FIVE HABITS OF HIGHLY EFFECTIVE CONFLICT RESOLVERS By Dina Beach Lynch, Esq.
Steven Covey had right idea. There are discreet skills and attitudes, habits if you will, that can elevate your conflict practice to a new level. This article shares a selection of habits and attitudes that can transform a good conflict resolver into a highly effective one. By that I mean someone who facilitates productive, meaningful discussion between others that results in deeper self-awareness, mutual understanding and workable solutions.
I have used term ‘conflict resolver’ intentionally to reinforce idea that human resource professionals and managers are instrumental in ending disputes, regardless of whether they are also mediators. These conflict management techniques are life skills that are useful in whatever setting you find yourself. With these skills, you can create environments that are respectful, collaborative and conducive to problem-solving. And, you’ll teach your employees to be proactive, by modeling successful conflict management behaviors. .
1.UNDERSTAND THE EMPLOYEE’S NEEDS
Since you’re ‘go to person’ in your organization, it’s natural for you to jump right in to handle conflict. When an employee visits you to discuss a personality conflict, you assess a situation, determine next steps and proceed until problem is solved. But is that helpful?
When you take charge, employee is relieved of his or her responsibility to find a solution. That leaves you to do work around finding alternatives. And while you want to do what’s best for this person (and organization), it’s important to ask what employee wants first-- whether it’s to vent, brainstorm solutions or get some coaching. Understand what person entering your door wants by asking questions:
•How can I be most helpful to you? •What are you hoping I will do? •What do you see my role as in this matter?
2.ENGAGE IN COLLABORATIVE LISTENING
By now everyone has taken at least one active listening course so I won’t address basic skills. Collaborative Listening takes those attending and discerning skills one step further. It recognizes that in listening each person has a job that supports work of other. The speaker’s job is to clearly express his or her thoughts, feelings and goals. The listener’s job is facilitating clarity; understanding and make employee feel heard.
So what’s difference? The distinction is acknowledgement. Your role is to help employee gain a deeper understanding of her own interests and needs; to define concepts and words in a way that expresses her values (i.e. respect means something different to each one of us); and to make her feel acknowledged—someone sees things from her point of view.
Making an acknowledgement is tricky in corporate settings. Understandably, you want to help employee but are mindful of issues of corporate liability. You can acknowledge employee even while safeguarding your company.
Simply put, acknowledgement does not mean agreement. It means letting employee know that you can see how he got to his truth. It doesn’t mean taking sides with employee or abandoning your corporate responsibilities. Acknowledgement can be bridge across misperceptions. Engage in Collaborative Listening by:
•Help employee to explore and be clear about his interests and goals
•Acknowledge her perspective
oI can see how you might see it that way. oThat must be difficult for you. oI understand that you feel _______ about this.
•Ask questions that probe for deeper understanding on both your parts: oWhen you said x, what did you mean by that? oIf y happens, what’s significant about that for you? oWhat am I missing in understanding this from your perspective?
3.BE A GOOD TRANSMITTER
Messages transmitted from one person to next are very powerful. Sometimes people have to hear it ‘from horse’s mouth’. Other times, you’ll have to be transmitter of good thoughts and feelings. Pick up those ‘gems’, those positive messages that flow when employees feel safe and heard in mediation, and present them to other employee. Your progress will improve.