The A-D of dealing with conflict

Most of us aren’t big fans of dealing with conflict and can find it difficult to think of appropriate courses of action when faced with a difficult situation. The A-D method of conflict resolution will give you simple and effective tools to help you handle whatever situation you’re in so why not take a few minutes to find out how?

A is for Awareness: “I felt that something was wrong, but I couldn’t put my finger on it”. Most of us humans are gifted with a range of fabulous, life-saving senses which are designed primarily to save our life, but come in pretty handy for avoiding tricky situations too.

Our eyes – as just one of the senses – spot so much in our peripheral vision that we sometimes choose to ignore. Did we actually spot the purposeful walk up to the counter and then hear that heavy sigh – which we could have inwardly prepared for, perhaps smiled broadly, said good morning and that we would be with the customer in less than a minute? Instead we carried on ignoring the clearly agitated customer who after a minute then proceeded to start saying – “Hello, anyone there?” – and that was a polite version of what can and does happen.

B is for Boundaries: A hugely important protection device from abuse and worse. As children we often push and challenge to understand what is acceptable and what is not. We learn through the boundaries that are established the etiquette of how to politely ask for things, when it is appropriate to interrupt, about how working hard gets results, how to take turn, show respect and help other people – ultimately how society works.

If the individual who is underperforming, upsetting or insulting someone is being allowed to utilise certain language or behave in an inappropriate manner unchecked…then it will continue and maybe get worse. Unless and until the person on the receiving end has been assertive and made it clear that such action, inaction, conduct or performance is not acceptable then it is no surprise that this type of unwanted behaviour may not cease and is more likely to become the norm.

C is for Communication: The way we say things is often more important than what we say. A polite refusal will communicate your negative answer, but in a positive way. We need to pay attention to our whole body language and understand how we come across when we think we are smiling or showing concern. It is always revealing to trainees when they view themselves on a video recording whilst deeply engaged in a challenging exercise. The unconscious pulling of faces, jerky body movements, throwaway comments betray the attitude and perhaps standardised approach, when really we can all adapt our approach to different types of people and situations.

A trowel isn’t the best way of applying make-up and a screwdriver usually will not make a useful hammer.

Just like we use different tools for different applications, we should recognise differences in the people we are communicating with (we’re back to awareness, bolstered by active listening skills..) and adapt our own approach to respond in the most suitable way we can to make the conversation go more smoothly.

When thinking of CPD, conflict handling skills can be overlooked, but some subtle changes will actually boost productivity more, allow competing factions within a business to work together better without wasting time and resources arguing about the smallest point.

Think about how your staff could learn to say “no” more effectively in a wide variety of demanding environments, perhaps when responding to a frustrated paying customer or team member.

It’s amazing how liberating staff find it when they have learnt tactics, models and approaches to help them deal more effectively with customers and team members they’d rather not be at work with.

Our experiential learning receives rave of reviews, because staff know they can do what is asked of them, because they’ve already successfully dealt with something far worse.

So your productivity goes up, job turnover rate goes down and your customer has a happier, more adaptable assertive member of staff to speak to.

Oh, back to the alphabet – the last letter is usually not required but might be useful for getting to and from work in the dark, far away from help – D is for Defence.

The first three will extricate you from most difficult, even threatening situations, but there are organisations that we work with – from councils and charities to maintenance engineers, outreach workers and housing associations – which come to learn the most practical form of self-protection, including self-defence.

Coming up against the most obnoxious individual who cannot be reasoned with, they learn to physically defend themselves against this person and are encouraged to use as much reasonable force as they can – as an absolute last resort. Counter-intuitively once people have had their huge boost in self-confidence and self-esteem through such radical experiential training they become more assertive rather than aggressive because they now understand they are firmly in control.

There’s lots of support out there to help you deal with difficult situations. At Max Conflict we run free three hour workshops to give you a taste of how we can help – if you want to pop along give me a call, our next one is in London on 2 July.

As far as we’re concerned, it’s as easy as your ABCs and I think that whether you are concerned with dysfunctional teams or damaged supplier relationships, broken processes, difficult customers or Lone Worker Personal Safety, learning about conflict can be very productive for you and your business.

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