Have you ever noticed how difficulties we face at work seem to be directly associated with a particular person? More often than not, when we look at a conflict we are facing, we mistake the issue for the person who sits right behind it.
We are rarely willing to take part in resolving conflict if someone is telling us that we are the problem. We will instead most likely work hard to stand our ground, perhaps fight back, or at the very least defend ourselves. Where there is attack/defence, there is no growth.
So what can we do instead? Here’s a few steps to try.
- Create alignment – As illustrated in the image above, be the one to be willing to shift from your vantage point to one that you can both share, side by side. This is like getting out of your chair and moving to a seat adjacent to the other person. From here, you’ll be able to see the problem without seeing the person behind it. In terms of what you might say to make this shift, try something like “So, it seems to me that in this situation we are both struggling and have needs that are not being met…”. This puts us in the powerful position of being able to see that we have complex and often competing needs, AND that we are allies in spending the time to create a situation that works for each other. If you’ve been effective, and begun to break down the attack/ defence response, there should be an opportunity to progress to the next step.
- Create a shared vision – Next we can start to talk about creating some shared vision (how we both want it to be for each other). Try something like “I know that you probably want this situation to be resolved, and the future to look fantastic. Help me understand what common ground we might both be gunning for here, how we want it to be for each other, without worrying about how we get there just yet.”
- Identify both party’s range of needs – Together look at the inventory of needs that, if they were met, would make this conflict dissolve. Needs generally can most accurately be expressed as “I need to feel…”, “I need to know …”or “I need to have…”. (Note – This is not ‘what we should do’ or ‘how we should do it’, but an inventory of the results (usually emotional) that we want to achieve) e.g. “I need to feel more included (belonging), and to know when things change (safe), and to feel like you support my decisions (valued)”. “You need to feel consulted (valued), and more informed about progress (secure).”
See what happens after you take these three steps. Solutions have a habit of showing up when willingness returns.
Give it a crack. You’ll get more agile in these convesations the more practice you get. And let me know how you go! Or get in touch if I can help.