Ordinarily, business people do not find the morning talk shows and gabfests to be places of enormous business insight. More often, these shows are mildly entertaining and perhaps expose a side of humanity that most viewers find even more outlandish than their own. However, every now and again; there are moments of wisdom that one can extract from these shows and apply to business.
Something About That Man
One such moment occurred for me not too long ago while watching a Dr. Phil episode. While the show was focused on a raging conflict between relatives (typical in-laws issues with the spouse of a married child), the homespun comment that the host used has applicability much more universally than just in familial spats. Dr. Phil shared a story about his Father’s ongoing dispute with another person that included the line, “There is something about that man that I don’t like about myself.”
As I reflected on that line, the wisdom of it became obvious. We often react strongest and have the most negative response to others when they remind us of what we don’t like about our own behavior. It is in part because of our shame, lack of confidence, or other feelings about our own thoughts or actions that we react so strongly when we are “triggered” by another person’s demonstration or reminder of that in ourselves.
However, the issue of conflict and whether to avoid it, what to do when it flares, and techniques to use to prevent it from negatively influencing results is not as simple as suggesting that people just look within and make peace with themselves. Conflict is very real and can have advantageous effects or deleterious impact depending on the way it is handled.
Importance of Relationship
The level of conflict is very much related to the intensity or closeness of the relationship. We rarely have conflict with those we have little interaction, regard, or involvement with. Further, we often view those people we do have frequent contact with, but also frequent conflict, as being “difficult.” Yet, we are tasked with finding ways to be productive and constructive with them without allowing the conflict to interfere.
An article in a blog titled, “Dumb Little Man” delved into this topic at length. It explored the tendency we all have to “fight, flight, or freeze” when in the face of conflict. The main point of the blog was to address different coping skills for managing conflict more successfully.
Suggested Tips For Handling Difficult People
- Acknowledging your role: Accept responsibility for your thoughts, feelings, actions, values, and perceptions that you contribute to the conflict.
- Flexibility: Look for opportunities to compromise, problem-solve, or brainstorming of different options.
- Focus: Identify the real issue of conflict and not react to the ancillary. Is it the idea that causes conflict or is it the person him or herself that is leading to the conflict?
What Good Can Come Of It?
Conflict can be productive if it improves the outcome by forcing people to consider other possibilities or solutions. To know if that is occurring, look for the following:
- Clarification around important issues is achieved.
- Solutions are reached (and agreed upon)
- Members of a team or people seeking the same goal build a mutually agreeable outcome that allows them to create cohesiveness and to learn more about each other.
While conflict is not always pleasant, it need not be destructive. By focusing on more than just being proven “right” and viewing it as a personal attack, conflict can serve to improve the final decision or bring people closer together.