Conflict is inevitable. There are always (at least) two sides to every story not to mention that our everyday lives are becoming increasing fraught with new and unexpected challenges and tensions.
But instead of walking away from a difficult relationship, be it professional or personal, why not first try to mend it? This might be easier – and more rewarding – than you might think.
These three practices can help:
- Create a positive tone – all conflict carries an emotional impact – hurt, frustration, and anger – to avoid these negative feelings, our first impulse is to pull away. But you can reset the emotional tone by immediately acknowledging the growing tension and rationally raising the issue at hand making it clear that you value the relationship and are optimistic it can work. Agree on a cooling off period and revisit the situation together in a couple of days.
- Create a shared narrative – as mentioned earlier, there are always different sides to every story especially when the perception is that something has gone wrong. But things are bound to get better when these multiple stories are creatively explored so that they begin to overlap. Reassure everyone this isn’t about ‘you’ or ‘me’ but about ‘us’ – and ‘we’ do have a history together – so let’s all say our piece calmly and rationally and from that, define some common ground.
- Create relational agility – if the old relationship isn’t working, then it’s time for a change. But even with everyone’s best efforts in that regard, it’s likely to go wrong again. Identify potential future tension spots and agree in advance how together you’ll navigate them. When unexpected tensions arise, resist the temptation to become defensive and instead become curious; what are the dynamics in play now and what likely happened?