Conflict, character and calm

by  Jane Perdue  |  Leadership Development

You’d been angling to get assigned to the special project team at work for a long time. Finally your dream came true.  What you weren’t expecting, however, was discovering the team facilitator rubbed you the wrong way, big-time.

Maybe it’s a case of opinions and values being worlds apart. Perhaps there’s open hostility or a personality clash. Possibly there’s hidden resentment on your part. Regardless the reason for the conflict, you can’t avoid or ignore him because your long-awaited participation requires interaction and collaboration.

So what does a savvy self-aware character-based leader do? Take the high road!  You take control of the one thing in your control – yourself.

Manage your attitude. While the temptation to fire off a snarky retort or roll your eyes in derision is alluring, it isn’t a politically astute move as it diminishes you. Think before reacting when your hot button is stoked. Move away from your sense of rightness. Make it a point of personal honor to avoid a purposeless confrontation. Stay calm, maintain self-control.

“The greatest conflicts are not between two people but between one person and himself.” ~Garth Brooks

Understand your own intentions. Are you operating from an “I win/you lose” perspective? If your motive is to enhance your standing by diminishing that of others, it won’t work. A win/win orientation plays to everyone’s benefits.

“Even in your rightness about a subject, when you try to push your rightness toward another who disagrees, no matter how right you are, it causes more pushing against. In other words, it isn’t until you stop pushing that any real allowing of what you want can take place.” ~Abraham Hicks

Become familiar with what motivates your nemesis. Walk in his penny loafers; view things from her perspective; listen closely for clues to his values and beliefs. Consultant Susan Lankton-Rivas advises, “Try to understand the other person’s point of view and how he or she arrived it at.” Doing so can help you get a better grasp on why this person annoys you so much.

“Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain but it takes character and self-control to be understanding and forgiving.” ~Dale Carnegie

Control your communication style and message.  Aim for total alignment between what you say and how you say it. The National Network for Women’s Employment counsels us to “keep in mind it’s not just what you say that matters. It’s also how you say it, how you act and your body language.” Advising a colleague in a sharp tone of voice there’s a problem you want to discuss – and doing so with your arms tightly folded across your chest – sets off his internal alarms and builds a poor foundation for productively resolving the issue.

“Speech is power: speech is to persuade, to convert, to compel. It is to bring another out of his bad sense into your good sense.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Learning to master your attitude, intentions and communication style forms the bedrock for staying calm and capably managing conflict.

What other “stay calm” insights can you share?

Poster credit:  Keep Calm and Carry On

About The Author

Articles By jane-perdue
Jane is a leadership futurist and well-mannered maverick who challenges stereotypes, sacred cows, gender bias & how we think about power. She loves chocolate, TED, writing, kindness, paradox and shoes.  »  View Profile

What People Are Saying

Deborah L. Parker  |  09 Aug 2012  |  Reply

Thanks Jane for those wonderful reminders. Particularly how important it is to be tuned in to your own win-lose perspective and th adversary’s motivators.

Jane Perdue  |  13 Aug 2012  |  Reply

Deborah – you are so right that self-awareness and tuning in to others are key. Thanks much for your kind words!

Louise Altman @The Intentional Workplace  |  09 Aug 2012  |  Reply

Nice points Jane and always glad to see the topic of conflict explored. Given the state of our workplaces and larger culture, everyone needs to improve their conflict skills.

Great quotes too. My favorite: “The greatest conflicts are not between two people but between one person and himself.” ~Garth Brooks Since internal conflict is the #1 driver for most interpersonal conflicts it speaks to where we need to look first to understand the root of our conflicts.


Jane Perdue  |  13 Aug 2012  |  Reply

Louise – Couldn’t agree with you more that starting with ourselves is the first step in becoming a character-based leader. Big thanks for your lovely words!

Joie Seldon  |  13 Aug 2012  |  Reply

I appreciate that you listed “Stay Calm” first as it is essential to handing any situation. I am someone who has strong reactions to things and staying calm for me does not necessarily mean I don’t have feelings, like anger or fear. It means that I am in charge of my feelings. We cannot control our emotions, but we can be in dominion of them. Staying present in the midst of a challenging situation helps me make a conscious choice about how I am going to deal with it. A tool I use is to be aware of my personal space boundary. When I sense an energetic boundary around myself and what or who I’m reacting to outside of it, it helps me become more objective. I can then see the person I’m reacting to with with less judgment and greater insight. It helps be become curious about why someone is behaving the way they are, rather than wanting them to behave differently.

Jane Perdue  |  17 Aug 2012  |  Reply

Joie — so love how you share about your willingness to learn more about others and why they act as they do rather than immediately judging and jumping to conclusions! Staying calm and seeking first to understand are just principles of character-based leadership. Thanks much for sharing!

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