Nobody enjoys conflict but unfortunately it’s part of life. There are, however, several ways to help defuse a conflict situation, and even turn it into a positive learning experience. Here’s some tips to help you constructively manage objections and criticism.
Conflict is an inevitable part of our daily lives. Nobody agrees with everybody 100% of the time - not even our family members or closest friends. We’re all individuals with our own thoughts, opinions and preferences. That’s what makes the world such a diverse and interesting place.
Effectively managing conflict is an important skill in business
Unresolved conflict is neither productive nor profitable - so it should be avoided at all costs. The best way to manage conflict is actually to avoid it. This isn’t always possible and it certainly isn’t easy, however, there are several steps you can take to clear up any misunderstandings before they evolve into full-blown conflict.
Tips to help you prevent conflict before it occurs
- Put in place a clear service level agreement (SLA)
An SLA is an agreement between the client and the service provider. It clearly outlines the expectations and obligations of each party. This mitigates the risk of disappointment due to lack of expected delivery standards. The SLA also provides a set of consequences, should the terms of the agreement not be met by either party. This gives both the client and the service provider peace of mind and both parties know exactly where they stand.
- Make sure you’ve set SMART goals
A smart goal is something that’s specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and has a definitive timeline. By setting clear goals and objectives, both parties know exactly what to work towards. It is vital to set these goals up well in advance as we often find ourselves missing this step and having to deal with the consequences when it’s too late.
- Draft a clear project plan and list of responsibilities
A project plan and list of responsibilities creates structure and accountability. The purpose of a project plan is not to micromanage people, it’s to ensure that everyone knows who to go to for what, and what’s expected from whom. This allows you to identify any roadblocks to achieving results.
When developing a project plan, make sure you start with your end goal and work backwards from there. This ensures that you’ve given yourselves enough time to get everything ready on time. Nothing creates friction and conflict faster than the panic of having to rush because you’re running behind schedule.
- Keep the lines of communication open
Honesty and trust are the keys to a healthy relationship - whether it’s a professional relationship or a personal one. Everyone working together on the project should try to keep all their cards on the table. Don’t try to hide problems - this creates conflict and additional problems when the initial problem eventually comes to light.
If you do find yourself in a conflict situation, you need to defuse the conflict as quickly as possible, so that you can move forward.
How to resolve a conflict situation
- Set up a face to face meeting to talk it over
Ask the person to step out of the office for a quick cup of coffee. By having an informal, human, face to face chat in a neutral setting, you’ll be in a better position to calmly talk through what went wrong. I have found it useful to have this type of session first thing in the morning before your day is jam packed with tasks and possible issues that could ruin your mood.
- Identify the root cause of the problem
Work together to identify what went wrong and why. Find a way forward rather than getting defensive or aggressive. The “he said, she said” game of pointing fingers will only compound the problem and just gets everyone’s back up against the wall.
- If you were at fault, acknowledge, apologise and move on
A simple acknowledgement of accountability prevents the conflict from escalating. This immediately puts the other party at ease. Nothing is more disarming than a person admitting that they were at fault. Being able to be honest and admit accountability will also strengthen the trust between both parties.
Battling to overcome a conflict in your business? Book an appointment and let’s work together to find you a solution.