Conflict often involves both emotional and intellectual content – personal feelings, interpersonal relationships, problems to solve and decisions to be made. Here are some best practices for navigating and negotiating conflicts:
- Know your values. We generally engage in conflict about the things we care about. Understanding your own core values will help you anticipate what might push your buttons and cause you to feel conflict. Being able to talk about your values and their importance can help you manage yourself and others in a conflict.
- Learn the values of others. Understanding another person’s values can help you anticipate what might push their buttons. Sometimes, you can choose to avoid a conflict simply by recognizing that a conflict represents something important to them that you don’t feel strongly about. Let someone else “win” simply by not engaging.
- Know your boundaries. Resolving a conflict, while also maintaining a relationship, generally involves some form of negotiation. Knowing clearly what your minimum requirements and boundaries are will help you recognize the areas where you are more flexible.
- Take the long view. Think beyond the current conflict to the long-term relationships and strategic goals involved. Your immediate objective may change when you consider the big picture – taking a broader perspective may reveal new options and make other issues seem less important.
- Strive for clarity. As you work through the conflict and start reaching decisions across the parties involved, be clear about both process and outcomes. When emotions are running high, it is easy for misunderstandings to occur. At each step along the way, assess progress, test assumptions and summarize decisions and agreements.
Conflict can cause stress and strain relationships if not managed effectively. These best practices can help you keep both your head and heart in the game.