Let’s face it, we spend more time with our coworkers than just about anyone else in our lives. You’re with your coworkers, on average, 40 hours per week (2,080 hours a year), working side by side, communicating about various topics – from what you’re ordering for lunch to client crisis communication. You’re bound to run into the occasional disagreement and misunderstanding.
In response to conflict, our brains automatically go into defense mode and our fight-or-flight reaction kicks in. We either want to run from the problem or fight it, sometimes rashly.
These four tips will help you take a step back, look at the bigger picture and resolve workplace conflicts peacefully and effectively.
1. Don’t Gossip – Instead Try Meditation
The first thing you probably want to do after a disagreement with a colleague is run to your work bestie and tell them all about the drama. Before you follow your immediate instinct, take a second to digest the situation, breathe and think. Even a 10-minute meditation can help you solve conflicts and cultivate greater awareness of a situation. By taking a step back and working to understand where the other person is coming from, you are able to see the situation from a different perspective. Meditation helps you become more aware of yourself and how you relate to your coworker. What is the root of the problem? What is the other person trying to accomplish? What is the end goal? Compassion and awareness will help you work toward a compromise.
2. Address the Problem Directly
Seeing the situation from a different point of view doesn’t mean ignoring your feelings altogether. It’s important to get your thoughts out, but how you do it is key. Once you’ve had a chance to calm down and internally address why you are frustrated, find time to sit down with your colleague to discuss. It’s important to share the impact of the other person’s behavior on you, as opposed to criticizing them. For example, explain what specific actions caused your frustration or doubts without putting blame on the other person. Use “I” language (I feel, I think). And before your meeting, gather a few specific examples of what’s bothering you – writing them down helps!
3. Listen and Compromise
When talking to your colleague about why you are frustrated, remember it’s a two-way conversation. Enter the meeting with an open mind and be ready to listen to the other person’s perspective. Whether it’s a disagreement about ideas on a project or you feel you’ve been treated poorly, truly listen to their response to your concerns. This will help you reach common ground, think about actions you can make to solve the problem and find a solution that meets both of your needs. The more compassionate you are to their feelings, the smoother the conversation will go.
4. View Conflict as an Opportunity for Growth
The good thing about conflict (yes, there’s a good thing) is it helps us learn more about ourselves and our coworkers. It presents an opportunity for true internal growth. Bhavnva Dalal, Founder and CEO of Talent Power Partners, says your reaction to conflict is a window into yourself. Developed leaders know how to adapt to different communication styles depending on the people, situation and outcome they are seeking. For example, some people are terrified of confrontation, where others are eager to face an issue head on. Gauge your behavior under pressure, as well as your coworker’s behavior in the same situation – be aware of communication differences.
“A team that has people with a diverse set of predominant conflict handling styles will thrive, innovate and learn from each other more if the conflicts can be handled well,” says Dalal. Conflict resolution helps you strengthen your workplace relationships and come to a deeper understanding of how to communicate effectively in the future.
Next time you have a disagreement at work, before fight or flight kicks in, take a step back to gauge the situation and determine how to best communicate with your coworker. Don’t gossip, address the problem directly and use conflict resolution to fuel your growth as an employee.