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On a scale of one to ten, how much do you enjoy conflict? Do you know anyone who appears to wake up in the morning looking for people to antagonize, bully or mistreat?

It’s possible, but it is hard to imagine that people wake up in the morning thinking to themselves, “I want to be difficult and cause problems for no reason.” No. But some people appear to be doing just that.

At the present time, it seems like the entire nation is a hostile environment where conflicts that stalemate at best or escalate at worst, leaving the people involved feeling frustrated — like what we’re seeing in Congress, where political parties refuse to fully hear each other. A company that operated like that wouldn’t last long. So don’t take your leadership, relational or operational ques from those governmental bodies. There are better ways.

If you find yourself in a conflict, especially if people are turning angry or getting upset – pause. In many cases when one party raises his/her voice, the other person does the same thing. Then both parties stop listening and dig into their respective positions; more interested in getting the last word or saving face leaving the issue unresolved. If you can manage your emotions long enough to listen to the words, read the other persons tone, and body language you’ll be in a better position to assess where the other person is coming from. Stephen Covey’s words are as true today as they were when he wrote the first edition of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. “Seek first to understand before seeking to be understood.

In her article “Five ways to resolve conflict more easily and quickly,” Susan Bernstein, suggests that we also open up and share our points of view. To resolve conflict, we need to understand each other’s perspectives. The following story illustrates that until we share our needs, we may create suboptimal solutions. She used the story of two cooks to illustrate her point. Two cooks were on a retreat, standing in a collective kitchen. Both went to reach for the last orange available. Who should get the orange? They decided to cut the orange in half, thinking that was fair. One went back to her counter space and started squeezing the juice of the orange. The other found a grater to access the orange rind for the zest. If they’d discussed their needs, they would each have gotten more of what they needed.”

Just about everyone has heard the term “active listening” but few actually practice it. It requires that we take a calming breath and be fully present in the conversation. Listening is one of the bests ways to demonstrate respect for another and the best way to truly hear them. Try it! It will give you the best chance to turn conflict into collaboration. Work relationships work for those who work on them.

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