Effective communication in the workplace solves many issues before they turn into unhealthy conflict that disrupts teamwork. Unhealthy conflict can arise when communication breaks down within any size organization or team. And, when interpersonal conflict arises, people are unhappy on the job. Here are some simple ways to communicate more effectively to help your team move from impasse to productivity.
Recognize that you can only control yourself. When conflict arises there are always at least two people involved, and it is very easy to blame the other person. However, blaming others, keeps you stuck in a “conflict whirlpool” because you are focused on changing the other person’s behavior. If you recognize from the outset that the only person you can control is yourself, you shift your mindset to moving forward and resolving conflict. You can ask yourself, how can I interact, respond, communicate differently with this coworker so that I don’t feel so frustrated or angry? Is there a different conversation I can have with my co-worker to explain my position? Is there someone within my team or organization who can facilitate a conversation to help resolve this conflict?
Focus on the facts and find common ground. Do not assume everyone is starting from the same page. Clearly stating your view of the facts creates a common ground for understanding. For example, if there is a conflict on a project you are working on, stating the facts, such as the project goals, milestones we have reached so far, the resources we need to complete the project, and the due date, begins the communication at a point of common understanding. And, if there is disagreement on the facts, you can work that out before the project is underway.
Ask for what you want. People are not mind readers. Communication often breaks down when we assume people know what we want or need. When you clearly, directly, and respectfully ask for what you want you increase the likelihood of getting it and defuse conflict before it begins.
Express empathy. Empathy is the ability to identify with another person’s point of view. Although you may disagree or have a different perspective, it is important to hear the other person’s point of view and let them know that you appreciate what they are saying. When you act in an empathetic way you are saying to the other person, “I understand what you are saying, and I understand why you are saying it”. Empathy opens the lines of communication, aligns the listener and the speaker with one another, and leads to productive conversations.
Better communication skills can be learned. Communication training with skilled consultants can stop interpersonal conflict before it mushrooms out of control and inhibits productivity. Let us know what communication strategies have worked in your business.