What was the last conflict you experienced? Is it a heated argument with one of your family members? A disagreement with your colleague or superior or a misunderstanding with your lover?
The situation needs to be evaluated. Remember the result of your argument–were you able to solve it or did you just brush it under the rug?
Why do we have conflict?
All human beings are created differently. We have our own set of beliefs, values, and ways of doing things. These differences often get in the way of truly understanding another individual. Miscommunication and misunderstandings happen. True enough, this is why married couples choose to get divorced—it’s because of their “irreconcilable differences.”
What’s our usual reaction to conflict?
When faced with conflict, we enter the fight or flight mindset. Implosive people typically tend to flee thereby burying their hurts inside. When offended, they will try to avoid the source of conflict. When asked, they will say they are fine but deep inside, they are harboring negative feelings.
Explosive people will always fight for their rights because they believe they are always right and never wrong. They will throw sarcastic jokes at you or humiliate you in-front of everyone by shouting and telling hurtful words.
Which one are you? Are you an implosive or an explosive person? We, Filipinos, are largely implosive by nature because we value relationships to the point of sacrificing our own emotions. But it’s important to note that everyone also has implosive and explosive tendencies—the closer you are with the person, the more explosive you become. Notice how different you’ll react to a family member versus a work colleague when they offend you.
How do we minimize or solve a conflict?
- Pause and Listen. Proverbs 12:18 says that “the words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” The question is how can our tongue bring healing? The answer is simple, use your ears first before your tongue—pause and listen to the other person. Our usual tendency when confronted is to defend ourselves. This is normal because of our survival instincts but we have to go beyond our natural tendencies if we want to minimize and solve a conflict.
How can we pause and listen? When a person tells you a hurtful thing, do not react immediately. Delay your reaction. Count to ten if you must. Pray and take a deep breathe. Remind yourself that you are not enemies but allies.
- Listen to understand. Ask yourselves these questions: Why is he saying those things? Where is this person coming from? Why is he reacting that way? What was my role in it?
When you choose to listen to the other person and just allow him to vent out all his frustrations and disappointments at you, he will surely get tired of talking and he will eventually stop. When he’s done, notice his emotions, it will surely subside. And when this happens, it’s now time for you to talk.
- Ask powerful questions. When I say talk, do not defend yourself by throwing negative statements to the other person. Our natural tendency is to reason out. Instead, try to ask powerful questions.
You can try asking questions like: What was the reason behind your disappointment? What was the concern about? What was my role in it? How can we solve this together? How can we help each other improve? How can we prevent this problem from happening again?
Asking these questions can lessen the defensiveness of the other person and s/he will be able to think clearly and objectively. On your part, you have to hold yourself from reacting and listen genuinely to the other person. Remind yourself that too much emotions lead to clouded judgment which will eventually lead to unresolved conflict.
In the end, if we really want to solve or lessen conflict, we always have to constantly ask ourselves—do I want to maintain and strengthen this relationship with the other person? Conflicts are messy because when unresolved, it leads to broken relationships. If you don’t want that, now is your time to practice to pause, listen, understand, and ask questions. Again, conflicts are messy but we can always choose to have breakthroughs through good conversations.
(Note: Do you want to learn more about how to minimize or solve conflicts? Practice these skills through the Breakthrough Conversation Workshop that Breakthrough Management and Leadership Consultancy offers.)
Astrud de Castro is the current People Development & ULEAD Team Head of United Neon Media Group. She is the program developer and co-facilitator of the Breakthrough Conversation Workshop.