5 mindset tricks to manage any conflict

Conflict management is an essential leadership skill that boosts your career prospects and can make your family and social relationships a lot more rewarding. 

And yet, we have all been in conflicts that we wished we had handled better. I bet you can think of one that still makes you wince or triggers angry feelings towards the other person.

Humans have differing needs and interests. Therefore conflict is an inevitable part of life. However, does that mean the experience has to be painful? Not necessarily, if we know how to handle it.

The thing is, conflict resolution is quite challenging to learn, which is why we tend to muddle through and hope for the best. So, instead of getting bogged down in techniques, I would like to show you some key mindset features to adopt that will help you resolve any conflict with another individual.

Mindset trick #1: Fight, flight or make friends?

You can only choose one. Assuming you don’t want to fight and don’t think running away will solve anything, there’s only one option left; to go into the conflict resolution process with the attitude of making friends. 

You are aiming for collaboration and negotiation, not forcing or avoiding. This will set you up for managing conflict healthily with better long-term outcomes.

Mindset trick #2: Past, present & future

Remember the following:

  • Nobody can change the past
  • We can learn from the past to act better in the present
  • Conflict can be used constructively to create a better future

This mindset mantra will help you avoid going over old ground and progress towards positive outcomes.

My client wanted advice, but I wanted to coach.

After her third session, a client felt she was not getting what she wanted from coaching. In an email, she explained that she was expecting me to give her advice, but all I was doing was asking questions. 

In effect, we had a conflict of interest. Reading the email, memories of my dad were triggered. Luckily I had the presence of mind to recognise this emotional response as something from the past I couldn’t change. (Mindset trick #2).

After this conflict, I realised that I shouldn’t take things personally. And for future clients, I would reconfirm what coaching is before starting a program to avoid misunderstanding.

Mindset trick #3: Smile

Not only will smiling help you feel positive, but it will also make the other party feel relaxed. People are more likely to be creative in finding solutions when they are relaxed and not defensive. 

Remember, you are not going head to head. This is about creative collaboration, not winners and losers. People are more likely to collaborate with someone positive and friendly towards them.

Mindset trick #4: Curiosity

This is the attitude to adopt if you want to avoid acting defensively or like a victim, which puts barriers up between people. 

More importantly, using your curiosity to drive the conversation will help you move past the assumptions about what you think the other person wants.

Understanding what they want and, more importantly, why, is key to finding a resolution that works for everyone. 

Conflict comes from people having different needs and emotional drivers. By staying curious throughout the conversation, you are more likely to listen properly and discover their position and why they care about it.

A well-known technique is to summarise the person’s problem from their point of view in your own words. Adopting a curious mindset makes this technique come more naturally.

Read Next: How to Uncover and Use Your Leadership Skill to Grow in Your Organisation

Mindset trick #5: Presence

During conflicts, we can feel nervous, agitated and stressed. Presence is the antidote to that.

Presence creates the awareness we need to deal with emotional responses in a healthy way.  Being present to any emotions that arise during the conversation will prevent you from being drawn into an emotional battle. Then you can look at the problem more objectively without trying to control the outcomes.

If something the other person says triggers an angry response in you, you can deal with it in a nanosecond. Presence will also give you awareness of why angry feelings came up and allow you to articulate that calmly to the other person.

Also, being present with the other person will create empathy towards them. A connection through empathy will help both parties eagerly come up with solutions to resolve the conflict.

So there you are, five mindset tricks that I hope are much easier to digest than the myriad of techniques for conflict management.

Instead of kicking yourself and reliving the pain of a past conflict, remember these essentials and take them with you into the next one… because conflict is inevitable!

Photo: Klaus Nielsen

Sylvia Nicolas
Verified Coach
Verified for professional standards and commitment to clients. Read more Close

Sylvia is a career transition coach. With one-to-one online coaching she helps people discover a new career path and make the practical steps towards it. Email sylvia@snhumanresourcesconsulting.com to find out more or book a free consultation with Sylvia right now.

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