In 1965, Paul McCartney wrote a song that was inspired by a disagreement with Jane Asher, his fiancé at the time. It was called, "WE CAN WORK IT OUT." His solution to their conflict was revealed in the first line of the song, "TRY TO SEE IT MY WAY." While the tune gave The Beatles another number one hit, Jane never did see it Paul's way and she ended their five-year relationship after the song was released.
How do you handle the conflicts in your life? Do you believe your business battles and family feuds could be WORKED OUT quicker if other people would just see the world YOUR WAY?
During disagreements, many leaders use facts to convince others their point of view is correct. The problem with this strategy, outside a court of law, is that facts are irrelevant when people are emotional. No matter how much proof or charisma a leaders has, they're not going to honestly hear someone say, "You're Right. I'm Wrong." because human beings are constantly gathering evidence to support their own opinion.
Many leaders admit to getting so frustrated with some people at work that they've developed the unhealthy habit of avoiding conflict. They say they just don't have the time or energy to deal with difficult people or even hear about relationship problems in their organization. It appears easier to work around the "elephants in the room." However, these leaders are unconsciously training their team to remain silent about subjects that should be shared. At the same time, the team members who don't speak up are giving the leader the illusion that everything is OK, even when there are some problems that need to be addressed.
I believe one of the solutions for a healthier approach to resolving conflict in our workplaces, families and communities is for leaders to learn, practice and teach a positive process for using conflict to build stronger relationships and remarkable results.
This 7-step process will help you achieve that objective:
Be committed to creating a new and better solution. The least creative thing you can do during a conflict with someone is take either person's original idea. Innovation comes when you take the best thoughts from each person and develop something that didn't exist before you started to resolve the conflict.
Meet face-to-face and focus on the person, not the problem. Your goal, whenever possible, should be to meet face-to-face to repair the relationship and really understand the other person's view of the world. You may have to let them vent for a few minutes before you truly understand their issues. Remember, empathy does not mean you agree. It just demonstrates you care enough to understand their story.
Ask questions and really listen to their answers. During this part of the conflict resolution process, it's essential that you refrain from judging the person or their point of view. Just ask open-ended questions so you can understand more about their facts and feelings, listen for the significant content of their message, observe their body language and tone of voice, learn something new, and identify what you have in common.
Summarize your understanding of what you've learned. You don't want to suggest a resolution until the other person has confidence that you know how they feel and they agree to the common ground you discovered. You want to honor your differences and work together to build a creative solution based on what you have in common.
Create a mutually-beneficial agreement. Explore the advantages and disadvantages of several ideas before selecting the one that both of you agree is superior to either of your original suggestions.
Ask for a commitment to move forward with the new idea. Just talking about problems or complaining doesn't benefit anyone. Conflict is a catalyst for creating change only when positive action is taken. Make sure you both agree on who will do what by when.
Help other people resolve their conflicts. The quality of your team's relationships and results will not get better by eliminating conflict from their lives...teaching them how to resolve conflict the positive way will.
If you practice this positive process, it will save you time and dramatically reduce the unhealthy stress associated with dealing with disagreements in all areas of your life.
If you're not ready to incorporate all 7 steps, just pick one to work on each day and soon your relationships, results and well-being will improve.
I also think it's important to reflect on the only contribution John Lennon made to the song "WE CAN WORK IT OUT." After observing the conflict between Paul and Jane, John added these words of wisdom to the third verse...
"Life is very short and there's no time for fussing and fighting, my friend."