Navigating Workplace Discord
We offer conflict management training in Denver and Boulder Colorado. As much as this article relates to the workplace, managing upset and conflict is just as helpful at home! As I am writing this, the Thanksgiving holiday just passed. Inevitably, many of us will have experienced some minor (or major!) bumps and bruises as we navigate conversations with family. Here is an important tip for managing conversations with any relationships, personal or professional.
First of all, I want to remind you of the definition we use for conflict. We define a conflict as any interaction that is less than neutral or positive. I like to point that out because I do hear some people say, I don’t have any conflicts. Hmm. OK, well, if you don’t have ANY conflicts (by our definition) then you are either a saint or very possible, you are conflict avoidant. Conflict is inevitable – and, when managed well, can lead to greater understanding, collaboration and creativity. When brushed under the carpet conflict can lead to hostility, misunderstanding, long-term resentment and loss of effectiveness.
So, what is the answer to the question? All conflict is the result of what?? We like to say that:
ALL CONFLICT IS THE RESULT OF AN UNMET NEED.
If you take the time to reflect on your last upset, you can uncover the need that was at the bottom of it.
Here is one thing to do when you find yourself in a “conflict.”
1. Ask yourself, what is my underlying need?
It was a revelation to me when I first began to study compassionate communication years ago and I learned that we all have the same basic underlying needs! Some of us lean towards some needs over others, but the point is that when we can dig under a conflict to figure out what the unmet need is, we can UNDERSTAND that need because on some level, we have that need too.
Here are just a few examples of needs we all have. We all have the need:
to be heard
to be unique
to be seen
to be valued
to trust and be trusted
for acknowledgement and appreciation
So, think about a conflict situation and ask yourself what YOUR need was. For example: I had a colleague recently that I gave some suggestions to regarding some of his program content and materials. Rather than ask me about my ideas or even thank me for wanting to contribute to him, he immediately explained why my idea wasn’t a good one. The impact on me is that I decided this person is not open to feedback, and I will not offer any creative ideas in the future. What was my unmet need? It could have been:
to be valued
Now that I have identified some possible unmet needs, I have a choice about how to communicate in the future. I could actually state: I have a need to contribute with this information. Or, I would like to be acknowledged for this contribution.
Do you notice that the above statements make you feel uncomfortable? If so, it is probably because it is actually vulnerable to uncover and communicate an underlying need.
News flash: PROBLEMS CAN’T BE SOLVED AT THE SAME LEVEL AT WHICH THEY WERE CREATED (paraphrasing Einstein).
So, in order to solve a communication breakdown, it helps to actually communicate in a different way. If you can bring more authenticity and honesty to a conversation, it can often open something up that wasn’t possible before.
2. Reflect on what the other person’s need might be
When we are upset, it can be hard to ask ourselves what the other person’s unmet need might be. Empathy is an emotional intelligence tool. Put yourself in their shoes, and just imagine what their need might be. If you don’t know, model sharing your need in the conversation and then ask them what theirs is.
This will start you in the right direction for working through conflicts in a good way. When you can work towards getting BOTH parties unmet needs met, you are starting a collaborative relationship!
At Transformative Training we work with organizations, teams and leaders to help them grow and thrive. Together, we can help make your workplace extraordinary. If you want support in learning and practicing conflict management tools, please give us a call. We offer conflict management training in Denver and Boulder Colorado.
For your growth,
Jeannie Gunter, MA, PCC
Facilitator, Coach, Trainer, Consultant
Founder, Transformative Training