A Plus

How to replace conflict with cooperation

December 2017

Lalita Raman, Corporate Trainer at Dale Carnegie Training Hong Kong and Macau, shares her tips for keeping emotions under control at critical times for better workplace communication 

The following is an extract of an email of appreciation from one of my clients.

“I had this conversation with my business partner, which went very well. We both could talk freely and we were surprised how essential it was. I told him about my coaching sessions. He realized how lost I was and he admitted that he was partly responsible. I also admitted that I had let things go and stopped fighting for our company (and myself). He changed, I changed. My motivation is back to the highest point.”

This conflict was driven from different perspectives that each of them had on each other’s idea, point of view and the stories that each of them formed about a situation. These were pent up over 18 to 24 months and all communication had come to a standstill.

Each of us has different personalities, different styles of working, and different experiences in life. All these differences mean it is easy for tensions to rise between two people when working together.

Research from several neuroscientists points out that negative emotions leading to stress causes our brain to go into a defensive “fight-flight-or-freeze” response. And while the brain is in such a mode, the areas in our brain responsible for self-control, forward thinking and reasoning with logic are inhibited.

Suppressing our emotions is not the solution, as this has been found to make our brains’ defensive response much more pronounced. How instead should we manage conflicts? Through eight easy steps – C-O-N-F-L-I-C-T.

Concentrate on the issue at hand and avoid getting personal. When you challenge someone else’s point of view, make sure you know why you think what you think. Do you have evidence to support your viewpoint? Our attitude needs to be that of collaboration and cooperation.

Organize your thoughts
Do not let emotions get the better of your brain leading to the activation of the fight-flight-or-freeze defensive mode as this affects your rational thinking and comprehension. We need to organize our thoughts before we speak.

No saying “but”
Say “and” – the word “but” cancels out the positive stated before that. Using the word “and” paves the way for collaboration and constructive communication.

Often, when we get into different viewpoints, we start making statements that are our opinions but we treat them as facts. Ensure you know and speak true facts.

Active listening is at the core of every effective communication. If you are engaged in selective listening or listening to respond, then you will not be able to empathize and see the other person’s perspective.

Imagine you are in the other person’s shoes
This will help you look at what the other person is thinking, their behaviour, and why they think what they think.

Challenge yourself to ask relevant questions
Questions have the power to clarify, to show you care, and to understand others’ thinking.

Try the four “Rs”
Reframe, reorganize, refocuse and redirect your thoughts. Remember that our thoughts lead to feelings which translate into words.

Reframing helps us to look at something in a different light. For example, “I am no good at this,” can be reframed as, “I find this challenging and am happy to learn how to do it.”

Reorganizing our thoughts in a positive way helps us to reframe our communication.

Refocusing allows us to elevate people out of the place where they are stuck and point them toward another part of a larger topic where they can see connections they may not have seen before.

Redirecting is another tool for taking a difficult situation and turning it into an opportunity for finding trust and common ground with someone.

So next time you are led by your emotions, take a deep breath, calm down, and ask yourself what your final aim is and how important it is on a scale of one to 10?