Twelve Steps to Win-Win Conflict Resolution
Conflict is a natural part of business and of life. The natural give and take between people is a healthy way to create constructive discontent and to discover new approaches to challenges. Problems arise in the ways that you deal with these conflicts. Some people tend to take an approach that is too direct. Others shy away from confrontations to avoid hurting other people's feelings, to protect their own feelings, or because they lack confidence, which often leads to unresolved issues and lingering problems. There is middle ground.
Using the right approaches, you can deal with conflicts in effective ways that resolve the issues while maintaining positive relationships. This starts with clearly understanding the issues and the personalities involved. When you understand different styles of conflict resolution, you are able to see things from the other person's point of view. Simply having empathy for another person's perspective will go a long way towards resolving those conflicts.
Step 1: Have a positive attitude.
Your attitude is essential to the outcome. You have a much better chance of coming to an outcome involving mutual gains if you approach the conflict as an opportunity to learn and achieve a win-win outcome.
Step 2: Meet on mutual ground.
Find a mutually agreeable, comfortable, and convenient physical space to meet. Agree on when you will meet and how much time you want to devote to the process. Whenever possible, deal with conflict face-to-face.
Step 3: Clearly define and agree on the issue.
Agree on a statement of the issue using simple and factual terms. If the situation is multi-faceted, search for ways to slice the large issue into smaller pieces and deal with one issue at a time.
Step 4: Do your homework.
Take time to plan. You must not only know what is at stake for yourself, but you need to understand the other side's concerns and motivation. Take into consideration any history or past situations that might affect the resolution. Know the must-haves (non-negotiable items) and nice-to-haves (negotiable items). Determine the best resolution, a fair and reasonable compromise, and a minimally acceptable outcome.
Step 5: Take an honest inventory of yourself.
Determine your level of trust in the other people and the process. Be conscious of aspects of your personality that can help or hinder the process.
Step 6: Look for shared interests.
Get on the same side by finding and establishing similarities. Since conflict tends to magnify perceived differences and minimize similarities, look for common goals, objectives, or even gripes that illustrate that you are in this together. Focus on the future, talk about what is to be done, and tackle the problem jointly.
Step 7: Deal with facts, not emotions.
Address problems, not personalities. Avoid any tendency to attack other people or to pass judgment on ideas and opinions. Avoid focusing on the past or blaming others. Maintain a rational, goal-oriented frame of mind. This will depersonalize the conflict, separate the issues from the people involved, and avoid defensiveness.
Step 8: Be honest.
Don't play games. Be honest and clear about what is important to you. It is equally essential to be clear and to communicate why organization goals, issues, and objectives are important.
Step 9: Present alternatives and provide evidence.
Create options and alternatives that demonstrate willingness to compromise. Consider conceding in areas that might have high value to others but are not that important to you. Frame options in terms of the other people's interests and provide evidence for your point of view.
Step 10: Be an expert communicator.
Nothing shows determination to find a mutually satisfactory resolution to conflict more than applying excellent communication skills. Ask questions, listen, rephrase what you heard to check for understanding, and take a genuine interest in each person's concerns. Focus on ways in which you can move toward a resolution or compromise.
Step 11: End on a good note.
Make a win-win proposal and check to make sure that everyone involved leaves the situation feeling they have won. Shake on it and agree on the action steps, who is responsible for each step, how success will be measured, and how and when the resolution will be evaluated. If there is a deadlock on non-critical issues, agree to disagree.
Step 12: Enjoy the process.
Appreciate the benefits of learning other people's perspective. People report that after overcoming conflict and reaching an agreement, the relationship grew even stronger. Reflect and learn from each experience. Determine the criteria to evaluate the process and the solution.
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