Conflict advice – It’s how you say it

A few years ago when my kids reached adolescence they began to push-back on certain household rules. It was a very natural, if not expected, phase of their upbringing. On a few occasions the conversation escalated to an unhealthy tone. During those times I spoke about an important principle to my kids explaining it was not ‘what’ they were saying but ‘how’ they were saying it that was creating the tension. I was ready to listen to their issues but not when approached in a non-respectful manner.

The same principle holds true in a business environment. I believe that most people want to rationally discuss an event or issue with others in a respectful and edifying way. But our emotions and bad behavior get in the way. That’s why inspirational author Stephen Covey writes “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”  John Maxwell describes it like this, “People may hear your words, but they feel your attitude.”

I have found in my career that situations with conflict more often reach a satisfying conclusion when I first listen. Then I listen again before speaking. Then when I speak, it is first to understand the other person before speaking my view point. Conflict resolution rarely works when one person (or group) raises their voice, attempts to bully, speaks with accusations, or claims their viewpoint as the only view.

I like the council of the Apostle Paul, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

I’m not perfect in this area of my life. But I’m confident that we would all do well to follow this advice.

Onward and upward!

Photo Credit: Larry Smith via Creative Commons