Conflict happens in any relationship. But learning how to do it well can change your relationship. Ultimately, it comes down to one thing – understanding people. Get this right and you’re winning. And you know what? It’s the same in leadership. We lead well when we get to know the people we are leading.
Take Alex Ferguson, for example. When he was managing Manchester United, he knew his players. After the first half, he knew there were certain players he could shout at to motivate them. Ryan Giggs was one of these. But it wasn’t the same with Ronaldo. So when Fergie knew he had to get through to Ronaldo, he knew shouting would just upset him. So what did he do? He shouted at Ryan instead, knowing he could take it.
He knew the outcome would be that Ryan would continue to play well (maybe even better) but Ronaldo would hear the message and play well, too. Alex Ferguson knew that the key to a good outcome was understanding people. You can learn this, too. Here are my three tips for resolving conflict well.
Understand others, understand yourself
We need to understand others, but we also need to understand ourselves. We all carry baggage into arguments and it’s important to know our personality, our tolerance levels and triggers. If we take into account what we know about the other person and ourselves, we’re positioned well for good conflict resolution. This is always the first step.
You won’t win every battle
This might sound strange, but not every battle is worth fighting. We can see from social media we’re in an age where people are angry about so many things. And sometimes rightly so. But for your own sanity, and your peace, it’s worth learning when to let go. In relationships, remember that winning the battle is not nearly as important as winning the war. Some things will annoy you, and others will be deal breakers. Know the difference and let this determine where your energy goes.
Learn how to step into someone else’s shoes
Stepping into someone else’s shoes – operating out of empathy – is a learned skill. To do this develops emotional intelligence and patience. It helps us to understand the differences and motivations of others. Getting good at it comes from experience, but we start by consciously being aware that the other person differs from us, and that they have life experiences that will shape who they are and how they react to situations.
I often have to remind myself not everyone is like me. Brexit has been a great example of this. There are so many people with different views who just don’t understand each other. Instead of disregarding the other person, it’s much more powerful to understand their perspective. Whether you agree or not, once you’ve understood why they think the way they do, you’re in a much better position to engage in meaningful conversation. Conflict resolution isn’t about winning and losing. It’s about maintaining a connection amid difference.