One of the biggest reasons we fail at handling conflict is that we don’t prepare.
Too often we just jump into the hard conversation. We don’t check our emotions or our motives. We may rehearse it briefly in our head, but we really don’t take the time to get it right before dealing with the conflict.
And, when emotions get strong and out of control, what happens? It usually turns out bad and oftentimes worsens the situation.
How do we fix that? By preparing for conflict. Conflicts handled in a positive and respectful way provide an opportunity for growth for both parties.
Here are 5 steps to take before dealing with conflict and having that hard conversation.
Table of Contents
Separate Fact From Fiction
It’s easy to make assumptions about the other person’s motives and intentions (and we usually assume the worst). Not only do we make assumptions, but we also treat them as fact. We’ll “know” it to be true. Then we will go into a conversation arguing these motives and intentions instead of discussing the facts and discovering the intentions.
Separate facts from fiction.
- What do you know?
- What do you not know?
- What are the facts of what happened?
- What about the situation are you just assuming?
You can then go to the other person with the facts and then discuss the rest as what they are assumptions.
Otherwise, if you go in with your assumptions as facts, it will raise defensiveness more and much more likely lead to another failed hard conversation.
Sort Out Your Feelings
Sometimes when someone hurts us, or we are in a difficult situation, we have a bundle of emotions. It’s important for us to sort these emotions out and understand how we are feeling.
Sometimes, our emotional reactions are quite difficult to control but we can definitely learn how to manage them effectively. Get a piece of paper and start writing out the different aspects of the situation and your emotions toward each part (and why if you can – why do you feel that way).
This can help you assess and see the situation more clearly. It will give you a greater understanding of yourself and the whole situation. It will also allow you to express your feelings more clearly.
Knowing your emotions can also help you control your emotions versus them controlling you.
Discover Your Contribution
In the vast majority of arguments and conflicts, each person has contributed something toward the problem. Sometimes the contribution might be something as simple as being silent for so long about the situation. Too often in conflict, we lay all blame on the other person instead of looking at ourselves to see what we did to help contribute to the problem.
It is important to discover your contribution. See what you did to help create it or keep it going.
This will help you keep perspective during the hard conversation and help you put down the other person’s defensiveness when you acknowledge and even apologize for your contribution. It will also help you focus on finding a solution rather than just laying blame.
Know Your Motives
One reason hard conversations go so awry is that we often go into them with the wrong motives. We go in to lay blame. To prove the other person wrong. To prove ourselves right. To vent our anger and frustration. To hurt the other person.
The problem is that none of those purposes actually solves the problem. In fact, it only makes the situation even worse.
It is important to examine your motives. Is your purpose to resolve the situation and to come to a solution? Or is it to prove yourself right and the other person wrong? If your motive is wrong, you have to get it right before having that conversation.
Write It Out and Practice
Write out the message you want to give. It’s okay to put all your emotions into it to let them out if needed. Then you can go through it again and edit it.
Writing it out will let you have a more solid message. It will give you time to review the words you’re going to say, think over them, find the right words, and practice them. Using this technique before dealing with conflict not only boosts your confidence but also ensures that you are on the right track to making the situation better.
To practice, read your message out loud. Listen to how it sounds and comes across. Depending on the conversation, you can even get a trusted friend to practice with and roleplay (but remember the purpose – it’s not to bash the other person but to resolve the situation).
Final Thoughts on 5 Steps You Should Take Before Dealing With Conflict
Dealing with conflict is not an easy task to do. However, there are steps we can all learn on how to deal with them effectively. The steps provided are simple but effective and should do the trick towards conflict resolution when done right.
So, before dealing with conflict, take time to prepare to make sure you start the hard conversations right. It’s imperative that you separate fact from fiction, sort out your feelings, discover your contribution, know your motives, and write it out and practice.
Do these, and you will be taking one giant step forward toward a positive resolution to the problem. Don’t make it more difficult when you can resolve it in a simple way.
Now to you: Is there anything that we miss? Let us know in the comments below.