An interesting discussion on Radio 4’s Word of Mouth recently examined how our language use and communication style can help us to diffuse potentially challenging situations and resolve conflict. An expert panel discussed a range of conflict situations from the workplace through to hostage negotiations and marriage guidance and agreed that while these are all very different contexts the same principles apply to ensuring a satisfactory resolution to the conflict. What is clear is that they way we use both verbal and non-verbal communication in conflictive situations can make all the difference to our impact on the other party and how the situation is resolved.
Here are some key pointers when you find yourself in a conflictive situation in the workplace:
- It may be a cliché but try to separate the person from the problem and to describe behaviours rather than label people. So, for example, rather than saying ‘you made me feel like I hadn’t done a good job’ it is better to say ‘I didn’t receive any feedback so I thought I hadn’t done a good job.’
- While telling someone to calm down is not helpful try to use language to lower the temperature and make a connection with the other person
- Use language to demonstrate that what matters to the other person also matters to you and that you can empathise with their position.
- Listen carefully and repeat back the other person’s key concerns to show that you have understood
- Be aware of how you use body language and your tone of voice – softer intonation patterns can help to moderate difficult messages. And be particularly aware when using ‘device-lead communication’ that you do not have the benefit of non-verbal communication and are more likely to be misconstrued
- Avoid the temptation to make digs or bring up previous conflicts – you might momentarily feel like you have the upper hand but making the other person feel small will not give you any long term benefits
Managing conflict in the workplace can be one of the most challenging aspects of our professional lives and requires a complex set of communication skills. Many organisations run Conflict Management or broader communications skills training programmes such as Communicating with Impact equip their employees with the awareness and skills to manage conflict more effectively and even turn it to their advantage.
© Communicaid Group Ltd. 2012