Tips for dealing with conflict

1. Pick your battles carefully.
However, it’s debilitating to yourself and your team if you turn everything into a conflict. Some battles just aren’t worth fighting.

Example: Some sales organizations have so much internal competition that they end up alienating customers who wonder why the salespeople can’t work together to get something done.

2. Admit it when you’re wrong.
Some leaders mistakenly believe that they must win every argument or else “lose face.” In fact, wooden-headedness is a sign of weakness while being willing to be convinced you’re wrong is a sign of strength.

Example: I think that Donald Trump’s inability to admit error–even after he’s said something obviously stupid–is a character flaw that suggests insecurity rather than self-confidence.

3. Lose a battle to win the war.
What’s important isn’t winning each battle but achieving your long-term goal. Many people are easier to handle and easier to redirect when they think they’ve “won” and gotten their own way.

Example: In the game of chess, the only way for an evenly matched player to gain the advantage is to sacrifice a piece (a “loss”) in order to create a favorable board position that will eventually allow the first player to win.

4. Assume other people have good intentions.
As I’ve pointed out previously, imputing evil motives to other people’s weird behaviors adds extra misery to your life, while assuming good intentions leaves you open to reconciliation.

Example: In the classic novel Pride and Prejudice, the heroine Elizabeth Bennett believes that Mr. Darcy is unkind and arrogant when in fact he’s kindly but exceeding introverted. Her overly-negative interpretation of his behavior almost destroys her family.

5. Forgive more easily and more often.
Resentment eats away at your energy and health. Human are not perfect and make mistakes. While you obviously shouldn’t tolerate abuse, you’ll get along better with people if you learn to forgive and forget.

Example: Early in my own career, I sometimes blew up at people for trivial reasons. Fortunately, the people I worked with were willing to forgive me–after they’d made it clear they wouldn’t tolerate it any longer. I’m so grateful for that. Thanks, guys!


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