Becoming a Better Communicator & Dealing with Conflict

24 Jul , 2020

In all communication, we can only understand what we ourselves think we saw or heard. Without realizing it, when we 'receive' a message, we are interpreting it according to our own experiences. In this sense, no two people ever get the exact same message from the same communication.

The more skills and behavioral flexibility you have, the lower the chances of communication breakdowns occurring. Many people learn but do not listen; many say they hear; however, they do not listen. The following mnemonic will remind you of what listening is.
L — Look to learn, not judge.
I — Intense focus on the facts; do not mind-read.
S — Study others’ model of the world.
T — Turn off your mind and hear others.
E — Educate yourself on what others want.
N — Now is important.
One of the biggest challenges for many relationships is conflict. Conflict that is not resolved often erodes trust and confidence in the relationship. The following is an adaptation of Marc Robert’s seven-part model to help avoid unproductive conflict.
Know the difference between your principles and your preferences. Your principles are your personal ethics, e.g., "Everyone should be kept safe." Your preferences are your personal choices, e.g., "Everyone should exercise and live a healthy lifestyle." Ask yourself, is the issue important? Does it go against my principles or is it simply not my preference?
Test expectations against reality in open discussion. Are your colleagues/partner ready and prepared to meet your standards? Do they see the value in what you think? If not, expect there to be some conflict.
Handle criticism as a live bomb. Before you give criticism:
Practice the power of optimism. Many people develop what Merton called “self-fulfilling prophecy.” Whatever one holds in one’s mind (even subconsciously) will usually occur in one’s life. Be part of the solution — not a catalyst for unproductive behavior.
Be aware of growth hazards. Become aware of what you are doing and evaluate your personal mission statement regarding how it is helping you to live with others and be a leader.
Recognize conflict traps. Become aware of your daily stress alarms and learn to develop healthy lifestyle strategies to address them in a healthy and productive manner.

A few coaching tips for how to deal with conflict:

  • Confrontation is an exceedingly difficult process. It is challenging to confront overt behaviors; however, you must uphold the minimum standards of the workplace by being fair, firm, and consistent.
  • Consider the alternatives to not confronting. By avoiding confronting a conflict, you become an enabler, an avoider, and an accommodator. Not only does the problem remain, but you maintain some responsibility for its existence. People will not learn the importance of following the social order in your workplace if not confronted.
  • Do not expect miracles or instant personality reorganization. Confronting a person’s behavior is only the first step. They may not be convinced that what they are doing is not working. You will need skills to get the message through.
One can gain credibility by being assertive and not aggressive, which often includes elements of hostility, anger, disrespect, and/or disregard for others’ opinions and rights. Assertiveness helps to ensure you have made a point worth making. This skill can be developed through practice. The coping skills you have developed to this point will help you position your thinking to appreciate WHY it is important to make your points in an open manner.
Decide when it’s most appropriate to take no action — Assertiveness does not mean changing every person’s point of view. From a big picture perspective, some opinions may not matter because some people may not affect the desired outcome. For example, confronting the source of a rumor lends value and credibility to that source, which may be of no benefit at all.
Listen to your gut — If ignoring a situation feels uncomfortable, the unresolved issue may need to be addressed. Often, a fresh perspective can help. Ask a trusted person what he or she believes is the right thing to do. If the discomfort persists, talk to one more trusted person. If a lack of resolution still leaves feelings that action is needed, or trusted people have recommended action, then the situation probably requires appropriate assertiveness.
Pay attention to non-verbals — Between 80 and 95% of communication is non-verbal. Body language cues from others communicate whether they feel comfortable. Watch non-verbals, including posture and gestures, and be mindful of what others see during delivery of a message.
Listen to tone of voice — Speaking clearly and audibly is a sign of confidence. A quiet or meek tone can be interpreted as weakness. Excessively loud or angry tones may be perceived as bullying rather than strength.
Make assertions in familiar territory whenever possible — Most people feel more comfortable in their own environment. This psychological peace of mind helps an individual convey more confidence.
Practice saying “no” — People who have a tendency to say “yes” to everything often undermine their own credibility because they cannot always follow through. Rehearsing how and when to say “no” can help curb that reflexive response.
Commit to hearing other points of view — Listen closely to what a person says and focus on the meaning, instead of your response.
Do not overdo it — An appropriate assertive response is short, to the point, and delivered in a firm, fair, and honest manner.