I was recently asked how someone could deal with a person who dominated a conversation, never pausing long enough to let anyone else “get a word in edgewise.” She had recently been at a dinner party where this had happened, and she had been quite at a loss as how to address the problem
We have all faced similar situations, where it isn’t clear what the best way to resolve the situation may be. What I find is that many people are haven’t had the training to know how to address these situations.
Conflict is inevitable. It is not possible that you will be in harmony with everyone around you at all times. Whenever there are two or more people working together, there will be disagreement and conflict.
It is how we respond (or react) to conflict that defines our relationships.
The authors of Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When the Stakes Are High summed up the dilemma as “how can I be 100% honest … and 100% respectful?” (p. 22). The question comes down to the “nature vs. nurture” debate, whether some people are born as natural conflict resolvers or whether these are skills that can be learned.
A Process for Resolving Conflict
I believe that conflict management is a skill that can be learned, a key element of emotional intelligence, and the sooner we learn how to address these conflicts constructively, the better:
Whenever I think about resolving a conflict, I always go back to “The 5 Core Concerns,” one of which is autonomy. The best resolution will be one in which all parties have a say.
In his book Good Leaders Ask Great Questions (p. 175-177), John Maxwell describes the process he uses to address problematic behavior, which meets this need for autonomy:
- Meet privately ASAP to discuss their behavior
- Ask for their side of the story
- Try to come to a place of agreement
- Set out a future course of action with a deadline
- Validate the value of the person and express your commitment to help
Walking Out the Process
I have walked through this situation myself when someone I am leading is having difficulty.
- Whenever I need to confront someone, I make sure the conversation is one-on-one.
- I allow time for them to express their position and point of view.
- I help them see the impact of not changing their behavior.
- I let them express how they intend to do things differently and hold them to it.
- Throughout the conversation, I am careful express hope that the person can change their behavior and meet expectations.
By following this process, I see change happen, even if it is slow in coming.
In the past, I didn’t always follow this process. The result was defensiveness and stubborn refusal to change. Today, the results are much more positive.
If I – an introvert who avoids conflict – can learn this skill, so can you!
100% honest. 100% respectful.
Take It Deeper
Sometimes it’s hard to know where to start. If you would like to go deeper on this topic, I hold free exploratory coaching sessions each week. You can register online at Troy Communications or email me to schedule an appointment at TMTroy@TroyCommunications.Net
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