Conflict – Something Happened, Now What?
Conflict is a topic that scares many people and as a result of this fear they do their best to avoid it. Unfortunately, because many avoid conflict, they aren’t very good at it and then spend a significant amount of time thinking about the conflict after it happens.
In my career, I work for Dunkin’ Donuts and Baskin Robbins in our International Division. This means I spend my time providing business owners and company employees with the tools necessary to help them improve their business to sell coffee, donuts and ice cream. This does not seem like a role where there would be much conflict. After all, Baskin Robbin’s motto is…We Make People Happy!
Early in my career and volunteer experiences I found myself in difficult conversations when discussing differing points of view. Sometimes I created the issue and other times I found myself at the receiving end of this conversation. The conversations were stressful and I dreaded talking to some people because I just knew that it wasn’t going to go well.
A number of years ago, I attended a training session based on the book Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott. During this session, we discussed the topic of confrontation and moving from being in an adversarial position against the person you are communicating with, to working with the person to improve the outcome. The changing of the mental image does not come without practice and I have made many mistakes as I have worked to become more comfortable with this style of communication.
As I moved into my current role, I was replaced by “Tom” whom everyone described as nice. Truly a high compliment! After a couple of months on the job, I got a chance to have a cup of coffee with Tom and asked him how things were going. Tom said he was having difficulty with many of the customers he was working with which was making his new assignment more difficult than he imagined it would be. As we evaluated why Tom was having the challenges he was having, we discovered that he was avoiding having real conversations with his customers and his team.
Tom was a nice guy and everyone, including himself, described him as a nice guy. When I asked him if my former customers described me in the same way, he laughed and said, “no”. As I showed my feigned disappointment, I stated “I was hurt that I wasn’t thought of in the same way as I feel that I am the nicest guy I know.” The problem was that Tom was having nice conversations with people but not having the conversations that could improve the person or the situation he was working with. Eventually, the nice conversations stopped and conflict occurred as the relationships became strained.
I have discovered a way to reduce aversion to situations with conflict. Instead of thinking about the anticipated conflict, concentrate on how you are going to help the other person improve through honest dialogue. Sometimes the conversations can become tense and may not even turn out how you intend, however, if you keep focused on improving the other person, you build the confidence needed to have the conversation that is required.
George McAllan is the International Vice President at Dunkin’ Brands and has a BBA and MBA from Northwood University and a background in business management and marketing. At the Pressure Points Conference on September 29, George will explore the topic of conflict in his presentation, “Conflict – Something Happened, Now What?.” If you are planning to attend this session, take some time to think about your everyday interactions to determine how you can improve your conversations and your relationships. If you have the time, do not hesitate to read Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott.