I am a hypocrite.
My work is in helping business owners address and resolve disputes either internally in their business with co-directors or employees or externally perhaps with suppliers or customers.
Today I was planning to tell you how conflict should be embraced not feared as it can be constructive to creativity and to looking at alternative viewpoints. I was going to say how you shouldn’t dwell on fears in the future but live in the present.
And yet this morning when I woke up I realised that I had been fretting over the weekend about a difficult phone call I am looking at making today. I have books on how to conduct difficult conversations and yet I had allowed fear to cause me stress – so who am I to speak to you about inviting conflict?
What I do endeavour to do is learn from my mistakes and so I have reflected on this. The situation arose from an email I received last week from a client whose instructions I had misinterpreted.
Firstly, I realised when I first saw what I perceived as criticism in his email I reverted to a 3-year-old child being told off for being naughty. I had a knot in my stomach and I felt guilty. We are all prone to reactions we felt as a small child, possibly anger, upset or defensive when certain circumstances arise. I know that I am always determined to do my best and react badly if I think I have let myself or others down.
- Lesson number 1: recognise your triggers. I knew better than to react impulsively when I was still in a fearful mood so I made a cup of tea and focussed on other matters.
- Lesson number 2: review matters when the emotion has passed. On re-reading the email, I realised that is was factual more than critical, was calm and without criticism.
- Lesson number 3: don’t jump to conclusions. I then thought about what had passed. Had I been at fault, had he been clear? What did he want me to do as a result of his email?
- Lesson number 4: we have different perspectives on things and there does not need to be blame. How should I react? Whether or not I had been to blame I realised that I had caused him confusion and concern.
- Lesson number 5: be prepared to apologise. I could now face the conversation with clarity on how the misunderstanding had arisen, prepared to apologise, to listen to what he had to say and with suggestions on how to move forward.
And so the fear of the conversation was removed. And in fact I invited discussing it sooner rather than later so it couldn’t fester. And of course by focussing on getting on and making the call I didn’t get distracted by thinking about it all day. And it was fine and an opportunity to strengthen our relationship!
Our thanks to Guest Blogger Fiona Monson. She is an expert on conflict resolution and business mediator using her 30 years’ experience as an insolvency practitioner and chartered accountant to help business owners resolve disputes without the stress, uncertainty and expense of going to Court. You can contact her on 07786 252145 or email@example.com