At almost every keynote or workshop I give on women in leadership, I usually talk with at least one woman afterwards on how to manage conflict with grace. This is never an easy topic, especially for many women.
We’ve been conditioned to avoid conflict or controversy, and find compromise. Let’s face it. We want to be liked! We don’t want to hurt another’s feelings. We want to live in a collaborative environment where everyone plays nicely in the sandbox.
A few areas that this seems to rear its ugly head the most are when:
- We’re faced with providing any kind of negative feedback.
- We have a difference of opinion, and we’re concerned with offending others by sharing it.
And when we’re faced with these situations, more often than not, we back down, find ways to soften our message, or we walk away altogether, hoping the situation will just disappear.
The result? Those actions leave us deflated and not the leaders we want to be. (And six months later we’re still rehashing it!)
So how do we manage conflict in ways that allow us to step into our best leadership light?
1. Build your feedback account. We’re taught at a young age that to build a positive, healthy bank account, that we have to make more deposits than withdrawals. This same philosophy applies to giving feedback. It’s important to build the habit of giving plenty of positive, sincere feedback to those you lead or who work on projects. So when the time does come for you to provide critical feedback, it’s viewed as constructive and developmental (and not construed as you being overly critical).
2. Use a formula. Dr. Frankel recommends using a formula called DESCript. This allows you to structure your comments, keeping the focus on behaviors and future outcomes. It also gives you a way to open the conversation.
- D = Describe why you’re having the conversation.
- E = Explain your perspective in behavioral terms, and elicit feedback from the other person on how he/she views the situation.
- S = Show that you’ve heard the other person, and be specific about future behaviors you expect.
- C = Align the expected behaviors to the future consequences you want to achieve.
- Always thank the other person for listening and working through this with you.
3. Prepare a few key phrases. It always helps to have a key phrase you can rely on to start a conversation that might get a little sticky.
- When offering a counter viewpoint: “I’d like to share a different way to look at the situation, based on my experience/research.”
- When faced with an especially difficult conversation where it will be challenging to get the words out: “This is a bit difficult for me to say. I have a few important points to share on this situation, and I’d like to give you my perspective.”
Much of our ability to communicate well in potentially rocky situations comes down to being prepared and exercising strong emotional intelligence. These philosophies, formulas, and phrases will help!
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