Recently, there’s been lots of changes happening. The fall colors, the weather, and all the accouterments that go with it. But, that’s not what I’m taking about. Mostly, professionally speaking, there’s been a lot of change. And not just with QCMG itself, but also our clients, and even professional partners. And as a result, a lot of conflict continues to arise. And it’s been thick. 

It’s the type of conflict you don’t wish on your enemies. It’s the type of conflict you’ll be so glad when its over so you can move on and forget about how its sucked your soul away–and it’s the type of conflict worth writing about here.

WHY DEAL WITH CONFLICT?

Conflict is human. It’s necessary, unavoidable, and most often times developmental and change you–hopefully for the better. I don’t know one person who is psychologically sound that loves conflict (If you do, please send me a message and we’ll get lunch and a mental exam). But there’s a couple really good reasons why you should deal with conflict.

A while ago, I geeked out and got philosophical, and made a little chart. It help me share how and what conflict is:

Conflict occurs when the actual outcome ≠ the intended outcome. 

 

Sometimes it doesn’t mean anything, it is what it is. Other times, we can have a role in the outcomes, but discussing our expectations and roles up front. Most cases, its usually after the incident has occurred.

Conflict indicates a difference in maturity, perspective, understanding, expectations or position. This is incredible to identify. When we identify our expectations (what is known vs unknown) and what is met, vs unmet, we’re able to have real conversations with people.

If our expectations are met when they’re known or unknown, we’re happy. But when the other person doesn’t know they and they are communicated, thats the secret ingredient to the conflict–and similarly when they’re not known nor met.

So, why should we care about conflict? What does it matter? If my needs aren’t met and they didn’t know it, I move on. Well, here’s some thoughts to consider:

  1. First, it strengthens relationships and creates community. If you can exist in relationships with folks and discuss your differences, you can seek a deeper understanding of each other, not just agreement to disagree. True community comes when you are able emotionally embrace one another’s differences and love them in spite of it.
  2. Relationships must come before business, or else there’s no one to do business with. This one seems self explanatory, but its not. We often gravitate towards people we identify with, and that’s human. But the folks who always agree with us, don’t often propel us the right way. We’ll never learn how to be better if we always do it our own way. With addressing conflict as a relational tool–as opposed to a business tool–we’re able to move forward and grow, carrying our tools into all parts of our lives.
  3. A healthy approach to conflict is the only baseline for relationships that can work–not expectations. If you’re basing your business or personal relationships on solely your expectations, you’re in a for a sweet treat–and by that, I mean a kerfuffle. Your happiness will not be based on reality, and relationships can never be truly fulfilling.

APPROACH

I was recently asked how to go about resolving conflict, and this conversation came about. It sounds prescriptive, but its not. Its the variables that count to you, and you use your own words.

RESOLVE = MY LOSS (what I wanted / needed + emotion created) + MY HOPE (my intended outcome).

The conversation starts out with identifying your loss + knowing your emotions.
What was it you wanted? What was your loss? What was it that you didn’t you get? What was your experience? What emotion did it cause? “I needed to hear from you. It made me angry.” or  “I was really excited you were planning on working with us. I was discouraged it didn’t pan out.”  You discuss what you wanted, what you needed, was it realistic to ask for? Unrealistic? Sometimes the heart-work and thinking about it leads you to discover your expectations may have been unrealistic or simply not communicated. Its important to know your loss + the emotion it caused (hurt, sad, lonely, shame, guilt, angry, joy).

Present your case.
This the hard part. Its not thinking about it–you’ve done that, and quite possible too much. This is where you get together, and simply present your case. Make it conversational. Don’t poison the well by saying “Hey, we really need to talk”–what an incredibly ungracious way to freak folks out–like calling them to the principals office on the loudspeaker in elementary school. Not cool. 

Presenting your case is really about you, its not about them. It’s taking the time to share you pain–the incident that occurred and how it made you feel. From there, they can respond, and usually in-kind, they’re do so with responsibility. If not, you’ve done the incredible thing–met with them and been an honest human. 

If you’re on the other side of the conversation–this isn’t going to be easy. You made someone feel angry? Worthless? Discouraged? Your goal will be to HEAR, FEEL, + RESPOND.

First, you’re going to HEAR what they have to say, and hopefully you’ll discover the feelings they’ve had. Whether you agree or disagree is not most important at the moment–you have to hear what’s happened. Then FEEL the experience from their perspective and discover how it make them feel. You took the account from them, but were trying to helpful. Instead, you made them feel incapable. Yikes. 

Then you’ll be able to responsibly respond to the scenario–articulating your thanks for their candid nature, their honesty with you, their ability to come to you and humbly present the situation. You then can respond to what their desires are–acknowledging their intended outcomes.

At the end of the day, walking through conflict has drawn me closer to people that I value, not farther apart. At the heart of conflict for me is usually fear–fear they did this on purpose, fear they don’t care, or fear that they had malicious intent. Confronting the thing I’m fearful of usually turns into confidence. Confidence in relationships, business partnerships, and stronger community with the people I know in all areas of my life.

At the end of the day, conflict is a scenario that occurs. And my perspective and role it dramatically changes me for better.