Top 6 tips in managing conflict
May 2, 2012
Conflicts are unavoidable in life and cause people to be unhappy, whether they are directly involved or not. The best thing would be to actually resolve the conflict and move on.
Very ironic post because I’ve had my fair share of conflicts but that’s precisely why I have learnt a lot, grown a lot, and decided to write about it. Stuff I’ve learnt from both witnessing other people’s conflicts and experiencing my own and decided to compile into a list.
[Not meant to attack anyone, indicate any sides I’m on (none), or imply anything]
1. Attack the conflict, not the person
You are trying to resolve the conflict and you can’t change someone. Attacking the person is uncalled for and personal attacks are the worst, especially those about appearance. No need to call someone “fat”, “stupid”, or “ugly” because these usually have nothing to do with the conflict. Most of the time, people can’t help what they look like either. One’s looks/weight, brains/intelligence and character/personality are all different, separate things! Ugly =/= stupid =/= evil.
Once you start attacking the person using things that have nothing to do with the conflict as your reasoning, you bring the conflict to a whole new level and it will only get worse from there. Furthermore, it reflects terribly on you as a person plus will in no way resolve the conflict. Undoubtedly a low and unwise move.
So try to identify the root of the problem and nip it in the bud if you can. Keep people and problems separate.
2. Do not involve others or make them take sides
What happens between two people should stay between two people. Conflict management is not a popularity contest. You are supposed to work things out properly and not try to win people over. Often, you might be tempted to bring up something that a friend mentioned about the person you have a conflict with, say a negative remark, like how “even XXX thinks you are…” because you want to have people back you up, thus making your point stronger and making you look right.
However, involving someone else is unnecessary as people usually prefer to stay out of conflicts. It will definitely not win anyone over as well. If you really must bring across a point to the other person, maintain confidentiality and maybe just say something like, “There are people who think…” in a general manner. But do try to avoid it because bringing a third party into the picture often stirs up more unhappiness and complicate matters.
As for those who are not involved in the conflict, avoid taking sides. Don’t even bother trying to make peace between the two at conflict. Let them be mature and work things out themselves. However, this is something I find hard to do when one of my friends is involved and I will 99% of the time side them.
3. Don’t believe everything you hear
Especially if you did not hear it directly from the horse’s mouth. Even a comment made with no malice can get twisted and lose its original meaning each time it passes someone. X tells Y tells Z. Most probably along the way, details have been left out, different choice of words used, so even if no one meant any malice, the original intended meaning would be different from what the last person heard.
If something you heard really bothers you, confront the person and clarify matters. Hear that person’s side of the story before making any decisions. Always try to hear both sides of the story. Never assume.
Of course often there is no way to verify the authencity of a statement made, even if you have confronted said person. He or she could be denying what he or she ever said, be defensive, etc. The person you heard the statement from could have made a mistake or twisted words, intentionally or not.
Hence, take everything you hear with a pinch of salt. Always be open to hear various perspectives and judge for yourselves. Usually “hearsay” is the first and main reason conflict arises.
4. Listen & understand that there could be no right or wrong
Put yourselves in the shoes of the other party and try to understand where he or she is coming from and why he or she is reacting/behaving the way he or she is. You would be surprised at the power of empathy. Avoid getting angry and making spiteful comments. Never let anger get the better of you such that it affects your judgement and ability to think coherent thoughts. Listen, think, then speak.
Sometimes we get so caught up in wanting to be right and in “winning” the conflict, that we forget the original problem. Hence the problem is not resolved and the conflict worsens since it’s snowballing into something bigger, something to be “won”. Personally I think that we tend to be both wrong and right. However, always keep in mind that your aim is to resolve the conflict amicably and not win a popularity contest.
5. Swallow your pride and apologise when you should
We all have our pride. Even I do and sometimes my pride is my downfall. However, in the long run, you will start to realise that there are a lot more things more important the pride, such as your conscience. You’ll be amazed at how good having a clear conscience and resolved conflicts feel, a feeling more amazing than keeping your pride.
Sometimes conflicts drag on for as long as they do and worsen because both parties refuse to back down due to pride. The conflict drags for so long that it becomes a thorn in the flesh that upsets everyone, even those not involved. Sometimes conflicts even exist only because of pride. So take a step back, analyse the situation, and apologise if you need to.
Usually it takes two hands to clap and an ideal scenario would be both parties apologising sincerely, as both have identified their mistakes and are willing to admit it. It also means that both parties can now put the conflict behind themselves and move on.
6. Keep your conflicts off social media
The whole world does not need to know what is going on. Keep your problems offline and resolve it among yourselves. A huge reason why a tiny disagreement evolves into a full-blown conflict is because of social media. Sometimes it is even the reason why unncecessary conflicts arise. Some common scenarios:
- X makes an indirect negative remark about Y. Z thinks the comment is about him or her. Conflict.
- X makes an indirect negative remark about Y, who makes an indirect comment back. Conflict.
- The issue of cowardice, wanting to get things out in the open and whatnot comes in. Loads of excuses and different stances made, all with their own reasoning. Conflicts tend to get blown out of proportions.
Hence I re-enforce my point that the best thing to do is to confront the person face-to-face and clarify matters. A lot of conflicts could have been avoided if social media had not come into the picture. While it is a great way to get your opinions out in the clear, it also complicates matters. In addition, anything you say on social media also has a lasting effect. The Internet is written in ink, not pencil.
I think my biggest problems are my blog, my pride and I tend to be naive and easily influenced by what people tell me. I can be so immature and childish sometimes lol wtf. But it’s okay, I’m learning and trying to be a better person everyday 🙂 I’m aware of my flaws and that is already one step, no?
I may or may not have apologised properly to those I blogged about in the past, but I just wanna say that I am sorry to everyone for ever bringing matters online. And if you didn’t know, I did take down all such posts months back. Honestly I don’t like drama (even if it doesn’t concern me) and I’m glad that I have not clashed with anyone in TEP so far 🙂