Effective Communication Skills – Three tips to deal with Conflict
Wouldn’t it be great if we could choose who we wanted to work with? Yet we have differences in personality, culture and working style, or a clash of competing objectives or even disagreements over solutions. The list of reasons why conflict occurs can be as long as your arm.
Therefore the ability to deal with conflict is a critical soft skill for Managers who lead and coordinate teams.
This article will give you three practical tips to help you deal with conflict in the workplace and maximise performance, thereby increasing productivity.
1. Use the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Modes Instrument (TKI)
The Thomas-Kilmann or TKI Instrument is probably the most well-known conflict management tool and is made up of the following five techniques, as shown in the diagram.
Depending on the situation and style of those involved you can use different levels of assertiveness and collaboration to resolve the situation. No one technique is better than the other, it depends entirely on the situation you are in and who you are dealing with. What it indicates is that your style you use should suit different people and different situations.
2. Improve your listening skills
If you work on your listening skills this will improve your ability to deal with conflict. Listening seems like a basic skill but actually it is much harder that it seems, especially in the modern age with the advent of mobile phones and social media to distract us.
Listening is one of those skills we were never taught at school to use effectively. Viral TED speaker and sound expert Julian Treasure argues that ‘we are losing our listening’ and in this video, he gives several useful ways to improve our listening skills.
3. Ask open questions
Open questions are an effective tool to understand how the other person or party is feeling and will help you avoid assumptions, a common mistake when conflict occurs.
Avoid the habit of asking closed questions: those that can only be answered yes or no. Although any excellent way of summarising information, these two words generally fail to promote conversation.
Open questions, on the other hand, promote many benefits:
- You can encourage the other person to reveal more and help solve the conflict
- It may allow people to ‘vent’ and help ease tension.
- Open questions can help place you in the other persons shoes.
- The other person will feel that you are listening with empathy.
As markets expand and pressure on competition increases, the sheer weight of demands and stresses on a business will be continually tested.
The ability of management to be able to deal with conflict in a way which replaces ill-feeling with trust, at the same time raising reputations, will not only build current relationships, it will attract new ones.
Can you really afford to slam the door on the next internal argument?