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Negative to Positive: DOs and DON’Ts To Handle Conflicts Productively

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Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Good communication is the key to establishing and maintaining excellent personal and professional relationships. Unchecked poor communications lead to harmful attitudes and cracks in the foundation of a family or business unit.

You won’t agree with everyone all the time. Furthermore, if you’re surrounded by personalities complimentary (meaning different) to yours, you’re guaranteed to encounter various perspectives and ways of doing things.

You will face conflict. When you do, don’t let it take down you or your company. To effectively handle disagreements, follow these DOs and DON’Ts pulled from our business mindset online library. You’ll enjoy your best, most successful life by turning conflicts into opportunities.

DON’T avoid conflict. We all make mistakes and need grace and forgiveness. While you may choose forgiveness and let some slights slide, start to confront most head-on. Should someone consistently treat you or others poorly or make bad decisions, you must address and resolve the issue sooner rather than later.

At best, bottled-up emotions lead to stalled communications, like when you avoid someone or give them the cold shoulder. Continue to bottle up your feelings, and they’ll start to spill over in overly emotional and unproductive manners, such as yelling and fighting.

DO agree to talk it out. Don’t ice someone out, refusing to talk with them when there’s a problem. Have the maturity to speak with them to resolve issues, especially if they come to you first.

DON’T assume you can read minds. You don’t automatically understand where someone is coming from or the experiences and motivations that shape them. You must expressly ask them your questions to get to the bottom of any issues and avoid misunderstandings and increased conflict.

In “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, Franklin Covey highlights a good habit: “Seek to understand and then to be understood.” In order to better understand someone and to be understood, state facts and your feelings. For instance, let’s say one of your subordinates has been late to your last two meetings. You would state the facts: “Pat, you were late to our meetings twice.” Then say how it makes you feel: “I feel disrespected because it’s like you don’t think my meetings are important.”

DO accept your role, however small, in the issue. No one is perfect, including yourself. You might have played some part in what went wrong. Humbly acknowledge that you could have done better or acted differently. Willingly listen to criticism and learn from it. Avoid the temptation for self-preservation, leading to denial of any mistakes you may have made.

DON’T use broad generalizations when attempting to resolve conflicts. Statements that begin with “You never/always…” are a tell-tale sign that charged and unfair communication is happening. People rarely “always” or “never” do something. Stick with stating facts and using fair language.

DO value differences of opinion. Often, there’s no one right or wrong way to view a situation or solve a problem. Appreciate the varying perspectives others bring to the resolution process.

DON’T focus on blame or “winning” the argument. What’s done is in the past and unchangeable, so there’s no productivity in placing blame. Instead, focus on a collaborative solution to avoid making similar mistakes in the future.

When you fixate on being the “winner” of an argument, you aren’t genuinely hearing what the other person says or looking at how you were at fault. So, your solution won’t be as valuable. Making your case for how wrong the other person is or denying their feelings keeps you in your limited viewpoint and targeting the wrong issues.

DO listen to understand, not to respond. Push other thoughts from your mind and truly listen for comprehension. If your mind is preoccupied with what to say next, then you are missing out on what the other person is trying to convey. While composing a rebuttal is tempting, try to catch your mind when it wanders and refocus it.

DON’T put labels on people. Just like broad-sweeping generalizations are bad for conflict resolution, so are broad labels. Someone who hasn’t finished their work on time isn’t “lazy.” Someone who likes to immediately talk through disagreements isn’t “emotional.” Recognize when those labels come to your mind. Remind yourself that they do more harm than good and work to eliminate them.


Disagree Constructively

You will face personal and professional conflicts–they’re just part of life. Sweeping them under the rug is never the answer. You can work through dilemmas constructively when you know what to do and what not to do.

Keeping communications open and respectful when conflict arises is one of the success secrets to turn a negative into a positive and come out stronger on the other side. You’ll improve your professional and personal life by learning to resolve disagreements in a healthy way. You’ll grow as a person, friend, parent, or spouse, too.

​Consider it your job to listen and stay curious, asking questions to get to the root of causes. Focus on solutions instead of problems.


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