Some of the best advice I’ve ever received from my boss Dave Ramsey was on the topic of dealing with conflict or addressing issues within an organization.
Being the person I am, I’ve always worried about the other person’s feelings (to a fault) and oftentimes failed to get anything accomplished when addressing things with people.
Emotions are good. They’re good signals to what’s going on and helpful to us. However, they can hurt us when we’re trying to storm through something to a great resolution.
So here’s the advice I wrote down on a sticky note in my office. It sits under my phone. It’s always there when I feel myself wanting to pitch a fit about something in the wrong way.
When dealing with conflict or needing to address an issue with a co-worker, ministry leader, or superior…
1) Think of the issue as operational. Something isn’t working, now it’s time to find out where the problem is.
2) Write down the facts before you discuss the issue. Keep them before you. This is key for “emo” people like myself. I need to stay focused to avoid feeling hurt. It sounds funny to say but there’s a lot of truth in the facts and they can help us to understand others, communicate more fairly, and remain calm.
3) Try to stay away from how you feel (at least for a little while). Look at the facts and revisit your feelings once you’ve got them down.
4) When communicating with someone about the problem or issue, use language that keeps you focused.
“The problem is….”
“The facts are….”
When a person gets defensive:
“I’m not attacking you…I’m looking at this issue”
“Help me understand…”
“Remind me why this occurred…”
“What can you and I do to resolve this…”
5) Return to your emotions again. They are important. Ask yourself why you felt the way you felt. How were you hurt that made you feel what you felt? What expectation did you have that didn’t get met? What need did you have that wasn’t supplied? Sometimes these answers can help you forecast conflict before it even begins!
I learned a very important lesson in our pre-marital counseling (when I was only 19 years old). If you have one perspective on an issue and your spouse has an opposite perspective and you would like for the issue to be resolved. Then it’s important to stop blocking each others efforts with opposing forces, But instead move to a neutral side to discuss it. On that neutral side you find it much easier to get things done. It makes total sense that things work when we are pressing the issue in the same direction. Progress is made.
I feel like this knowledge has helped me so much in the last decade. Not only to build a strong marriage, but also to build strong working relationships. While, I’ve had a few working relationships that didn’t exactly “work”. I did learn through them how I might handle myself better next time.
We’re human. We’re going to have conflict. But it’s really cool when you feel confident enough in your leadership that you can confront, process, reslove, and maintain relationships at the same time.