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10 Ways to Improve Your Conflict Resolution Skills

In this post we examine 10 essential ways you can hone your conflict resolution skills. These skills often come in handy during business disagreements.

1. What’s the timescale? – pre planned, reactive and return for more

Conflict usually sits within 1 of 3 different onset timescales:

  1. Pre-planned where some thought has gone into how the conflict will develop by 1 or more of those involved with a view to trying to dictate an outcome
  2. entirely reactive so no planning involved; it’s happening ‘live’, and…
  3. something takes place at an earlier time which leads to 1 or more of the parties wanting to ‘reignite’ or ‘settle’ the conflict in a different way.

2. What’s the agenda – This isn’t Jeremy Kyle, this the ‘real world’

Conflict is far more commonplace in 2015 than any other time as people’s ability to ‘manage’ conflict seems to be lessening and ‘passive’ and ‘overt’ aggression appears to be on the rise. With the success of TV soaps and ratings winning programmes such as Jeremy Kyle and other such dross, some people grow up learning only to communicate through loud speaking, sarcasm, passive aggression and in some cases overt aggression to make any points, not just those that they feel strongly about.

One of the key starting points to any conflict has to be, ‘what are the parties involved trying to achieve?’ On the door, or in security, it should be easy to answer that question but when egos and low intellect get involved, it can get blurred very quickly. Does ‘winning’ a conflict mean that you were the most aggressive? Not usually.

3. What ‘ration’ is involved? If any

The moment drugs and alcohol are involved ration can be sparse. In our modern day, with so many recreational drugs being used and so many ‘real’ mental health issues, it’s hard to treat anyone as ‘rational’ any more if they are overtly aggressive.

4. Are the emotions genuine, acted or carefully thought out & manipulative

This is a difficult one to gauge because if someone is very good at being manipulative you may not know how genuine they are. Although not exhaustive as a method, anyone being overly empathic, acting as though they are doing you a favour or convincing you they are ‘on your side’ are the ones to watch. Don’t forget the old adage that what makes something ‘abnormal’ is when there is distinct lack of ‘normal’.

5. Do you need to engage directly or is there another way

Can friends and family of the opposing party be used instead of engaging yourself directly if you are the flame to their kindling? This doesn’t mean getting others to fight your fight for you, this means employing those who have a vested interest in creating a calm environment and accepting/ recruiting their help.

6. Ignore the aggression but listen to the content

Probably the hardest part of ‘Conflict Management’ to deal with as it goes against instinct. If a person is overtly aggressive, instinct will tell you either to fight (i.e. ramp up to their level) or flight (run away or submit to them). In the world of security, professionalism dictates that you can’t do either. Always listen to the words that are being spoken and try not to react to aggression in any way if you can. Triggers such as ‘calm down’ or ‘I’m not talking to you until you chill out’ are big no-no’s, ‘I’d like to reach a solution to this’ is a far better inhibitor!

7. Don’t place all your eggs in ‘Betari’s box’

Betaris box model says that ‘My attitude affects my behaviour which affects your attitude which affects your behaviour which affects my attitude’ and so on. This is the basic premise that most people are taught who deal with conflict but it only really works where the person is of ‘sane and sober’ mind – unfortunately not always the cards we are dealt!

8. Know your escalation scales and empathise

Escalation scales are a basic pathway of Conflict Management, the only sticking point is the onset of each stage as it can take weeks or seconds depending on the conflict. In short, situations start with

  1. Neutral Ground – where both parties are in agreement
  2. ‘Flash’ or ‘Pinch’ point
  3. Disagreement – tinder is lit and energy builds
  4. Argument ensues
  5. Anger
  6. Hostility

9. Nip it in the bud early with a ‘win-win’ or ‘offer a gift’

The key to conflict management

10. Reflect, always reflect, post conflict

There’s always more to learn post event than before because you need something to look back on and highlight areas for development. This is often achieved by spending 5 to 10 minutes being absolutely clear ‘what happened?’ in the incident, then ‘why did it happen?’, followed by ‘what went good, what went bad?’ and then, should the situation repeat itself, ‘how would you do things differently?’ This is a really simple process that no security operator should shy away from as it will really help develop you, not only professionally but also personally.

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