conflict resolution, better communication, corporate communication

4 Effective Ways to Prevent, De-escalate, or Resolve Conflict Through Better Communication

By Nancy Eberhardt

Today’s headlines are rife with tension and conflict. Too often, people are so focused on winning the argument that they lose sight of the higher goal—finding a workable, viable solution. Resolving—or preventing—conflict is far less about being “right” and much more about being honest, direct and respectful in our discourse.

Author and activist Anne Lamott is credited with saying, “You can either practice being right or practice being kind.” In that same vein, my coaching question has often been, “Would you rather be right or effective?” The winning outcome should be about both sides being effective and kind.

In today’s fiery, strife-filled interactions, here are 4 effective ways to handle conflict with better communication:

Cultivate genuine compassion. Extend empathy toward the other person(s) and the case they present. Find an appreciation for their humanity and perspective. Although you may not agree with their choices or opinions, they’re not necessarily wrong, either.

Be inquisitive. Ask open questions to formulate true and clear comprehension. Strive to learn not just the “what” but also the “why” and the “how.” Starting from a place of curiosity rather than dismissiveness provides the opportunity for everyone to participate, not just the loudest voices.

Listen carefully to understand (not to respond). We frequently interrupt people or tune them out to think ahead about our response. Eliminate that habit; rather, listen intently to gain a better understanding. Then, pause before you offer a response or follow up with an additional question. Aim to come away with new information that is helpful to a resolution.

Speak respectfully. Be wary of language that is condescending or dismissive. Often, “corporate speak” can feel insincere or detached. Choose your words carefully and with intent to deliver an authentic response that honors all sides.

Consider the value in being “right” versus being effective. Is winning the argument at all costs worth it? Or, is there a greater potential for success for everyone if we are more focused on effective communication?

When we shift from an approach that is defensive, petulant or obstinate to an inquisitive and considerate mindset, we are more likely to arrive at a collaborative win-win solution.

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