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  • Writer's pictureHelen Frewin

Confidence in Conflict

I think it’s fair to say that most of us don’t like the word conflict.

It sounds so severe.

We wouldn’t like to think of a conversation with a colleague as a conflict.

And yet, in the various forms of workshops and 1:1 coaching sessions I have that look at conversations, influencing, feedback, negotiation, change management… the word inevitably comes up.

Usually the question goes something like,

“But what do I do if that doesn’t work? What if it becomes a conflict?”

We can start with the best preparation in the world: from a bit of clear and specific feedback to a rationale for doing something differently, but we just do not know what reaction we will get.

And if it’s not what we were hoping for, or feels argumentative, we can end up panicking and not knowing what to do.

Here are my top tips on being ready for anything:

Listen. The more you understand the other person, the more you can speak to their specific concerns or thinking. You might be prepared with some phrases like, “tell me more about your concerns on this,” or “can you say more about what you disagree with?” Or use their words and ask for clarification, e.g. “when you say it won’t work, can you help me understand more about that?”

Clarify the outcome. We so often get stuck in the detail of who said what and what should happen next, that we forget why we’re even here. What outcome do you want? What problem are you trying to solve? If you spend more time looking at that together, you can focus on how you might get there, rather than getting stuck in your disagreement. You might say, “shall we go back a step here, what are we trying to achieve?” or “let’s go back to the beginning, what’s the problem we want to solve?”

Give yourself time. There may be some crisis negotiations that require you to resolve everything there and then, but that is not the norm. Most of our difficult conversations and negotiations go on over multiple events. So take your time, take a break, suggest you both take a pause and come back to the conversation later. That gives you time to reflect on what you have heard and consider your options.

Be open. We get so hung up on being right. What if there is no right, there is just what seems like a good idea right now? And what if there is merit in their thinking too? How could you work together to find a way forward together?

Next time you have a conversation coming up that you think has the potential to feel like a conflict, think through these ideas in advance and give it a go.

And if you’re looking for workshops or 1:1 coaching on influencing and negotiation, get in touch!


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