Conflict between people can be viewed in very general terms, i.e., as a fight or battle. The word conflict may lead you to think of a nasty fight with your spouse, or a mild argument between business partners. Regardless of how mild or severe, most conflicts in business and marriage are rooted in power struggles. In other words, who gets to make the decisions?
Conflict arises from many sources but at its core conflict stems from differences – whether these differences reflect disagreement over values, motivations, perceptions, ideas, desires or goals. In business and in marriage, these differences may appear trivial until they trigger a strong personal feeling, or a deep personal need to feel respected, valued, secure and/or a need for greater intimacy.
Conflict is an inevitable part of life; many people view conflict in negative terms. I find it helpful to think of conflict from a positive perspective since conflict provides your business and your marriage with the opportunity for growth. Conflict presents an opportunity to develop deeper more meaningful relationships based on the ability to understand and respect differences – creating trust. When you can successfully resolve conflict in any relationship (your marriage or your business) trust builds. It’s this very type of trust which is the foundation for success in your business because it creates trust among your colleagues and your clients. It creates success in your marriage because it strengthens the emotional bond between partners which enhances intimacy.
Below are 5 tools for conflict resolution that apply as equally to your business as it does to your marriage.
1. Acknowledge that the conflict exists – sounds like common sense; however, I have seen marriages fall apart because either one, or both partner(s) refused to acknowledge the existence of a problem; many businesses have declined for failure to recognize a conflict within the organization or a conflict between what the client wants and what the company thinks the client wants. Failure to acknowledge conflict puts your marriage and your business on the fast track for failure.
2. Communicate effectively – failure to effectively communicate creates misunderstandings and misperceptions. Verbal and non-verbal communication along with the ability to actively listen will allow for the appropriate sharing of information – minimizing the chances for any misunderstandings to escalate the conflict. Be cognizant of verbal and non-verbal cues and address any ambiguity between them to insure people are saying what they mean and meaning what they say. Use your active listening skills – hearing what someone is saying to you is not the same as listening to what someone is saying.
Note: more than 50% of all communication occurs non-verbally so it is imperative you actively listen for what is not being said.
3. Take responsibility – Many times conflict can only be resolved with a change in our behavior and/or attitude. Yes, often we can be the only person that resolves conflict in some situations because we are either at the heart of the conflict or we are being totally unreasonable, rigid and unrelenting about our position within the conflict. Be realistic and remember there is no such thing as a one-handed clap. If there is conflict in your business or in your marriage – you are as much responsible for the existence of the conflict as anyone else.
4. Resolve to make conflict resolution a priority. We all know people who thrive on conflict – sad but true. In your marriage and your business, be determined to resolve conflict from the perspective of what is good for the business and what is good for your relationship- instead of being “right” at all costs. Do not make the mistake of winning the battle only to lose the war.
5. Compromise & Negotiate – Compromise and negotiation is based on understanding the other person’s position. Understanding does not mean you are in agreement; rather it means you understand what their position is based on where they are coming from. Compromise and negotiation is the most effective response to conflict in your business and your relationship because all parties gain something – leaving all parties feeling heard and empowered. Compromise and negotiation can only be reached if the above 4 conflict resolution skills are artfully employed.
Conflict can be seen from a positive perspective because once conflict has been resolved, all parties will feel secure with the knowledge that their relationships (in business and marriage) can survive challenges and disagreements. View conflict as an opportunity for growth through adversity.
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