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Build stronger relationships with better conflict resolution skills

Conflict happens every day, and while uncomfortable for most people, successfully navigating a conflict can strengthen your personal and professional relationships. Below are three tips that will help make your next conflict a little easier, and hopefully help you find a resolution.

Tip 1: Check your cognitive bias at the door. Everybody has cognitive biases, it’s part of being human. But being aware of your own biases will help you more accurately assess the situation. These are couple common cognitive biases to be aware of and an example of each.

  • Confirmation bias: This is when you seek out and accept facts that support your opinion and ignore facts that don’t. Essentially, you see what you want to see.

  • Example: Your friend is late for a social function again. You think she is always late and easily recall the few times in recent memory she has been late to something but ignore the many times she’s been on time or even early.
  • Fundamental attribution error: This is when you blame a person’s characteristics for their offending action while discounting or ignoring situational factors that may have influenced their behavior.

  • Example: A coworker shows up to a meeting unprepared, forcing you to take time to review the content they should have reviewed on their own. You conclude that your coworker is irresponsible and doesn’t respect you. In reality, their perceived slight might be because of an extensive workload or a personal problem, and have nothing to do with you.

Tip 2: Determine what is fact or fiction. More often than not, when in a conflict, people tend to come up with a bunch of reasons why the other person is bad or their actions make them defective in some way. Your hurt feelings make you quickly jump to conclusions and make assessments that may not be true. Here are a few questions to ask yourself to slow down these stories and focus on the facts of the situation.

  • What actually happened?
  • What assumptions am I making?
  • What might be an alternate reason for that person’s behavior that isn’t malicious?
  • What am I responsible for in the conflict?

Tip 3: Stay calm and ask more questions. When it comes time to talk to the person you are having a conflict with, it is imperative that you stay calm, be respectful, and ask open-ended questions. If tensions start to rise, take a moment to breathe, and then ask a question. This will help you clarify the other person’s perspective and avoid making incorrect assumptions. Here are some questions to try.

  • How did you perceive the situation?
  • What is most important to you?
  • How do you think we can resolve this?
  • What would you like to see happen going forward?
  • How could we have avoided this situation?

Conflict will still feel uncomfortable but putting these tips into practice will help make conflict more productive and support a faster resolution.

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