Although most managers won’t necessarily regard a difficult conversation as a conflict resolution in the workplace process, that’s still exactly what it is. After all, the apparent or dormant conflict is what turns this conversation into a difficult one.
There is something tricky about conflicts in general and difficult conversations in particular – our whole awareness is directed outward, towards the person we have the conflict with or need to conduct the conversation with, that we forget a simple yet powerful truth: conflict resolution starts from within.
“What you are saying,” you might claim at me, "that before starting a conflict resolution in the workplace process, I should chant OM?" Nope, that’s not what I’m suggesting; I’m by far saying something deeper than that.
Our five senses mark the difficulty outside of us – in some kind of trait related to the other side. “He’s short-tempered” or “she doesn’t take criticism too well”; hence, the conversation is going to be a difficult one. Yet, the difficulty in what we feel stems from something we find difficult which the external reality only mirrors. This “something” within us that is being threatened and hence causes the difficult feeling is a precise indication of the boundaries of our own comfort zone – the coming conversation threatens to take us from what we regard as safe/know/familiar, and since our brains like to refrain from changes, it creates the uncomfortable feeling so we’ll back off.
As you know, in most workplaces, the conflict resolution process you can’t just back off from and necessity to conduct the conversation contains a great potential for self growth.
The self growth can be in two complementary planes:
- The technical plane – in which you’ll obtain tools and methodologies to better handle the conversation itself. This plane focuses on the external events – the actual conversation you’re going to be having with the other side. Please don’t read “technical” as the inferior plane because, first, whether you like it or not, life does have a technical side and, second, technique, once constantly repeated, is a wonderful way to change attitudes.
- The awareness plane – in which you’ll self-contemplate on whatever within you is being threatened and hence sends the difficult signals. This plane focuses on your internal world – this is where you go down the rabbit hole and find out whatever it is within you that feels threatened and hence regard the conversation as a difficult one. Fear is a very accurate beacon so if you’ll allow yourself to follow its signals, you are sure to locate some kind of a limiting belief. Confronting this belief and replacing it with another will result in the expansion of your comfort zone – some things that you’ve regarded difficult won’t be so as you’ve expanded your confrontational ability.
Both planes don’t just complement each other; they support each other. With the right attitude, created by confronting oneself, the use of proper techniques becomes easier and constructive technique facilitates positive attitude.
Whether you decide to work on both planes (recommended) or stick to one (still great), you increase your confrontational ability which can’t but positively affect your conflict resolution in the workplace abilities.
Confrontational ability is one of the most important skills any person has – it’s the ability to contain – confront – any difficult situation. Fear draws the boundaries of our existence – we are caged behind its bars. Confrontational ability is the ability to face a threatening situation and do whatever it is that needs to be done. Fear succumbs when confronted in the very same way darkness clears the space to light. Your awareness serves as the light that enables you to increase the size of your own comfort zone.
If you are feeling that you’re touching a glass ceiling – that somewhere in your career or personal life you’ve reached stagnation – it is very likely that it’s because you’re not confronting something that you should. Strengthening your confrontational ability will enable you to break these self-created boundaries and better fulfill your potential.
The size of our inner, and hence external, space – the space that we allow ourselves to occupy – is in direct correlation with our confrontational abilities. Increase the former and you inevitably increase the latter.
Difficult conversation is a wonderful opportunity to do so.
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