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Approaching Conflicts

Conflicts are bound to arise in a workplace, and how one deals with it will set the tone for company culture. When dealt with properly, conflicts will spur growth of new ideas and better current practices. How then should we approach conflicts?

Know that it’s not about you

When approaching a conflict, always keep a clear head and face the issue objectively. Knowing that a mistake does not undermine your competency can clear your mind tremendously, and it allows you to accurately identify the crux of the problem without having to bend around your ego.

More often than not, we find ourselves quick to defend our standpoint, without listening to what the others have to say. This fear of being wrong is not a bad thing, it keeps us striving to present the best work possible. However, when we stop taking every disagreement as an attack on our personal work, it quickly becomes an assessment of “how we can do better”, not “what have we done wrong”. This then allows for a more constructive resolution, saving hours of justification.

Manage your emotions

I am very quick-tempered, and I have often found myself boiling when I identify an issue that could have been avoided. Over the years, however, I have learnt the importance of managing this emotion, and not let it affect those around me.

While you might be angry at an issue, it will do nothing to resolve the conflict. Instead of wasting energy getting worked up, accept that everyone has their blind spots. Accepting that the conflict did not arise out of wilful decisions on either part can help you think better of your contemporary, which will in turn allow you to converse in a respectful manner. Indirectly, it will also lead you to listen for their side of the story, allowing for a more open-minded discussion centred on the greater good, not on who is right.

Find out how, not why

We are often taught to be critical thinkers, and it comes as second nature to many when faced with a conflict. We immediately begin digging into why the conflict arose, trying to identify who is at fault. This is wildly counter-productive, as it doesn’t bring you to a resolution, instead setting defences which could prove hard to take down in the long run.

That said, I am not discounting the need for critical thinking. I believe that knowing what caused the conflict is not the endgame, and being critical only helps if you further the discussion to find a resolution. While this sounds easy, I have mediated too many conflicts which ends with finger-pointing and no solution, simply because the one who thinks they “won the argument” washes their hands thereafter. Always accept equal responsibility for the conflict, and look to resolve it together.

Be a team player

With all said and done, always remember that any conflict affects the whole team's morale and informs their future interaction with you. So take the responsibility to deal with it in a positive manner, and be the foundation for a healthy, constructive company culture!

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