Are you dreading those tough conversations at work? Workplace conflict can be a major source of anxiety, but there are ways to handle it that will minimise stress for everyone involved.
Stress Awareness Week (30 October – 3 November) gives us an opportunity to reflect on the causes and consequences of stress and to think about how we can manage it better.
Conflict is a natural part of any relationship, both in and out of work. However, many of us avoid addressing it because we feel ill-equipped to handle it constructively. Unfortunately, when conflict goes unresolved, it only adds to our stress and anxiety levels while decreasing engagement, productivity, and overall well-being.
But the good news is that the skills needed for conflict conversations can be learned and practised. Not only will these skills help resolve conflicts, but they will also improve relationships at work. Here are three ways to optimise the outcome of challenging and uncomfortable conversations:
Take a moment to reflect on your own role in the conflict dynamic. Blaming others won’t solve anything; it only fuels the conflict. Instead, ask yourself the following questions:
What triggers me about the other person, and why?
How might my behaviour be contributing to the conflict?
How am I interpreting their behaviour? How might they be interpreting mine?
What can I do differently to restore this relationship?
Try to see the conflict from the other person’s perspective. By imagining their feelings, thoughts, and needs, we can begin to understand what’s really going on. To develop empathy, consider these questions:
What assumptions am I making about the other person? What assumptions might they be making about me?
What might be happening in their life that I don’t know about?
How is the conflict impacting them?
How is the conflict impacting me?
State your positive intention:
When initiating a conversation about conflict, avoid starting with blame and anger. Instead, set a collaborative tone by stating your positive intention. This will encourage the other person to engage calmly and productively. Here are some examples:
“I value our working relationship. I was upset by the comment made at the meeting. Can we discuss this and hear each other’s perspectives?”
“Your email troubled me, and I appreciate our working relationship. Can we talk about what happened?”
“I noticed our meeting didn’t go well last week. I’m confused about your reaction and would like to have a conversation to improve our future collaboration.”
It takes courage, skill, and confidence to address conflict head-on. By practising self-awareness empathy, and stating our positive intentions, we can reduce destructive workplace conflict and foster better relationships.