Conflicts can occur because co-workers bring with them differing perspectives and backgrounds, or in some cases, because employees have unclear expectations of their responsibilities. Poor communication is a major contributor to conflict. This can include reading body language, failure to share information, or receiving inconsistent messages.
Conflict is difficult because it triggers our acute stress response, and we typically react with “fight” or “flight.” If you tend to be aggressive, you will likely respond to conflict with “fight.” If you are not aggressive, your response will be “flight.” Either reaction bypasses our rational mind and makes it difficult to act logically.
A productive way to handle conflict is by calling on our emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence affects how we manage behavior, navigate social situations, and make decisions. The four key components of emotional intelligence are:
- self-awareness: being aware of your reactions and tendencies
- self-management: staying on top of, and managing your reactions
- social awareness: being able to perceive what others are feeling and thinking and picking up on the emotions of others
- relationship management: using your awareness of your emotions and those of others to manage interactions; this includes communicating clearly and handling conflict.
To use emotional intelligence in conflict resolution, make calm statements of fact, ask questions, and listen. Try to understand the other person's point of view without judgment. Tell the facts as you see them and how they affect you. Explain the outcome you are hoping for and ask for other ideas for solutions. This will lead to a discussion that can resolve the conflict that recognizes and meets everyone's needs.
To better learn how to identify and manage your own emotions and those of others—so that you and your team can make better decisions—check out ATD’s online workshop, Essentials of Emotional Intelligence for Improved Decision Making.