Does Conflict Stress You Out?

Are Conflicts Leaving You Stressed and Drained?
If the thought of addressing a conflict feels like a punch to the gut, you’re not alone. The reality is that conflict is an unavoidable part of life, and most of us don’t know how to navigate it without a surge of stress hormones.

Today, I’m sharing a three-step guide to resolve conflicts without the cortisol spike. Imagine a world where conflict doesn’t equate to stress but is another problem to solve. You’re about to take one step closer to that reality.

Why You Should Master the Art of Stress-Free Conflict Resolution
Conflict isn’t going away; it’s part of the human condition. But if you can manage it skillfully, you’ll not only save yourself from undue stress, you’ll also gain respect from those around you.

You’ll be ‘the calm’ in the storm, and people will be drawn to that calm. Conflict is a problem for most, if not all leaders. I’ve been talking about conflict for years, and it’s a topic that still resonates. Check out this blog post from a few years back.

Why do we avoid conflict?
Let’s be honest: avoiding conflict won’t make it disappear; it only allows it to fester and grow.

There are some real barriers to effective conflict resolution:

  • It’s Easier To Sweep It Under The Rug: Ignoring a problem doesn’t solve it; it just gives the problem time to grow roots.
  • Requires a Specific Set of Leadership Skills: Many think they need an MBA or years of leadership experience to manage conflict, which isn’t true.
  • People Want To Win: When the focus is on ‘winning,’ we lose sight of what’s really important, which is finding a solution that benefits everyone involved.

But Don’t Worry, There’s a Better Way

Step 1: Stop Making It About Winning or Losing
Why It’s Important: Conflict isn’t a zero-sum game. The problem with viewing conflict as a contest is that it turns resolution into a battlefield. And on a battlefield, collaboration and mutual understanding can’t flourish.

Remember the time you and your partner were deciding on a vacation destination? One wanted the beach, and the other wanted the mountains. Instead of sticking to your guns, you compromised on a coastal town near a range of hills—voila! No winner, no loser, just an intelligent solution that catered to both interests. So, approach conflicts with a problem-solving mindset, not a combative one.

Step 2: Identify The Problem From The Other’s Perspective
Most of us have a natural tendency to guard our viewpoints fiercely, as if admitting another perspective is valid would somehow negate our own. This ‘my way or the highway’ approach obstructs any pathway to actual resolution.

I do this exercise often with leaders. First, I have them describe the problem to me in as much detail as they can. THEN, I ask them to physically move to another chair in the room and explain the problem to me again, only this time you pretend that the new chair is the person’s seat on the other side of the conflict. What does the problem look like – in detail- from their perspective? It’s always an eye-opener, and it’s a great leadership tool.

Step 3: Propose A Solution and Be Open to Compromise
The Light at The End of The Tunnel: Here’s your motivation: effective conflict resolution can serve as a building block for trust and, believe it or not, can even strengthen relationships.

If you’re in a dispute with a neighbor over a property line, instead of sticking rigidly to what you think is correct, propose hiring a neutral surveyor and splitting the cost. This compromise doesn’t just resolve the conflict; it sets a precedent for resolving future issues amicably.

When you incorporate these steps into your approach to conflict, you’re not just putting out fires. You’re actually building a more harmonious environment, whether at work, at home, or in social circles. You become the person who can navigate difficult waters, and that’s a reputation that follows you, enriching your personal and professional life.

Why Teaching Conflict Resolution Builds A Strong Succession Plan
The value of mastering conflict resolution doesn’t stop at the individual level; it’s a skill that reverberates throughout an organization. When your leaders become adept at managing conflict, they not only become more effective in their current roles but also set the stage for long-term organizational success through robust succession planning.

The Skill That Keeps On Giving
Conflict resolution isn’t a one-off skill; it’s foundational. Leaders who naturally excel in this area breed a culture of openness, trust, and collaboration. When team members see leaders handling conflict with poise and fairness, they’re more likely to emulate these behaviors. Over time, this creates a pool of potential future leaders who already possess critical leadership skills.

The Hidden Value in Succession Planning
One of the challenges in succession planning is ensuring that the next generation of leaders is well-rounded and capable of steering the ship through both calm and turbulent waters. Skillful conflict resolution is an integral part of this toolkit. Leaders who practice resolving conflicts are better equipped to handle the complexities of leadership roles, reducing the time and resources needed to prepare them for advancement.

The Big Picture
In essence, when you invest in teaching your leaders the art of stress-free conflict resolution, you’re not just solving immediate problems; you’re building a leadership pipeline that’s primed for future success. In a world where change is the only constant, having a bench of leaders who can handle conflict—no matter how thorny—provides a competitive edge that’s as invaluable as it is rare.

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