We’re not always going to get along with everyone we work with. Everyone has different opinions, ways of doing work, handling strategies, and even common annoyances that make conflict with a coworker inevitable.
Have a coworker that chews loudly at their desk during lunch or while they’re taking a snack break? What about one is a fundamentally different person than you personality wise, which causes you to butt heads constantly during meetings?
We all know someone who gets on our last nerves at work, and who we try to avoid at all costs during the typical 8-hour workday.
But what if I told you that by avoiding conflict with that particular coworker you’re doing more harm than good?
If you have a workplace conflict, and you sincerely want to see it resolved so you can move on with your job and your life, here are a few tips.
Have A Conversation
Conflict almost always start with miscommunication. When you’re in the heat of the moment, and you feel really passionately about your ideas, you might not always be communicating your ideas efficiently. If you feel like a conflict was caused by an inadequate conversation, then it’s always best to schedule a time to talk with that person again. Let them know through an email or quick phone call that you didn’t feel like you explained yourself well enough during the last meeting, and that you’d like to set up a new meeting to resolve any wrong information. Chances are, they were thinking the same thing, and would like to talk with you again as well.
Conversation arguably involves two skills: talking and listening, with listening being the most important of the two for avoiding conflict. Let’s say you’re having a heated discussion with a coworker about the best way to use your extra marketing funds for an advertising campaign. You say you should go the more progressive way and advertise online only, but your coworker argues that traditional ads, such as billboards, magazines, and newspaper ads, are the more efficient way. Neither one of you is necessarily wrong, but it doesn’t matter because at this point you’re both talking over each other and failing to listen to what the other person has to say. You don’t even know if their ideas make sense because you haven’t heard them yet! Listening solves many of the most common workplace conflicts.
Admit When You’re Wrong
Have a pride issue? We all do when it comes to an idea that we’re proud of. But one of the more virtuous stances to take is the one of humbleness. Have you ever realized you were wrong about a stance you were taking halfway through an argument with someone? Yeah, it’s embarrassing. But if you simply admit to someone that you were wrong, then they’re more likely to respect you because, at that point, they’ll realize you’re a level-headed and logical thinking person. Don’t be afraid to admit your mistakes when you’ve made a bad decision.
What if someone makes a choice that negatively affects you, or causes you distress? At that point, the ball is in your court to handle the situation. Sure, you could blow up on them and call them out on everything they’ve done to wrong you, but that only makes the conflict worse. The best approach is to take a forgiving stance. If they were courageous and humble enough to admit that they were wrong, then they deserve your forgiveness.
Pick Your Battles
Ever heard the saying “won the battle but lost the war”? How about the other way around, “lost the battle but won the war”? It’s important to learn the difference between the two. If you win the current conflict, but lose the overall workplace war, then what have you accomplished? Answer: a lifetime of recurring battles. What about losing the battle and winning the war? You don’t always have to come out of an argument on the winning side of the skirmish. No war was ever won without losing some battles along the way (just look at the Unites States’ own Revolutionary War if you don’t believe me). It’s much more important to peacefully resolve an ongoing war, rather than ensure that you win every argument.
Look At It From Their Perspective
If you really want to understand the “why” and “how” of a conflict, learn to put yourself in their shoes. Can you understand where they’re coming from on their side of the argument? Is that a side that you could inevitably find yourself on one day? It’s easy to say in the moment, “No, you’re wrong because you don’t understand what I’m saying!” But do we really even understand what the other person is saying? If you learn to look at things from their perspective, you’ll learn to resolve conflicts quicker, and might even learn about the other person on a deeper level through the process.
When people learn to put their pride aside and listen, workplace conflicts will quickly resolve themselves. All it takes is a little compassion, humbleness, and good communication skills.