Conflict – constructive conflict – can present an outstanding leadership opportunity for positive growth and transformation, along with a deepened capacity for understanding ourselves and the world around us.
Transform Conflict into a Courageous Conversation
Transforming conflict into courageous conversations that achieve results can be thought of as an art form. First, it is helpful to recognize when we may be trying to dodge conflict altogether.
The reasons why we may wish to avoid conflict are many. Perhaps some of these statements sound familiar:
- I want to be the person everyone likes, to fit in.
- It’s better not to rock the apple cart.
- I don’t want to get involved. What good would it do?
- This is going nowhere. Why bother?
- I might strain or erode the relationship.
- I don’t know what to say or do.
- What if I say something I later regret?
- It would just feel too awkward.
To Authentic Leaders, Conflict = Opportunity
If you tend to see conflict as something to be avoided at all costs, I invite you to think of it in a fresh new way – as an opportunity to achieve greater levels of fulfillment. There’s no doubt: shifting unproductive conflict into a courageous conversation can have powerful results.
In truth, conflict in leadership and in life is unavoidable. Let’s focus on what you can do – as an authentic leader and as a human being – to transform that next conflicting situation into a courageous conversation.
5 Strategies for a Successful Courageous Conversation
1- Begin by listening loudly. Before you jump into the conversation, take time to listen – really listen – to what’s going on around you. What’s being said? Listening loudly doesn’t stop with your ears. Go below the waterline of what you can visually perceive to consider what might be happening just beneath the surface to influence behaviors.
2- Before you speak, pause. All leaders feel stressed from time to time. When we feel strained, we may say or do something that feels “out of character” or totally misaligned with our values. Instead of being pulled in by the heat of the moment and reacting instinctively, take a deep breath first to realign yourself before responding. And if that doesn’t work, then…
3- Press your internal “reset” button. Resetting allows us to come back to ourselves, to back up and punt when things are getting out of hand or feel overwhelming. Pausing, taking stock, breathing deeply, and then determining the “right” next move create the foundation you need to move forward most effectively. Whether it’s for a couple minutes or much longer, this is one restorative tactic you’ll want to employ again and again.
4- Change the way you view your world. What if there were no labels like “good” and “bad”? Imagine how much differently your perception might become if you viewed emotions as a gauge to help you understand when your needs are being met – and when they are not. You may find these resources from The Center for Non-Violent Communication on feelings and needs very helpful.
5- Clearly define your intentions. Even if this means scribbling down your thoughts on a piece of paper, it’s vitally important that you understand what your intentions are. Why? Because no matter what the situation, being able to articulate your intentions effectually increases your chances of achieving what you want.
BONUS Tip: Be mindful of body language. It’s easy to get caught up in the heat of the moment, focusing on what’s being said verbally. Yet, over 90% of our communication with others is actually nonverbal. Therefore, make your nonverbal cues count – here are some body language strategies to know about.
Focus on the Benefits of Having That Courageous Conversation
I’ll leave you today with a powerful quote from Forbes author Margie Warrell:
“Issues that aren’t talked out get acted out in snide remarks and innuendoes, higher absenteeism and turnover, and lower productivity and engagement.
When you are discussing something sensitive, what is left unsaid is often what the conversation really needs to be about.”
Think about the positive implications of having that courageous conversation. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather bring up what needs to be discussed (even if it is a sensitive topic). When we break the chains of unproductive conflict, we discover the freedom we need to soar to new heights of fulfillment.
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Colleen Slaughter Raue, Managing Partner of Authentic Leadership International
Colleen is a transformational leadership coach who guides international leaders as they attain the clarity, courage and self-confidence necessary to realize higher levels of productivity and fulfillment in both their personal and professional lives.
Her purpose is to facilitate her clients’ transformation from limiting beliefs and self-doubts into a deeper, more powerful knowingness of how much they – and what they envision for themselves – truly matter.
Colleen’s perspectives were recently featured in an article on the International Coach Federation’s website here.