We deal with it at work, at home, at the grocery store… conflict is an inevitable part of life, and knowing how to handle it (and, more important, handle it well) is a hallmark of a high-value person. Here, we present our ultimate guide to high value conflict resolution.
How to Resolve Conflict without Getting Your Hands Dirty
Conflict resolution in a high-value way means that you approach any conflict with a plan. This ensures that you come out on the other side smelling like roses, instead of getting bogged down in the kind of low-value behaviors that would leave you smelling like something rather different.
Take these five tips to heart to help you turn even the most combative situation into a win for everyone involved.
Offer Value from the Start
Go into the situation with the understanding that it is possible for two high-value adults to figure out a win-win resolution, even in a heated conflict. With this mindset, you can operate from a sense of optimism, rather than being filled with dread, rage, and stress.
Set the stage by coming in smiling. Pay a compliment, make a joke, shake hands, or give a high five to get the interaction off to a friendly start. This will allow the other person to see that there’s no need to get riled up. All that’s happening here is two good people working through a conflict like adults.
Preparing yourself and engaging in a positive way will defuse any tense situation. It’s natural to feel stressed and nervous in the face of conflict, but those feelings don’t have to dictate the conversation.
If you set the tone by using confident body language, you’ll help the other person feel at ease and communicate that you’re not there to pick a fight or be critical. A genuine smile and some warmth in your face will help drain the tension from the situation — a strong first step toward conflict resolution.
Most arguments stem from one person’s refusal to take responsibility for their role in the conflict and instead shift the blame on to the other person. Take responsibility for your role in the situation, and you’ll alleviate a lot of tension and gain more control over the outcome.
You can’t hop into a time machine and change the past, but if you take responsibility, you open up the possibility of finding a solution going forward. A high-value individual takes ownership; they don’t bicker about who’s at fault. Low-value individuals start pointing fingers, dig in their heels, and settle in for an all-out fight. Own your contribution to the problem right away and clear the path for more positive outcomes.
Show Some Empathy
Rather than giving in to the urge to snap, look at the situation from the other person’s perspective. When you practice empathy, you avoid going into rage mode — making it “safe” for the other person to remain calm as well.
For example, let’s say you took your car to the mechanic and expected to pick it up at the end of the day. You arrive to discover that your car’s not ready, even though they promised it would be. Pretty easy to get angry and blow up here, right?
Instead, try to step back and put yourself in the mechanic’s shoes. Maybe it has been a crazy day. Maybe the shop was short-staffed because someone called off. Maybe another customer gave him a hard time. You don’t know what has happened today to cause this delay.
Give yourself a moment to reflect on the other person’s perspective and show them some empathy. You could say something like, “Hey, it happens. I totally understand. You’ve got a lot of cars coming in and out of here. I know people get pretty riled up, especially when their cars are broken down.”
A compassionate response shows that you understand their position. Instead of escalating the situation, empathy allows both parties to focus on solutions, which is what you really wanted in the first place.
Use “We” to Show You’re on the Same Team
The problem is the problem — not the other person. High-value people understand that getting ahead requires building rapport. Cooperation is impossible if you’re poking the other person like an angry bear. By using “team speak,” you establish that you’re both on the same side and working together to find a mutually beneficial solution.
Doctors who’ve worked through our Art of Charm Challenge have told us that this tip works wonders for them, especially when they need to deliver bad news or help patients face difficult situations. This approach places them in a neutral position and creates a sense of facing the problem together, making patients more at ease.
This tactic works especially well in those conflicts with people you have an ongoing relationship with, like a coworker. You don’t want them to “kill the messenger,” so align yourself with the other person and face the situation together.
Pro Tip: Use neutral body language, like sitting or standing side-by-side as opposed to facing off head-on. This stance helps to create the sense that the problem is not “between” you. This strategy works beautifully in sit-down meetings, too, so be mindful of your physical position in the room. Pay attention to who’s sitting where. Size up the situation and position yourself where you can best build rapport.
Bring Options to the Table
A high-value person always knows what they want before they come to the table. They also understand that it’s much easier to negotiate down. Low-value people never come in with a solution toward conflict resolution. They come in with guns blazing, raring for a fight, wanting to defend themselves, and ready to dig in their heels in and bash the other person. In contrast, you approach the conflict with a cooperative mindset, an empathetic position, a solution that makes everyone feel like a winner, and body language that backs it all up. It’s obvious which person is going to find a favorable compromise.
Back to the garage for an example: Let’s say the mechanic informs you of a muffler service add-on they’ve started work on, and that’s what has put your car repair behind schedule. Instead of mumbling and grumbling about taking a few dollars off, you could say, “Since I’m already all the way down here, how about we figure this out together and I’ll get out of your hair. Here are some options that would satisfy me…” Suddenly, you’ve opened the floor to negotiation.
The best part of coming to the table prepared with options is that you’re already on the road to conflict resolution, especially if you’ve followed our previous advice. As the other person warms to you and begins to agree with you, they’re more likely to be receptive to the solutions you suggest.
Pro Tip: What if none of this stuff works and the other person refuses to compromise or even have a reasonable conversation that leads to conflict resolution? Well, at least you now see that you’ve got someone you should probably stay away from. Some folks just want to be angry, acting like a psychopath, sociopath, or idiot, but you don’t have to be dragged down into their negative energy. You don’t have to engage on that level, and you can choose not to maintain close contact with people who behave that way.
If nothing else, showing up to a conflict happy, calm, and self-controlled means you won’t give the other person any ammunition against you, even if they’re determined to fight. Just because they’re on a power trip and trying to get a reaction out of you doesn’t mean you have to fall into a trap that derails the possibility of conflict resolution.
Meditation and mindfulness can help you strengthen your mind, so you won’t feel attacked and defensive and wind up reacting in a way that fuels the conflict. Engage in these mental exercises regularly and practice these conflict resolution tips whenever possible to ensure that you always resolve conflict on your terms, regardless of what other people do. Knowing how to deescalate a situation and solve problems cooperatively is one of the markers of a truly high-value individual.