Teamwork takes communication

Jan 09, 2005

"Happiness is not the absence of conflict but the ability to cope with it."

We deal with conflict and disagreements every day. The trick is not to avoid or fear it, but to manage it effectively. You teach people how to treat you by your interactions with them. It is best to learn how to treat people appropriately right from the start and all your future interactions will be smoother. If problems arise, deal with them early. Be firm, frank and fair when stating your opinion or dealing with a disagreement.

The art of constructive confrontation is to realize that there is a process. Effective actions allow you to express views without blaming, overcome conflicts before they turn into full-scale battles, and define and workout conflicting goals. Feelings have impact and it's important to think and plan for other people's feelings and reactions.

As with client interactions, intention is nothing; perception is everything.

Your effectiveness at work is diminished if you cannot communicate your position so others understand it, or if you do not understand how you are perceived by others. It also requires effort to hear and understand what others are trying to communicate to you.

Good interpersonal relationships depend on honesty and an understanding of both your personality type and those of others. Completing a personality profile or participating in a workshop that allows you to understand the personality types of yourself and your teammates is very useful.

Restraint and kindness are also important. Be careful in your phrasing when speaking to others. The golden rule is to use phrases that contain the word "I" and not "You".

For example, say "I feel angry when you talk about my friend that way." Do not say, "You are a jerk for talking to my friend that way."

Many times people take offense when none was intended, misconstrue a situation or simply don't understand how their words or actions effect others. Take time to think about how you can approach someone in a non-confrontational manner.

The following protocols will walk you step by step through dealing with a conflict or disagreement, handling differing opinions in a group situation, and coaching as a trainer or supervisor. Using these techniques, you should be able to manage almost any interpersonal problem efficiently and gracefully.

Handling interpersonal conflicts with other staff members

Consider this list of communications problems, solutions:

Communication blockers (prevent good, open, productive communication)

  • Judging ideas and thoughts: there is usually no one correct way. Be flexible and open-minded.
  • Diminishing others verbally or non-verbally (cutting comments, eye rolling, sighing).
  • Certainty that you are right and others are wrong. There are always different sides and more than one solution.
  • Domineering others (we all have rights to our own thoughts, ideas and contributions).
  • Manipulating others (usually uncalled for).
  • Indifference: the opposite of love is indifference, not hate. If you have been provided with the tools and the vision to help build a better practice, and you still don't care you shouldn't be there.

Communication encouragements (things to strive for):

  • Describing thoughts and feelings.
  • Equality, respect.
  • Accessibility, being willing to discuss a problem.
  • Sensitivity to others thoughts or feelings.
  • Problem orientation, not blame orientation (concentrate on solving the problem or making the improvement).

Effective communicators:

  • Focus on behavior.
  • Maintain confidence and self-esteem.
  • Maintain constructive relationships.
  • Take initiative.
  • Lead by example.