Conflict has always been part of our lives as human beings. Within a company setting, there can be several causes of conflict, whether it’s personal differences, stress, an office rivalry, or disagreements over how to handle a project or client.
Recently, companies have been turning to mindfulness to manage conflict. And indeed, we here at THE DAILY MEDITATION offer corporate meditation classes.
There are courses on how to handle conflict in the workplace and why conflict resolution training is important.
Mindfulness teaches you to approach a conflict in a non-judgmental manner. Instead of reacting instinctively, mindfulness invites you to pause and to breathe slowly, allowing you to assess the situation from all angles while staying calm and focused. It also lets you consider the thoughts and feelings of all parties involved.
By training yourself to consider others, you develop empathy and perspective. If you can regularly use mindfulness to develop these traits, you may be surprised that you can break down resistance and barriers more easily than taking a hardened approach. Here are four ways to mindfully manage conflict.
Give yourself space
When someone confronts you, catch yourself before you instinctively react. Those precious seconds of space can help reset angry or resentful emotions and could spell a huge difference in the outcome.
Often, the best way is to step back before someone says or does something they regret. Acknowledge that the situation is important and that you both can discuss it at some future time (be specific if it’s just a few minutes later or the next day). Giving yourself and the other person space should help diffuse initial tension.
It’s true that listening is an art. During the time you give yourself space, prepare to listen to the other’s grievances, even if you may not like what they will say. It is very difficult not to be defensive, but if you are to show empathy and perspective, you really need to hear the other person out and understand where he is coming from. Try not to listen while preparing what to say afterwards. Mindful listening requires an open mind and self-control. Conflict resolution can happen agreeably when all sides have been heard and considered.
Resolve conflict face-to-face
Face-to-face meetings are best, with both sides able to engage in eye-to-eye contact and assess tone, facial expression, and body language. Misunderstandings can often happen when one is unable to read facial expressions or hear tone of voice. Try not to resolve conflict through email or text. What may come across as angry or sarcastic in writing may actually be conveyed differently when said in person or over the phone. Emails and texts also lengthen the interval between responses, giving more time for misunderstandings to elevate and heighten already-sensitive emotions.
When face-to-face contact may not be possible, do a video chat or phone call. Technology brings a lot of convenience to life but when it comes to conflict resolution, a human touch often works better.
Choose your words
Words matter. By choosing how to say certain words, you can either raise or lower the tension during conflict resolution. Here are some suggestions.
Avoid “You” statements
“You did this, you started it, you said that…” sounds accusatory and puts the other person on the defensive. Use “I” statements instead. “You keep insisting on your point of view” can be changed instead to “I am trying to see your point of view but I need you to clarify some things for me”. “I” statements are blameless and let you convey your own emotions without alienating or putting the other person on guard.
Use kind sentences
Find a redeeming point from the other person’s perspective and say something kind while still conveying your side. Here’s an example: “I may not agree with you on Plan A but I think your Plan B may be a viable option and something we should seriously consider.”
When you are able to say something positive about the other person’s perspective, their guard is lowered and they become more receptive to what you may say that disagrees with them.
The modern workplace is filled with stress but by being mindful before attempting conflict resolution, you increase your chances of success.