Conflict is an inevitable part of any relationship, whether it’s between colleagues, employees, or board members. As a leader, you’re bound to face these challenges head-on more often than most. And while it’s certainly not a pleasant experience, conflict can be an opportunity to build deeper connections and foster a more positive work environment.
So how can you turn conflict into a positive force in your life and business? Here are secrets from effective leaders on how to deal with conflict:
Develop A “People First” Mindset
When faced with conflict, it is essential to remember that there are people behind the problem. You may be angry or frustrated, but try to focus on understanding the other party’s perspective rather than attacking them. This people-first approach will create an atmosphere of respect and understanding, allowing for a more constructive resolution.
One great example is in 2017 when the Singapore Mass Rapid Transit (SMRT) operations were disrupted due to flooding. The SMRT Chairman, Seah Moon Ming, addressed and took ownership of the issue and apologized publicly, placing responsibility on himself rather than blaming his team.
This attitude by Mr. Seah Moon Ming has demonstrated no matter the size of your organization, placing people first can go a long way in rebuilding trust and respect. And now, SMRT has since become a much more reliable public transportation network.
You can adopt this mindset into your conflict resolution strategies by taking a step back, listening carefully to the other person’s viewpoint, and avoiding getting defensive. In doing so, you may be able to create a more open line of communication and find an effective solution.
Listen More Than You Talk
It’s also important to listen more than you talk when you’re in the midst of a conflict. But it doesn’t mean that you should stay quiet the whole time—after all, you need to be able to express your own needs and wants. However, making an effort to hear what the other person is saying will help you understand their perspective and allow for a more productive dialogue.
Doing so will help de-escalate the situation and give you a better understanding of what’s important to them and what they’re hoping to achieve. Being an active listener will also increase the chances of reaching a mutually beneficial solution.
There are many ways to foster effective communication and help find a resolution. You can have a brainstorming session where you and the other party identify possible solutions that could benefit both of you. You can also try the “yes, and…” technique, where you listen to a person’s idea and then build on it with your ideas instead of dismissing them. This approach will show the other party you value their opinion and help you reach a more creative and collaborative resolution.
Be Willing to Compromise
In many cases, conflict arises because people are unwilling to compromise. Everyone has their ideas about what’s best, but at the end of the day, there’s often a middle ground that both parties can be happy with.
If you can let go of some of your preconceived notions and meet the other person halfway, chances are good that you’ll be able to come up with a solution that works for everyone involved. Especially in the workplace, compromise can be essential to success. So, be open to this, and you may be able to transform an argument into a productive conversation.
Focus on Moving Forward
No one likes to be bogged down by old grievances and arguments. If you want to move forward, focusing on the future is essential instead of dwelling on the past. Everyone will make mistakes, and that’s okay.
That means you should be willing to forgive and forget, especially if it doesn’t serve any purpose to bring up the issue again. Doing so will help you maintain a positive relationship with the other person and prevent future arguments from escalating too quickly. This approach is often the best option when dealing with a conflict.
As a professional, taking no grudges and learning from mistakes can help you succeed in your career. That’s why moving forward and focusing on the present is essential—it enables you to build trust with your colleagues and create a culture of understanding.
When all is said and done, effective leaders know that conflict is inevitable in life and business. But with the right strategies and attitude, even challenging conversations can be navigated. By keeping a positive outlook and being willing to compromise, you can handle any conflict with grace and come away with a more productive understanding of the situation.