In his book Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey says that the fifth habit is, ‘Seek first to understand and then to be understood’. Most conflict occurs when people are stuck in their own position and are not prepared to see or appreciate the other person’s point of view.
What Stephen Covey suggests is that before opening our mouth to express our own opinion about what we want, is to stop and make the effort to understand the other person’s needs.
In this context Covey’s concept of, ‘Think Win-Win’ means that the most effective people on this planet actively seek a ‘Win-Win’ outcome instead of automatically wanting to achieve ‘I Win – You Lose’.
So how can we ensure a ‘Win-Win’ when a conflict arises at work?
Put Yourself In Their Position First
In customer service, hospitality and even sales (if we are doing it right), we should automatically be walking in the shoes of our customers. Adopting the position, personality, concerns, beliefs and possibly the life of the other person will help you to appreciate their view of the situation. It may even be as basic as the key objectives of their role. It is a classic situation where a sales person promises the ‘earth’ to the customer in order to get the sale and then cause conflict with the technical operations people who tell them it is not possible!
Profit versus quality will always have a natural conflict of interests.
Ask Them To Tell You What They Are Looking To Achieve
Imagining yourself in the shoes of the other person may only get you so far. You will probably have to ask them questions to gain a true picture and get to the ‘truth’ of what it is really like to be them. Showing a genuine interest will go a long way to resolving any potential conflict or to reduce any existing disagreement.
‘Let Me Tell You Where I Am’
Apart from being one of the best expressions used by the investors on BBC’s Dragon’s Den programme, it is a polite way of giving notice that you are about to explain you own position. Having actively sought the other party’s point of view and if they don’t automatically ask, then you can use this phrase, either as a statement or as a question. In other words you might think it appropriate to ask permission by saying, ‘Thanks for sharing that with me, is it okay for me to share my situation with you?’ As soon as they say, ‘yes’ then you have someone who is ready to receive your own view and opinion. At this point you are working towards open and honest dialogue and a position of possible collaboration and the ‘Win-Win outcome.
Write It Down
Whilst it is already powerful having a conversation where you are actively sharing your key principles with each other, it is worth summarising what those positions are. We often suggest at the beginning of any meeting to do this that you say, ‘Do you mind if I make some notes so that I can reflect on this afterwards?’ Not only does it prevent our memories causing problems later on, it is also demonstrates our intentions to take their position seriously.
Actively Seek A Solution To Make It Work For Both Of You
Sometimes you may need to be more creative than usual to find a solution that works. By being more collaborative you might find that one or both parties is prepared to soften their position on this occasion for the sake of the longer term protection of your working relationship.
These are just a few tips of what you can do to prevent or defuse conflict. If you want to learn more about conflict, negotiation or even personality differences please contact us and we will be delighted to help you achieve solutions through greater awareness.
Looking for more advice on managing conflict in the workplace? Try this article:
Head of Training
Originally published: 3 June, 2013
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