Having helped clients address issues at work business to business, business to government, and within businesses with workplace conflict professionally, and as a volunteer with housing disputes, in conciliation court and between gangs, I want to help you build resilience and reduce your stress when in a conflict . As a mediation and conflict resolution specialist I want to share with you three ways you can reduce stress when you are in conflict. Conflict in and of itself is stressful. When you are stressed, this impacts your ability to think clearly, your health, your job, and your relationships with others. In organizations it has an even larger impact on productivity, morale, grievances, sick days, turnover, and negatively impacts customer service, employee satisfaction, and business results.
The commentary that follows focuses on speaking up timely, with the other party directly, and considering mediation as an alternative to any of these areas of conflict.
Speak with others directly and understand your biases
So many times, I have experienced conflict resolution where the parties have not spoken directly on the issues until we were in mediation. Is it possible that the parties could have spoken earlier with a friend, boss, or someone that both parties trusted before it deteriorated to this point?
Did the parties individually seek out peers, mentors, or someone to discuss this with previously that could have given them good advice on what they might have wanted to try? You need to look in the mirror and see if you have everything right. Our own biases and stereotypes tend to guide us into falsehoods.
By checking with someone else they can validate all or some parts of your point of view and may be able to offer you a different perspective.
As a former expert witness and someone who managed up to 21 expert witnesses the commentary for going to court is you have to have facts and the facts have to be able to be accepted by the court as evidence or they do not exist for the trier of fact. Saying that differently, hearsay, inference, and inuendo supported by your biases are not facts. These elements can add stress to your situation. Sometimes as a manager I would help my employees sort out negative fantasies by helping them to see the facts segregated from their biases. We can deal with facts. This approach helped to reduce stress.
Attorneys have a vested interest in being an advocate and protecting clients. For those reasons they often do not let parties speak to each other. This often increases rather than lowers stress and it harms relationships. Many times, a direct conversation with the other party can help clear the air, actually reduce stress, and may help the parties regain a sense of control, see progress, and help diffuse the situation.
Speak up timely
Often it is easier to avoid taking action with the hope for the best that it will disappear. Sometimes that works. Many times, it does not. The problem persists. The anxiety festers. The stress begins to build until finally it reaches a breaking point, and all heck breaks loose.
In organizations there can be ways to address this such as with grievances, filing EEO complaints, meetings between the parties, meetings between the parties and their manager, investigations by appropriate parties, and raising the issue higher in management.
Most of the time the parties wished they had spoken to the other party sooner.
Often the issues relate to miscommunication between the parties. If the parties had addressed the perception at the beginning either one on one or with the help of a mediator, it may have been possible to nip the issue in the bud instead of letting it grow into a major crisis. Often parties’ comment that “I had no idea you felt that way” or “If I had only known this sooner, I would have changed direction a long time ago.” These are simply a couple of examples. The same thing can be said outside of work in areas of litigation, housing disputes, neighborhood disputes, and gangs. Everyone wants to be heard and respected. Being respectful and listening first can go a long way towards conflict resolution when initiated early on in the conflict.
If you are not sure what to do or how to proceed, reach out to a coach, a mentor, a friend and ask for ways to address the situation. This can cause you to work towards a better relationship, listening actively, and working collaboratively to address the situation.
Many times, the parties are entrenched in their positions. They have reached a deadlock and cannot see a way out. That is because each party only sees the problem from their perspective. At times like these neither party needs to be thinking of this as a problem to be solved, but rather as an opportunity to find a solution.
Being entrenched this can be difficult. In this type of situation, a trained, qualified mediator with a background in the area can be extremely helpful.
What do trained, qualified, experienced mediators do? Mediators meet with the parties. They develop trust. They are there to listen and understand the facts, the issues, the emotion behind the issues and to help the parties identify interests. Behind every position is at least one interest. Interests are the seeds to a solution. Mediators help relieve the stress of the situation and help to de-escalate the parties. The mediator makes no decisions. The mediator asks probing and open ended questions to draw out the concerns of each party.
In organizations that proactively promote mediation the organization is found to be more resilient, has less stress, promotes collaboration, and enhances cross development between elements within the organization resulting in greater creativity and better customer service. This allows teams, leaders, managers, mid-level managers, and executives to work better together.
In areas outside of work mediation helps reduce costs, provides timely closure, and allows parties to move on, for example in divorce, neighbor disputes, and between parties. Within neighborhoods and other types of disputes everyone is heard, and the groups can work together to address their situation.
The information here suggests that speaking up timely, with the other party directly, and considering mediation may all help to reduce stress when in conflict. Consider the ideas presented here when you are in conflict. What do you think? I would love to hear from you.
About the author
Mike Gregory is a professional speaker, an author, and a mediator. You may contact Mike directly at firstname.lastname@example.org and at (651) 633-5311. Mike has written 12 books (and co-authored two others) including his latest book, The Collaboration Effect: Overcoming Your Conflicts, and The Servant Manager, Business Valuations and the IRS, and Peaceful Resolutions that you may find helpful. [Michael Gregory, ASA, CVA, MBA, Qualified Mediator with the Minnesota Supreme Court]