Conflict is an integral part of life and living and the workplace is a common battlefield.
Conflicts arise from diverse reasons such as interpersonal differences in values, motivations, perceptions, ideas, interests or desires, negative perception of other people and situations, different personality types, communication lapses, pride, self-centeredness or dishonesty.
If not well-handled, conflicts can cause great harm to relationships and health, lead to loss of trust and confidence and diminished productivity. However, when positively addressed, conflicts can provide an opportunity to build trust, strengthen relationships and personal growth.
We all experience conflicts and have ways through which we deal with them. Based on personal experience, I would like to share five tips for dealing positively with conflicts when they arise in the workplace (and beyond).
1. Prayerfully face the issue head-on
Don’t avoid facing the conflict, but pray for wisdom and courage to deal with it. Each conflict has its peculiarities, so seek the ‘wisdom that is from above which is pure, then peaceable, gentle, easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy (James 3:17).
2. Seek first to understand before being understood
This is the 5th habit of effective people as espoused by the late Stephen Covey in his landmark book, ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’. Understand that people have different personalities and temperaments, and the approach to positively dealing with conflict depends largely on who is involved.
Focus on the issues, not persons. Avoid prejudice and being judgmental: ‘Judge not, that you be not judged’ (Matthew 7:1).
Several times, I have worked with people that were generally considered as ‘difficult’. Once I overcame preconceived notions and prejudice and sought to understand them better, it became easier to work with them and address conflicts that arose.
3. Be open and collaborative
Choose a good time and place to trash out the issues with the persons concerned. Let resolution be the aim. Seek a win/win outcome. ‘If it is possible, as much as it depends on you, live peaceably with all men’ (Romans 12:18).
Listen actively and patiently ‘Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests but also for the interests of others’ (Philippians 2:3-4)
4. Mind your language
Recognise and respond to things that matter to the other person in a calm, non-defensive, and respectful manner. ‘A soft/gentle answer turns away wrath’ (Proverbs 15:1). I have found this Scripture to be very true.
Express your views objectively: ‘Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how to answer each one’ (Colossians 4:6)
Accept where you are wrong and make amends. Humility is a defence. Remove the log in your own eye (Matthew 7: 5; James 4:10)