Avoiding Unnecessary Conflict in the Workplace
Most of us spend the majority of our time at work, so when we experience conflict in the workplace it can have a huge impact on our lives.
Disagreements are commonplace in a working environment, and can be helpful in challenging preconceptions and developing ideas, but this can descend into conflict when agreement cannot be reached, and neither party is prepared to compromise. This can be particularly difficult if one party feels victimised, ignored, belittled or intimidated.
Often conflict is the result of miscommunication, and the best communication occurs when all parties are listening well. If we feel heard, we are more likely to want to listen in return, and to reach a better understanding of where the other person is coming from.
Active listening will help you to hear and understand exactly what the other person is saying, and will encourage them to share more information. To be a good active listener:
• Stop talking! You might be tempted to interrupt, but try to wait until the other person has finished saying what they want to say.
• Make sure you are giving good non-verbal signs that you are listening. These include maintaining eye-contact, having a good open posture (not crossing your legs or arms), looking interested and nodding.
• Use silence. If you pause for a few seconds before speaking, you may find that the other person has something more to say.
• Try to catch yourself if you're losing concentration. You might be drifting off, thinking about what you're going to say next, feeling sleepy, planning your dinner...
• Check your understanding frequently. You can do this by asking clarifying questions, repeating back in your own words what has just been said, or summarising what they've said so far. Get the other persons agreement that you've understood them correctly - if you haven't, then ask them to repeat what they've said and try again.
• Use open questions (what, where, who, why, when) if you want to get more information and encourage the other person to speak freely. Use closed questions (those resulting in a yes/no answer) to get specific information or to clarify your understanding.
• Be on the look-out for non-verbal signals - do they look tense? Are they speaking more quietly than usual?
...we now return you to your usual programming...