038 How to handle conflict to gain influence

You can’t be alive without experiencing conflict. How you handle conflict can turn that next unpleasant encounter into an opportunity to gain influence. Leary and Armin talk about how to handle conflict and some of the ways it’s not gone so well for them.

How to handle conflict

This episode’s Inspire Me quote is from Winston Churchill:

“We are masters of the unsaid words, but slaves of those we let slip out.”

Unintended words can slip, especially in times of conflict.

Handling conflict is important to what’s next because:

  • Conflict is often the reason people leave for a new job, or abandon relationships they’ve developed.
  • Conflict is inevitable. Even if you leave because of it, you will experience it again.
  • Conflict can impair your judgment. It exaggerates the challenges and diminishes the opportunities. You might make a different decision about your future were the conflict not present.

Leary and Armin discussed their conflict management styles. Both Leary and Armin are more likely to confront conflict rather than to avoid it. In many ways, conflict is borne out of a longing for our ideas and thinking to be validated by another. And we see validation as agreement. As Soren Kierkegaard, once wrote, “People understand me so poorly that they don’t even understand my complaint about them not understanding me.”

Since non-verbal communication is over 70% of the message we send, the best way to resolve conflict is in person, rather than over email or text message.

Leary described four bad habits in managing conflict that he’s had to work on to get better at:

  1. Polarization: When you believe that the only solution to conflict is accepting either their way or insisting that they accept your way, you’ve succumbed to polarization. Look for an alternative option instead. Doing so engages both parties in a common cause and can foster unity.
  2. Putting conflict on hold: Conflict isn’t resolved until it’s resolved for both parties. When you move on faster than the other person, you’ve put the conflict on hold for them. Think of it as an old-fashion business telephone with only 10 incoming lines. If you move from a conflict before another, it puts the conflict on hold for them. Eventually, all the lines fill, and the other person reaches saturation and cannot manage additional conflict until the prior lines are again opened.
  3. Recruiting. Recruiting is anytime you involve others to your side without seeking to resolve the conflict directly with another first. It takes many forms. Gossip is recruiting. So is going to someone’s manager about their behavior, before you’ve spoken with them directly first.
  4. Evaporating. When you withdraw from conflict without explanation, it looks like retribution—like you’re giving them the silent treatment. When you need to disengage to avoid saying something you shouldn’t, don’t evaporate and leave without a trace. Explain that you need some space and would like to discuss it later. Be sure to do so though, or you are just putting the conflict on hold.

Conflict is one of the greatest assets you can have in your life. It can create more health in your life, if you handle it correctly. You’ll gain more insight about yourself under times of conflict than during stable times. Handling conflict in a engaged and healthy way engenders trust and helps you gain influence with others.

Armin’s one piece of advice on handling conflict: “Have it. However, make the purpose of the conflict to create resolution. Conflict makes relationships stronger.”

Leary’s one piece of advice on handling conflict: “Conflict is how you learn what goals you’ve had that you can’t control.”

The Challenge Me for this episode is to ask three people to describe how they see you handle conflict. You’ll learn more about the truth of yourself and also increase your influence when you ask another to sound off on how you manage conflict.

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