If you’re feeling stuck in a conflict situation it’s not your fault. Sure, you’re part of what’s going on, but you need to know that it’s not all about you. In this post I share some starting points for getting unstuck and changing the conflict.
Know that’s it not you
The first part to get unstuck is to let go of guilt and stop beating yourself up for being in this situation. Know that being affected by a conflict is in no way a comment on your worth or value as a person. Conflict is normal and inevitable and will happen.
Conflicts between people nearly always connect to bigger systems that need addressing.
They point towards a reality that is being highlighted.
I wish someone had told me this when I started out in the world of work around twenty years ago. I had landed my dream job pioneering a brand new initiative. It was exhilarating and exciting. It was also complicated, unclear and full of tensions.
At the age of 22, my ego told me that I was entirely to blame and what a terrible person I was for not being able to handle it better.
Hindsight tells me that there were cracks in the way the project had been set up from the start. Anyone else would have faced similar issues. I had no clear manager, a totally over-ambitious brief that kept changing, no clear decision-making process and six people advising me from six different perspectives! No wonder I was conflicted.
Ask for support
Asking for support is vital. The longer you try to battle on alone, the worse things are likely to get. Many of us have been schooled to prize independence – me included. When it comes to handling tensions, crises and change, we all need support. The kind of support you need most will depend on the nature of the conflict and your exact situation.
- Someone external to facilitate a difficult conversation.
- A meeting with your manager to get more clarity.
- A team conversation with clear guidelines and a skilled chair.
- Pushing for training to develop everyone’s skills.
- An independent mediator to help you have ‘that’ conversation.
- 121 conflict coaching.
Trust your judgement about what support you most need.
Talk about it
This sounds so blindingly obvious it almost goes without saying. Except it doesn’t.
People e-mail, text, direct message or simply avoid each other. Often they have stopped talking. Perhaps they tried talking and it went horribly wrong. Or maybe they avoided it altogether for fear of what might come up.
Or one person voted with their feet and decided to leave.
Leaving deals with the immediate issue but what is lost in the process? The opportunity to learn from the conflict, what it wanted to show us or to the organisation as a whole.
If you’re reading this and thinking, “I’ve done all of those”, don’t be hard on yourself. Most of us probably have. At the time you were doing the best you could.
If you’re stuck in a conflict situation right now, talking can be one of the hardest things to do. It can also be one of the most transformative things you can try. Talking in a safe and supported context can get things unstuck in a way that you never imagined.
It can open up opportunities to learn about yourself. It can highlight ways in which the organisation needs to change and grow.
And remember you don’t have to go it alone. An independent facilitator, mediator or coach can be worth their weight in gold.
It takes courage, commitment and determination to ask for support and to talk when you’re in a conflict situation. However, these things are key to getting unstuck and moving forward.
Get in touch if this is you and you want that kind of help. You really don’t have to do it alone.