When things are getting too spicy for the pepper in a conversation, take it back to basics.

Young Couple Having Romantic Dinner at Home

I hope I peaked your interest with the title, but I also seriously hope I’m not the only person that heard part of it before! I deviated from my “wake up in the morning with a random song in my head” to a cartoon, American Dad to be exact. “Things are getting too spicy for the pepper” means that a conversation is getting so heated, it doesn’t need anything else added to it. I feel that it fits the post I’m writing. This article is part three of the conflict management posts I’m writing. The first two:

There is one more in the series after this post.

Disagreements are unavoidable. I even know some people that seem like they’re waiting to engage in an argument with anyone.  So how can you better manage them in a productive way?  Having the right attitude is critical. You can have all the necessary conflict management skills, but without the right attitude, it’s still possible to manage conflict poorly.

I’m going to use Donald Trump as an example because everyone knows him. Regardless of what you think of him, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that his conflict management skills are almost the opposite of what studies have shown to be beneficial. I can’t think of a better replacement for him that demonstrates a bullying style. He criticizes, name calls and justifies his position. I’ll leave it at that. Is it effective for him? Sure, he gets what he wants; time will tell how long it lasts. Studies have shown it isn’t sustainable, and for the majority of us, it’s not the right style to turn to on a regular basis.

What can you do?

Take personal responsibility for your part
A healthy approach is one that preserves the dignity and self-respect of everyone involved. Sometimes during a conflict, a person’s self-esteem is attacked; this is done by name-calling, making assumptions, and criticizing the other person to defend and protect oneself. As you might guess, this approach makes matters worse.

Instead, it’s better to take personal responsibility for your part to maintain a respectful attitude for everyone involved. It will pay higher dividends.

Address the problem

Another common mistake made is the tendency for each person to value justifying their position over all other outcomes. In other words, people fight to convince the other person that their position is the only right one. Of course, everyone is entitled to their opinions and feelings!  But that doesn’t mean everyone else has to hold those same viewpoints or agree with ours. Justification is irrelevant. It’s also counterproductive to resolving a conflict since it only locks us into our position, unable to consider other ideas or perspectives.

Instead, the right attitude is to take responsibility to address the problem and for both sides to feel good about the outcome.Even if you didn’t get your way, you should still feel satisfied with how things ended.

Have empathy
The most helpful way to maintain the right attitude when engaging in conflict management is to learn to empathize with the other person. Try to stand in their shoes and see the world from their viewpoint. It’s harder said than done, especially when the situation is emotional. But there are some standard questions you can ask yourself before engaging in a confrontation with another person. You should answer for both you and the other person.

  • What needs motivate the other person’s actions?
  • What beliefs or values shape their views?
  • What part does personal history play in the difference of opinion?
  • What limitations influence their perspectives, such as fears, lack of skills, stresses and pressures?

If you don’t know the person well enough to answer these questions beforehand, then listen carefully to what they’re saying and ask questions to gather information so that you can better understand their perspective.

Most people don’t naturally put themselves in the other person’s shoes when disagreeing. Using an empathetic approach helps create a sense of trust, respect, and connection with the other person. It sets the stage for a positive outcome and a solution that leaves you both satisfied.

What are some of your positive conflict management skills? Since I know people that like to argue for the sake of it, I’m continually working on mine; so I can use any help!

For more ways to better manage conflict, read Are you winning? What’s your style in a disagreement?

24 replies »

  1. Great one Sam. I know a few that just fit the description of bullying and I have started to become more aware of it. So when they are doing name-calling, instead of fighting back the same way, I now just repeat what they said and ask them whether they really think that is acceptable and deserved? So that gets them to stall a bit and find justification which ultimately deviates them from the reason why they were angry on the first place and that seems to calm it down. I am a demanding person at times and sometimes it comes off as bullying and I do believe it has to do with my culture but needless to say, I have learned to slow down and ask for things nicely. You Can almost always win when you ask for thing with a smile on your face. I know when I get heated, I don’t remember what I say so now I try to really keep the emotions out of it and focus on and listen to what the other person is saying.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much Rudina! I really like your approach. It helps to diffuse a situation when someone has to take a step back and look at their own actions and words. Also, it’s important what you said about culture. Every one is different and the approaches taken can be harsher to some, or too delicate. I have found that with my culture too, it’s very direct and sometimes people are taken aback when they hear some conversations. Thanks so much for sharing your story!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes glad to share any information that I can help with other readers. Thank you for writing an amazing article again


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