Conflicts are a part of life and they happen frequently. It takes creative leadership skills to handle conflict by communicating effectively.
Most of us are happy when everything is going along smoothly, where people are respectful of one anothers feelings. When conflicts occur all of this can change very quickly. We can feel anxious, angry or threatened, and what seems like a good thing can very quickly turn sour.
Conflict can be constructive or destructive. How we react to it depends on our past experiences with parents, peers, bosses and co-workers. Many have learned to dread conflict because their memory reminds them that in conflict they lose. For most people conflict is about winning and loosing, a process where ultimately everybody looses. But conflict can also be about winning!
Disagreements can be constructive where both parties go deep into the issues, using creative leadership skills to gain new awareness and find new solutions. Constructive conflict builds deeper relationships and trust. It takes strong leadership skills to make this happen.
When conflict arises, it is important to focus your creative leadership, acknowledge the conflict and steady yourself. Disagreements often arise from not communicating effectively, but it takes leadership skills to recognize conflict and react accordingly.
When we face conflict, our bodies frequently send out the warning signal. We get tense, our hearts start pounding, our faces become drawn, and we sometimes even break out into a cold sweat. Our speech may become stilted while our thoughts get frozen. Some want to fight while others want to flee. Neither is the best answer, but without strong leadership skills, it’s easy to lose your grip on the conflict.
Leadership Skills Resolve Conflicts
Effective leaders recognize when conflict is occurring in themselves and in others; they employ their leadership skills to facilitate a harmonious solution for all concerned. They know when to speak, when to be silent and when to use their best leadership skill for this issue: dialogue.
Dialoguing is the name of this game. There are two skills that help us to manage this process so we can stick with it; handling our emotions in a way that promotes a healthy outcome.
1. Put your needs aside momentarily.
When two people are in a potential conflict, nothing will usually get accomplished unless one person concedes to let the other go first. The leader is the one who understands the relationship. Lead through your conflict by putting your own needs aside for a moment and letting the other person know they have your full attention in order for them to be heard. Know that you will get your turn soon!
2. Listen empathically.
Try to put yourself in the shoes of others and get a sense of what it would be like to experience what that person is feeling. Set your feelings aside momentarily and listen to their side of the story. Steven Covey reminds us first to seek to understand. When someone really feels heard, their need to hold rigidly to their solution is replaced with openness to new possibilities and dissonant feelings begin to unravel.
3. Disclose how the situation affects you without blaming.
This invites others to eventually return the favor and listen empathically to you as well. To disclose without blame is all about expressing how the situation feels to us. We share only our experience rather than evaluating the behavior of the other. Using a tone of voice that is non-judgmental and using open body language is key for an effective leader.
This process to resolve and handle conflicts can have miraculous results when people care enough about each other and their relationships to find a new solution to a problem. Remind yourself to communicate effectively, stick to your guns and your creative leadership skills will get you there.
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