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Tips to handling conflict

Boxing gloveA colleague takes credit for your idea. A manager sets an unrealistic deadline. A family member doesn’t perform the household chores as agreed. Your inability to stick with your diet and exercise program is frustrating you. Conflict takes many forms.

Whether it's with a co-worker, manager, loved one, or self, conflict takes a heavy toll on relationships and productivity. 

The ability to deal well with conflict is a rare skill. Hardwired at birth for fight or flight, we default to aggressive or passive behaviors that produce only losers and no winners. Is there another way?

The single biggest thing that characterizes conflict is heightened emotions. How can you manage your own emotions in the heat of a conflict? Here are two tips:

1. Find something to occupy your mind and distract you. Physical activity is always a good choice. Avoid activities that allow you to ruminate (i.e., driving or shopping) as you are unlikely to cool down and may get more worked up. 

2. If you can’t physically leave the environment, consciously change your emotional state. Silently say the alphabet or your social security number backwards. It is difficult to remain emotional when your mind is challenged with such a complex task.

With a cooler head, you are ready to address the conflict. Here are four tips to start:

1. Remember, people in conflicts get emotional. Although tempting, it is not productive to ignore emotions. 

2. Challenge your assumptions. Recognize that your evaluation of the situation is probably only one of several interpretations.

3. Be tactfully honest about your own interests and ask the other party to be clear about their needs. You might find that the conflict is only a symptom of a deeper issue.

4. Ask for a “do over” if things get off to a bad start. According to research, 96 percent of communications that start badly, end badly.    

Conflict resolution, when done well, is an important and inevitable part of progress.

- Ro Crosbie is president of Tero International, a premier interpersonal skills and corporate training company.

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Website: www.tero.com

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Twitter: @TeroTrainers

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