I’ve seen an uptick in requests for training programs on how to have difficult conversation or manage conflict well. These topics have always been offered because they are a basic interpersonal skill that is called on for more in the workplace.
Unless you work with people who were raised exactly as you were raised, went to your school, and had the same financial advantages or disadvantages you did – there are going to be areas where you think differently and have different perspectives and ideas. That can lead to friction.
And that’s not even considering our current political times.
Can you increase your ability to be tolerant? By definition, tolerance requires difference so could you be more tolerant of those who don’t agree with you? If you vehemently oppose those who differ from you, you want to suppress them but if you tolerate them, you don’t try to. And if you want to govie up on the whole thing – you might just work to avoid them. Not so easy to do at work
In the workplace politics, religion, and lifestyle choices are NOT topics that get the product or service out the door. But there are times when friction not only can’t be avoided, it needs to be dealt with effectively in order to get through it and on to the business at hand.
There are things we can do to reduce the vitriol and volume:
- Why are you having the conversation? If there is no supportive purpose – beware.
- Yelling doesn’t make the words any different. Aim for keeping the volume down and the tone civil. Model the way you want others to speak to you no matter how the other person is talking. Civility and respect count for a lot.
- State your view on the topic or issue. Don’t make it about the other person. If it’s your opinion, own it. If it’s how you heard it or interpreted it – say so. Try using phrases like “I think,” I’d prefer,” or I’d like.”
- Forget about selling your point of view. It is unlikely that any one is going to buy it. Don’t assume the other person will see or understand your point of view. Instead, aim to make it a learning conversation where you are asking questions to understand how they think the way that they do. You don’t have to agree but you can understand.
- Forget about right and wrong. Binary choices create a win-lose proposition. Instead, think about what you hope to accomplish and move forward with a goal in mind.
You can be gracious and agree to disagree. You can be open and mention that you now have some new things to think about. If things get too difficult, you can take a break and go get a drink of water.
Always give yourself permission to end the interaction if you are feeling beaten up or disrespected. You don’t have to let friction or difficult conversations stop you from working well with others.