Improving Communication to Handle Conflict
Communication problems are both the cause and the result of conflict in the workplace. When groups or individuals fail to communicate, they often find themselves in conflict. And when they are in conflict, they often fail to communicate.
Given this, communication skills are a vital element of your conflict handling repertoire. Communication is concerned with understanding other points of view. If you cannot see things from someone else’s viewpoint, then your positions become more and more polarized.
To improve your communication skills, you need to consider three essential techniques that will make their communication much more effective in conflict situations.
1. Link ideas to people — ideas should be linked to people so that they are not abstract concepts. Put a face to the issue, and you will be more sensitive about how you approach it. For example, if a person realizes her behavior is creating extra work for John the accountant, she may change her ways not just to be more efficient but also out of respect for John.
2. Establish the significance of issues — people’s issues are important to them, and ignoring or belittling them can have major implications. For example, you may not consider the death of your colleague’s cat a great tragedy, but your colleague may be very upset about it — you will need to know this if you are to react to it appropriately.
3. Show willingness to cooperate — listening is good, but explicitly stating you intend finding a compromise goes further. If you simply assume that the other person knows you are ready to give ground, you may be wrong, and the other person will show intransigence because he thinks that is what you are doing.
According to research about communication and conflict, the amount of communication between groups has a significant effect on the likelihood of conflict. The potential for conflict increases if there is too much or too little communication between groups. It is therefore possible to over communicate as well as under communicate. Therefore, the techniques for creating more effective communication must be applied with care.
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