Or…How To Start A Conflict
In my last post, I shared a victory I experienced by remembering a key point of conflict resolution. Just to keep things balanced, I think it's only fair to share a point I remembered after I failed to follow good conflict resolution principles.
This morning over breakfast, my wife mispronounced a word, and, before I engaged my brain, I corrected her. As the words left my mouth, I knew that I should have remained silent or waited for another time. Maybe it would be acceptable to point out her error in private, but I did it in front of our kids. Not wise.
I immediately sensed her frustration, and attempted to correct the damage by apologizing. To my wife's credit, she graciously accepted the apology, and we continued our day without further incident. She was “on her game.” I was not.
I violated several key conflict resolution principles in this situation:
- By correcting her in front of other people, I embarrassed her, and I violated two principles. The principles of letting the other party save face and protecting the conversation from outside influences.
- By correcting her on the spot, I acted when a defensive reaction was most likely to occur. I violated the principle of creating a safe environment for the discussion.
The bottom line in this experience is the title of this post: you don't have to say everything that enters your mind.
While the main subject of this blog is conflict resolution in a team environment, this post is about an even more powerful idea — communicating in a way that minimizes the risk of a conflict in the first place. Communication skills include knowing what, when, and how to speak. They also include knowing when not to speak.
Many of us have triggers that cause us to speak before we think. Some people find it hard to resist a perceived challenge. Some people are quick with sarcasm. I happen to feel compelled to correct mistakes. What's your challenge?
Once the words leave your mouth the damage is done. You can apologize, but you may have already triggered a negative response in someone else.
In your efforts to grow your conflict resolution skills, include developing the ability to hold your words.
Remember, you don't have to say everything that enters your mind.