By Marie Moran

Have you ever noticed how much time and energy conflicts can take if they are not managed well (or nipped in the bud)? Even with all my years of “poise under pressure” training, it can be hard to stay balanced when things aren’t working as smoothly as expected. Over time, I’ve observed that the more I remain calm and approach conflict situations analytically, the better off things are all around. Since stress kills and calmness strengthens, I prefer working on the latter!

Today most of us have pretty full – and at times hectic – lives, dealing with not only careers, but home, family and all sorts of stuff!!! With that kind of pressure, and not a lot of time to step back and reflect, it can be easy to get our buttons pushed about something, and then react versus respond. We say or do things out of emotion, rather than from wisdom, intuition or our heart. We can get disconnected from our principles, conscience, and larger vision of what’s important. Who among us hasn’t experienced this?

We each handle conflict based on what we learned about it while growing up, and later in life, from what we observed in our leaders. Hopefully we’ve been exposed to some positive demonstrations of handling conflict effectively – but my personal view is that very few people have! Most of us have a picture of conflict in which the heat goes up and tempers flare, the sandpapering between parties is not fun, and it’s certainly not something we look forward to!

While some people pull back and get very quiet when conflict is on the horizon, many leaders like myself report that when the heat is up, it’s easy to become edgy or tend towards an aggressive conflict style. Here are some of the steps we’ve discovered to deal with this tendency.

  • Be aware when conflict is brewing and be honest with yourself about how you might tend to react versus respond. Consider the conflict as a self-coaching moment. Step back and breathe, then analyze the situation.
  • Remind yourself that what’s really important is first staying calm and present, then figuring out what you are being asked to learn (versus ‘the other guy’) in the situation. For example, this could be your opportunity to strengthen a character quality like patience, endurance, curiosity; or it could be a reminder to stay in Discovery and use an asking versus a strictly telling, directive approach.
  • Be aware of your current capacity – both emotionally and schedule wise. How much time and energy can you devote to this conflict situation? How important is it, really? Or, is it turning out to be a big distraction?
  • What are the end results you’re really hoping for, both short and long term?
  • Consider how your emotions might get in the way. How will you exercise restraint and stay calm so you can ‘keep your eye on the ball’ – the big picture, the end result you truly desire?
  • How else can you WIN – “Work It New” – so there’s some profit and learning for all parties, and everyone can move forward? For example:
    • What do you have in common with the other party? What do you both agree on?
    • Where are the specific bones of contention?
    • How can you bridge those gaps?
  • How might you remind yourself of your long-term direction when the tactical stuff gets frustrating and takes you off your game?

We can all learn to embrace a healthy vision for conflict in our lives. As you follow the above steps, you can become the example of staying calm and connected when the heat goes up!

© 2017 Marie Moran