5 Steps for Handling Conflict Gracefully

Do you look forward to dealing with conflict when it arises?

I don’t and I’m willing to bet it’s not at the top of your “Things I Love to Do” list either.

When I ask workshop participants what comes to mind when they think about conflict, people typically describe feeling anxious, frustrated, stressed, angry, upset and fearful.

In other words, they think of conflict as negative or “bad.”

What if conflict wasn’t “bad”? What if, instead of avoiding it, losing sleep, or decreasing your performance/productivity, you saw conflict for what it really is: an opportunity to grow, increase your creativity and cultivate stronger trust.

That would be a game-changer, wouldn’t it?

It really is possible and I want to share a 5-step process for handling conflict in a way that doesn’t cause you to lose your sh*t.

Anatomy of Conflict

Before we get into the steps you’ll want to take to handle conflict, let’s take a look at the anatomy of conflict to see what’s going on before all those emotions enter the scene.

All conflict is about taking a Position about something you want. When you are in conflict with someone else, their Position is different from your Position. And you each keep fighting for your Position.

Oftentimes, resolving a conflict requires either one party to compromise and give up its Position or neither party gets what it wants.

In either situation, compromise tends to lead to resentment and erodes trust. However, when you access your Emotional Wisdom, conflict is very different because you explore the deeper underlying aspirations and needs that have led to each person’s Position.

When you get curious about the deeper why, the deeper values and needs that led to your Position, you see yourself more clearly and are able to release your attachment to the Position you’re holding.

When both people can do this, conflict becomes the entry point for powerful creative and innovative solutions.

Since you can’t control what another person says, does or thinks, we’re going to focus on the steps you can take the next time you have a conflict situation.

5 Steps for Handling Conflict using your Emotional Wisdom

Step 1: Explore what’s causing you to take your Position

Ask yourself the following at least 3 times so you can access your deeper motivations, needs.

  • Why I want this…
  • Why that’s important to me is…
  • What I’m worried about or fear happening is…

Step 2: Focus on what is truly important

One technique to navigate through all the emotions is to zoom out of the current moment and imagine meeting your future, wiser self. Ask your wiser, elder self, “In this situation, in this conflict, what is really important for me to pay attention to?”

From this vantage point, you may be able to see the saboteur influences within the position you’ve taken and how that’s creating the conflict you’re experiencing. For example, being too hard on yourself or being addicted to being right or too attached to the outcome. Whatever it may be, notice where judgment resides in your feelings about yourself, the other person and/or the situation.

DISCLAIMER: this step may sound easier than it is. If you want help to identify your saboteur influences and stop getting hijacked by them, mental fitness training can help.

Step 3: Put yourself in the shoes of the other person

Feel what it feels like to be them in this situation to gain a deeper understanding of their underlying WHY.

  • Envision them saying, “My deeper underlying aspirations, needs or concerns which have led to my Position are…”
  • What impact might that have on you now?

Step 4: Find a new perspective

Finding a new perspective requires some ingenuity and innovation. As much as you might think the other person’s Position is rotten, see if you can find the 10% within the other person’s Position that you like or appreciate so you can begin moving towards a deeper and mutual aspiration

  • Try this: “What I like about that idea is…” or “What could work about that approach is…”

Step 5: Choose how to respond and make a commitment for how to proceed.

How you want to respond is as much about responding to the other person as it is about responding your saboteurs when they begin to interfere. Contemplate the following…

  • How might your saboteurs interfere with the actions you’ve committed to doing?
  • What will you do when you notice that happen?

Now that you know the steps to take to handle conflict more gracefully, all that’s needed is to actually do it!

If you’d love to be able to stop feeling anxious, frustrated, stressed, angry, upset or fearful when conflict arises, I can help you uncover your saboteur influences so you can sleep better, address it confidently and be incredibly more effective in life and work.

I’m offering a small group 8-week program, Chart Your Path to Emotional Wisdom: A Mental Fitness Practicum that teaches you how to create sustainable, effective change so you have more energy, confidence and peace.

Learn more about it here.