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Conducting a conflict discussion correctly

Who hasn't experienced this? A discussion about an important topic is coming up - professionally or privately - and you're extremely tense inside. In some situations you're well prepared, in others not. But this preparation becomes completely unnecessary at the moment of the discussion: unplanned and as if by magic, the situation escalates, getting worse instead of better. Conflicts often put us in an unpleasant situation. Positions or viewpoints are attacked, we have to defend ourselves or the current situation, our own integrity, is called into question.

In these exceptional situations, it is easy to forget that every disagreement and every argument also has potential. The possibility that situations or products can improve and that we can benefit from different perspectives.

Conducting conflict discussions correctly

Conflict situations: encountering our own fears

What sounds good in theory is far away and impossible in exceptional situations. In direct conflict we experience an intense physiological reaction. It feels as if we are being attacked. Our pulse quickens, our field of vision becomes limited, it is purely a matter of survival: we discount everything that comes from the other side.

This reaction is completely automatic and has to do with our basic instincts. It is vital for survival when a real fight is imminent. In everyday interactions, this strong reaction can have an unfavorable effect; it is not uncommon for a molehill to become a mountain.

What should we do in such situations? What should we do when we notice that our body is on its way? The worst thing to do in this situation is to react impulsively and directly. All of these physiological reactions make it difficult for all parties to find a good solution calmly and calmly. This means taking a deep breath and possibly postponing the argument. This helps to avoid causing too much damage in the first moment. Because if the other person is attacked, this person also experiences the entire chain of reactions, is also physiologically in a state of emergency - and so you play ping pong. You play each other higher and higher up the chain - with no happy ending.

A clever way is to deal with the problem in a targeted and calm manner - in the form of a conflict discussion. With distance and calm, it helps to understand what the goals and motivations of the other party are. Is it about the matter? Or are there other motives behind it? Why is the point important? If you understand the other party better, you can find better solutions that don't focus directly on problems.

Conflict discussion, what is that?

A conflict discussion is a planned conversation between (two or more) disputing parties, which is specifically about finding a solution to a dispute. The parties are voluntarily interested in reaching an agreement.

When should you have a conflict discussion? In principle, not every conflict needs to be resolved directly with a conflict discussion. Conflicts are unavoidable in our interactions and at the same time have great potential, as they reflect the different positions, values and expectations of those involved. There are factors that are indicators for direct action: The conflicts hinder daily interaction or have a major impact on one or more parties. A conflict discussion is essential if there is a threat of major (economic or emotional) damage.

How do you conduct a conflict discussion?

There are basic attitudes that make it easier for us to work together – especially in conflict situations:

  • No accusations: Refrain from directly accusing the other person, but describe the situation from your perspective.

  • I-messages: I-messages allow you to express your personal perception. This helps to explain the point of view to the other person, often we do not know how the other party is doing and how they are feeling.

  • Allow emotions: Personal points of view can be described emotionally, and emotions often help to understand the other person better. At the same time, it is important to stay with your emotions and not attack the other person.

  • No generalizations: Generalizations make it difficult to react calmly and objectively. If there are individual incidents, name them precisely. This way, reference can be made to the individual case.

  • Active listening: Attentive listening helps to find nuances and understanding in one's interactions. This is one of the first steps to getting closer to a solution.

Preparing for conflict discussions

Preparation should take place on two levels:

  1. Organizational: Where should the conversation take place? A neutral and undisturbed location is recommended. When should the conversation take place? Heavy time pressure around it, at the end of a long day, etc. are counterproductive, although sometimes unavoidable. Invitation: Do all parties have the same amount of time and the same basis for the conversation?

  2. Content: There is also personal preparation on a content level. Here it helps to be clear about the following factors: Context and participants: Who is involved in the conflict? Who is relevant to resolving it? Background and development: Why does the conflict exist, what were the important steps in the process? Values: What is important to me in this context? Where are my limits? Understanding: Can I understand the other position?

How is a conflict discussion structured?

A basic requirement is that both parties know that they are having a conflict discussion. An attack in relation to an argument causes the other person to experience physiological stress and fight reactions, making it more difficult to find a solution. This gives everyone involved the time and opportunity to prepare for the discussion .

Seek early support in conflict management

“Do I have a conflict – or does the conflict have me?”

"Do I have a conflict?" asks whether I am actively involved in the conflict. " Does the conflict have me ?", then I am involved in a conflict about the conflict. In these situations we usually act more remotely and no longer freely. Especially when there is an additional meta-topic about the conflict, it helps to get additional support. Either in the form of a neutral mediator - or directly a professional mediator. Especially with important topics, it can be helpful to get support in the form of mediation in seemingly smaller situations. Just as the fire brigade is often called when a house is already completely on fire, mediators can often only watch as a house metaphorically burns down at a late hour. However, a small fire in the hearth can be put out well with little damage. It is better to seek support too early than too late! If you find yourself in a situation like this, do not hesitate, we will be happy to help you.



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