Horrible bosses? How to handle conflict with nearly anyone.

February 6, 2019


Two responses of our brain


Conflict situations are an inevitable part of our lives. Despite this, people react differently to conflicts. Some easily get angry, others shut down and still others pretend that nothing has happened. The variety of our reactions are related to different parts of the brain. So, the reptilian brain is responsible for immediate reactions, which are often negative. This part of human brain developed thousands or even million years ago and provided our ancestors with invaluable survival skills, namely to freeze or to fly in dangerous situations.


Although nowadays the relevance of these skills has somewhat diminished in the context of the mostly safe city environment, we continue relying on them in some situations, including conflicts. Another part of human brain, the neocortex, allows, in its turn, to digest emotions first and only then to decide whether it is worth reacting or not. In contrast to the immediate reactions, reflection helps us to be more conscious and, as a result. To evolve as human beings.  



Two sides of a conflict


When conflict occurs, with your boss, colleagues or anyone else, each person involved tries to prove that another one is in the wrong. In fact, both sides might be right if you see the conflict as an independent observer. Once, as a participant of a conflict, you allow a thought that another person might also have a point, the dynamics of the conflict may change. You then may start to realise that each side has a point and in order to resolve a deadlock each person needs to make certain adjustments.


This realisation is very important because we often expect that another person should make the first move, another person adjust. Unfortunately, we cannot make decisions instead of another person, cannot push this person to change.



The best way out of a conflict situation


Would it then mean that the conflict cannot be resolved? No, it can be resolved but through the change in your inner state. If we shift the focus and look into ourselves - our reactions, thoughts and feelings - we can begin feeling better and thinking proactively and productively, concentrating on the win-win situation.


The essence of any conflict is the values’ diversity and the inability to appreciate someone’s else values. We either do not accept the values of another person or do not realise other person’s needs concerning these values. Once in the situation of a conflict we believe that our value is the most important one, diminishing or denying the possibility of another value, particularly the one of our opponent. Everybody wants to be heard and if we are able to understand and distinguish the values of another person, we’ll be able to avoid many conflict situations. It is good to remember that nobody really wants to hurt us. It is more desirable to build up healthy relationships. But this becomes possible if people understand and accept the values of each other.


We have early discussed these values and communication styles in one of the previous articles.



And what if our values clash?


Ability to understand and appreciate other people’s values helps to resolve majority of conflict situations. There are some instances, however, when our values and those of our colleagues clash. What can we do then?


Imagine a situation: you and your colleagues discuss the future development of your business enterprise. In the process of endless fights and discussions you realise that you don’t share the same value system: while you are more concern of the human side of the future development and are inclined to invest in the training and well-being of the employees, your colleagues are more profit oriented and prefer to see immediate financial yield. Your value systems clash.


Being a representative of a supporter communication type you find it difficult to accept and embrace the arguments of your colleagues who seem to be the representatives of a controler communication type. If you and your colleagues have tried and failed to find any common grounds for potential compromise, you may consider an amicable parting of the ways. In this case, it might be much more productive to relaunch your business initiative with like-minded people than to strain to the maximum the relationship with your current partners.   



The key steps toward conflict-free workplace


If you want to communicate effectively, you need, first of all, to understand yourself, your own communication type, your priorities and your fears. The next step is to realise that the world does not turn around you: there are other people, with their own thoughts, priorities and concerns. Once you are able to understand another person, you can relax and shift your attention to the construction of effective interactions. Getting to know another person is not assimilating that person with you; it is rather understanding this person’s values and distinctive features.


Your priority is to find some common grounds: goals and achievements. You can easily apply this rule in a one-to-one communication or in your cooperation with various departments and structures. Each person makes a unique contribution into a common project. You need to learn seeing advantages in such uniqueness for yourself.


“All the world’s a stage,

And all the men and women merely players…”

(W. Shakespeare, As You Like It)


We believe that each and every one of us is not only a leading actor but first and foremost a writer of our own destiny. Overwhelmed by life events, we may unintentionally forget that we are the sole playwrights of our own lives. We may even unwittingly drop or lose the thread of our unfolding life story. Then, we start questioning ourselves and let others do the writing for us. Doesn’t this happen to all of us occasionally? The best thing we can do is to resume the leadership as soon as we can: only we should write the play of our life!  


With the renewed confidence and new skills, we design new perspectives. Coaching and training are the best instruments we use to achieve this goal.


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