One of the problems that occurs during a conflict is losing sight of the fact that there’s always a solution. Through more than 20 years in healthcare management, 6 years running a low barrier homeless shelter for men, and now 2 years as a pastor, I have seen a lot of conflict. I have mediated conflict between physicians and executives, homeless men and city government, and drug addicted homeless men with their significant others, co-workers, and family members. In almost every conflict, there are three ingredients:
- Emotion: This can be good emotion or, too often, bad emotion. The emotion can be driven by history, the topic, false beliefs, accurate beliefs, and how things are heard or perceived. Emotion is always there.
- The issue at hand: This is the reason the conflict arose.
- Desire to win: If there was no desire to win (or be right), there would be no conflict.
When you recognize that those three ingredients exist in almost every conflict, you can start to address each to come to a resolution. If any of the three are ignored, it can seem as though a solution does not exist. Here are some tips on how to manage conflict once you have recognized those ingredients:
- Nothing is solved when emotions run high. I cannot recall any examples of long-term conflict resolution when someone is yelling, angry, or course during conflict. Cooler heads always prevail. If resolution is demanded when emotions are running high, ridiculous solutions tend to be agreed upon that do not last.
- Within all of the noise surrounding a conflict, it becomes loud. And if you cannot describe the issue at hand in a sentence, it’s likely that the conflict will not be resolved. While this might seem like an oversimplification, too many times there are arguments around countless details and side stories, all of which may be interesting, but take the focus off the simple issue at hand. This requires asking “why” many times, which may lead to new areas of misunderstanding. It should lead to the root of the problem. If the root of the problem isn’t dealt with, it will grow back in different ways.
- If we redefine “winning” as a conflict being resolved, instead of treating it as a tennis match, long-term resolution would be easier to achieve. Frequently, individuals want to win rather than resolve the conflict. The vast majority of conflict happens with individuals who are on the same team, but do not act like they are battling a common enemy. Leaders need to focus on what matters, and not on winning.
[This piece was written by Steve Huffman, former CIO at Memorial Health System of South Bend and Beacon Health System. To view the original post, click here. Follow him on Twitter at @SteveHuffman_IN.]