Making Conflict Work For You

November 1, 2013 at 9:12 pm | Posted in Articles | Leave a comment
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sisters_fightingWhile conflict is often seen as a source of tension and stress, it can in fact bring the opportunity to improve self-awareness and growth. 

High-achieving women will identify conflict as the chance to draw on their creative resources and to set a new way of thinking.  Here, leading relationship coach Juliette Smith explores how successful women manage conflict, transforming it to a positive force.

The idea of conflict means different things to us all – something to be avoided as it is bound tightly to painful childhood memories or an opportunity to get one’s own way, regardless of the cost. And yet with the right mind-set, it is a dynamic that can be managed successfully, be it in the office or at home.

In my 14 years of coaching, the most successful and stress-free women are those who have learnt to approach conflict without fear or rigidity.  Instead they approach it with positivity, flexibility and an inclination towards a win/win outcome. Conflict brings up the need to question or challenge the status quo which can take courage, and amongst the many benefits is the opportunity for real growth and change.  It takes courage to consider one’s own role in a disagreement but to create a healthy interaction, that’s the place to focus.

Women, in particular, seem to have a superior grasp of the skills needed to turn what could be unarmed combat, into healthy conflict.  They see an opportunity to maximise the creative resources of all concerned, set a new way of thinking and even strengthen the relationship.

Tuning in to change

Successful women have a heightened self-awareness and will therefore notice their own thought patterns and work to change them, if they are not helpful.  Approaching a conversation with an assumption that it will be difficult, is likely to evoke a negative emotional reaction which could put a positive outcome at risk before a conversation has even started.  High performing women will ensure their vision of the interaction is one of ease, leading to the desired successful outcome.   If you often have negative thoughts about a conversation, a meeting or even a specific person, try this and see how your feelings change.

We all make judgements and assumptions about other people but often fail to notice how negative they can be.  My more successful clients are prepared to challenge their own judgements, replacing them with open-mindedness and a willingness to listen and learn.

Hold on to clarity of intention

Many a time I’ve seen clients so attached to winning an argument or getting their own way, they lose sight of the other person, the relationship or the bigger picture. As employers, mentors, entrepreneurs, mothers, friends, partners, the most inspiring women share a commitment to support those around them, as well as themselves. Their focus will be to nurture and develop the relationship, actively seeking a creative approach to a challenging situation.  The desire to find a better solution opens up new possibilities.

Look for common ground and shared values

When two impassioned people are communicating, more often than not, there are shared values and often even a shared goal.  Discovering this common ground provides a solid base for connection – an art women have a natural gift for. We are naturally more inclined towards collaboration; women I consider as highly successful will assume or foster a shared commitment to finding a solution, searching for and acknowledging common ground, coming back to it, if things get tough.

Being curious and listening

Conflict can be transformed when at least one party seeks to find out more and to understand by asking questions – neutral questions of genuine curiosity.  By making sure we understand what the other person really wants, needs and feels, we can show empathy which creates connection rather than conflict.  As intelligent, ambitious women are hungry to learn, they will consider the possibilities another point of view can create, and how these ideas could be valuable, which puts them in a position of strength.

Getting emotional

We have all been there – that moment when we need to take a deep breath before responding to a person, a situation.  Where successful women have the advantage is understanding and – in the main! – controlling their own emotions, which makes it easier to empathise.  They know that moving away from criticism, accusations and blame and towards solving the problem is what works – another way of creating  connection rather than separation.

Ultimately, the most successful women I’ve worked with tend to be more self-aware and prepared to leave unhealthy conflict behind in service of a more positive outcome for everyone involved.  Owning their own reactions and a commitment to honest, effective communication transforms conflict from a source of tension and stress to an opportunity for creativity and connection.

Juliette Smith

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