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Compassionate Conflict Resolution


Whilst carrying out one to one Compassion Management Training I often find myself helping people to improve their one to one working relationships as a by product of showing them new management techniques.

Working with a manager recently we began the session by discussing conflict resolution.  My approach is always to teach new management techniques in the context of particular situations that managers are dealing with at that time as I find abstract learning rarely has the same depth of impact.

This manager was having problems with a 'difficult' member of staff and it became evident quite quickly that she was carrying a huge amount of anger towards this person.  Talking the issue through I realised that both parties appeared to have become entrenched in their own position, with neither willing to move towards any sort of compromise.

So, I asked the manager to list all of the words that she was feeling about her staff member.  These are the words that she listed:

  • Upset
  • Angry
  • Mistrusting
  • Disappointed
  • Frustrated
  • Challenged
  • Stressed
  • Let Down
  • Don’t like her
  • Negatively influencing the team
  • Sad
  • Can’t get through to her
  • No middle ground
  • Giving too much
  • Stuck
  • Don’t know what to do

I then asked her to spend a moment really trying to get inside the thoughts and feelings of her member of staff.  I asked her to try and really imagine what it is like to be that person. Then I asked her to list all of the words that she imagined her member of staff might be feeling.  This is what she said:

  • Under Pressure
  • Not valued
  • Angry
  • Fearful
  • Frustrated
  • Let Down
  • Mistrusting
  • Not Supported

As you can see, although the two lists aren't exactly the same the feeling emanating from both of them is pretty similar.

My client quickly realised that if both of them are feeling this way then the chances of finding any kind of professional, constructive or peaceful resolution to their issues wasn't going to appear any time soon.  During the session my client felt that she could discuss both of the above lists in an open, warm and caring way.  This way, she felt that it would be much easier to discuss some performance issues that she had concerns about in the hope that this difficult relationship could be put back onto a much healthier footing.

Regardless of who is right or wrong, for the sake of securing a positive resolution, it's my view that we all need to start looking for the commonalities that we have with the people we work with.  It's really easy to identify how different we are from everyone but this just helps us to remain apart from others.  Finding the common ground might take a bit of soul searching but for the sake of a peaceful and productive workplace my experience tells me it's a much nicer way to do business for all concerned.

Once we understand where we have things in common with the people we work with, the resolutions will often float to the surface without a great deal of effort.  If you're having problems with a member of your team perhaps you could give this approach a try, just once, and see whether it makes a difference.

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