How to Engage Conflict Without Regret
“I hate conflict and I avoid it at all costs.” I commonly hear this from students and clients and I’ve heard it within the last week. When it becomes a bad-tempered personal attack which demeans those involved, I hate it too.
But, conflict can be good when it remains as a difference of opinion or a problem to solve, helping the parties involved to be more, see more, and achieve more. Such conflict is to be embraced and engaged.
To engage conflict so it has potential to help you and others to benefit and grow:
- Stay in a continuous process of clarifying and holding focus on the issue. Ask involved parties what they hope the outcome of the encounter will be. You may also ask, “What is it that we all want in this situation” in order to identify points of agreement that already exist.
- Make an agreement among the parties, if at all possible, to keep emotions in check and remain rational.
- Ask open-ended questions to learn more and keep the people thinking. Employ the mindset that you are learning. Play the detective and learn as much as you can about the issue.
- Center and quietly breathe deeply to lower your anxiety in the situation. Breathe by expanding your belly versus raising your chest.
- Discipline your voice to be relaxed in pitch, tone, volume, and pace.
- Use the pronoun “I” versus plural pronouns (you, we, they) or second person singular (you) to be appropriately responsible for your thoughts and feelings (versus over- or under-responsible).
- Understand that some people process their thoughts aloud and that what they say early may not be their final conclusion. Give them time and space to think.
- If the emotion starts rising, try to schedule another time to discuss the issue.
All of these can help you engage conflict without regret. Who knows, you may even grow the enjoy it.