaths and thinking about something more pleasant to distract yourself. More refined techniques involve observing or reflecting on your thoughts and feelings. This enables you to detach your sense of self from the negative emotions and thoughts, which effectively causes the emotions to become less intense and then to subside.
In spite of our best efforts to cool down, sometimes things begin to spin out of control. If we keep going, we'll likely react negatively and do something that will escalate the conflict. It's time to STOP and begin to SLOW things down before taking next steps. Taking a time out will enable you to slow down physiologically and mentally. It effectively gives you another chance at practicing cooling techniques.
Once you are able to reach a more balanced emotional state, you will be ready to practice the constructive types of communication behaviors that can help lead to satisfying results to conflict.
Some people feel that if they can just keep their feelings inside and use logic in conflict contexts, everything will be all right. Our experience suggests otherwise. Feelings that are suppressed tend to fester and eventually they will leak out in some more destructive manner. This has led us to recommend to our clients that they need to deal with their emotions around conflict or their emotions will eventually deal with them.