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Let me tell you something: I don’t like conflicts. I never did. I grew up in a very harmonious environment and the conflicts I do remember were with friends at school or with my parents. As I got older, there were also conflicts in my personal and professional relationships. I used to feel really bad about conflicts and I often wished they would go away as soon as possible. My way of dealing with conflicts was to ignore them, concentrate on the positive side of the situation, or give in to the opinion of the other person.
I still do not like conflicts, but I learn how to approach them differently. This article is about conflicts and how to deal with them more productively and effectively.
What are conflicts?
A conflict is a difference of opinions between me and someone else or a group of people. For me, strong emotions are often involved in conflicts. Sometimes I feel bad, afraid of being rejected, I want to walk away (hide), my heart starts to beat rapidly or I get a headache. It drains my energy. Do you recognize this?
We all deal with conflicts whether at home or at work. Conflicts are inevitable, but they can be productive.
Although conflicts might be something you want to avoid and find hard to deal with, it can help you to solve problems. It’s important that everyone has the feeling that he or she is being heard and that conflicts are resolved in a healthy way.
Address the conflict
The first step is to take charge and address the conflict. You can’t hide from conflicts although they are excellent issues to procrastinate. Chances are that they will then get bigger and bigger. But at one point you need to deal with the elephant in the room.
For all conflicts, I find that it’s important to stay respectful and try to release the tension of the situation. The other person is uncomfortable about the conflict as well. So, refrain from using profanity and focus first on yourself by expressing what your opinion is, what you find important, how you feel about the situation, and how you would like to resolve it.
In dealing with conflicts, it’s about how you react. You cannot control how others react to a conflict. Over the years, I am learning to handle my conflicts, make my opinion clear and stay calm. This means that it’s OK to be silent for a while during the conversation. You don’t have to talk all the time. Give yourself (and the other person) time to process what has been said.
In the paragraphs above I have described what my behavior was (and sometimes still is) and how I deal with conflicts. To make this clearer: I am someone who is enthusiastic, lively, and outgoing. My focus is more on the expression of feelings and on creating consensus. This is different from somebody who is direct, strong-willed, or reserved. They focus on logic or winning.
Everybody has their own way of dealing with conflicts. Within the DISC communication profile, we recognize 4 different profiles or styles: Dominant, Influence, Steadiness, and Conscientious. I’ve described these profiles more in this article about DISC Communication.
If you are aware of other people’s communication styles, you can better understand why they react in a certain way to conflicts. This enables you to be more effective and productive in dealing with conflicts.
Productive and destructive habits in conflicts
Every communication style has productive tendencies and destructive tendencies. You can compare them with positive habits and negative habits. For me, a productive tendency is to be emphatic or to provide reassurance. A negative habit is that I can become too emotional (dramatic) or impulsive to solve a conflict rapidly.
Your DISC profile during a conflict
To discover your own communication style and insights on how you can react more effectively and productively to conflicts, you can get your own DISC productive conflict profile. An online assessment will create an excellent report you can work with for yourself or with your team. A sample DISC productive conflict profile report can be found here. It includes your own DISC style during a conflict, ways how to deal with other communication styles when in conflict, and a reflection exercise on how you currently deal with conflicts and how this could be better.
This exercise really helps you to become aware of how you behave in a conflict situation. It helps you to recognize your automatic thoughts. For me, an automatic thought could be that I need to end this (difficult) conversation as soon as possible.
Next, the exercise helps you how you can change your response and how you choose productive responses. For me, this would be to take time to address unresolved conflicts or to separate emotions from facts more often.
By becoming aware of my own conflict profile I feel that I am more in control of my own emotions, that there are fewer fears of being rejected, and that I am more effective. Furthermore, I feel that others can rely more on me since I do state my opinions and that I am taking responsibility.
Take action now!
Would you like this as well? Would you like to be in control of how you react to conflicts? And would you like to know how to deal with conflicts more productively? I can help you! Contact me and I will send you (or your team) an offer to receive your own DISC productive conflict profile and to work with me to get more insights into how you can be even more productive and effective.
How do you deal with conflicts? Do you address them directly or do you wait and hope that they will be over soon? Let me know in the comment box below. I and other readers of this article look forward to read from you!
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Update: I wrote the original article on June 19, 2018, and it was updated on April 22, 2022.