As managers and leaders, it’s important to learn how to effectively manage conflict. But solving a problem is almost irrelevant if you’re unable to preserve the integrity of the relationship in the process. This is why one of the critical components of conflict management is compassion. Let’s look at some ways you can incorporate compassion into conflict management.
If you want to compassionately manage conflict, empathy is a great place to start. Empathy is defined as “the ability to identify with or understand another’s situation or feelings.” When you put yourself in another person’s shoes, you are able to better see situations and people from their perspective. Instead of being dismissive of their emotions, you are sensitive to them.
If you’re having a difficult time empathizing, think back to a time where you were in a similar position or imagine how you would feel if you had the same things done/said to you. Then, from that place of compassion, you can work to resolve the conflict.
It was Stephen R. Covey that said, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” How true this is! Consequently, poor listening can be one of the biggest hindrances to compassionate conflict management. But when we slow down and shift our focus outwards, opening our hearts and minds to what others are saying and experiencing, we are better equipped to be compassionate conflict managers. Listening and empathy go hand-in-hand.
Resolving conflict rarely involves silence. In fact, communication is key when you’re trying to solve a problem! It doesn’t do any good to harbor bitterness or frustration towards others, and not communicating can actually make the situation worse. So as much as we don’t like confrontation, sometimes it’s necessary to speak up about what’s bothering you.
Of course, you don’t have to “air your dirty laundry” and you should avoid abrasive or judgmental confrontation. Simply communicate relevant grievances in a calm, respectful manner. And remember, when you open up and share, you invite others to do the same. Vulnerability breeds vulnerability.