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A new approach to conflict

I usually take one of two approaches to conflict – accommodation or avoidance.  Those are the approaches with which I feel most comfortable. But a recent experience (and some helpful coaching) enabled me to put into practice a new approach to conflict management – an assertive approach.

Someone was behaving aggressively towards me. Instead of avoiding or accommodating the situation, I decided to step forward and match his energy. Admittedly, when I did that, it didn’t really feel like me so I didn’t exactly enjoy it. It put me outside of my comfort zone, but as time has gone on the experience has made me feel more empowered. When step back from the experience and view things with some clarity, I can see that I was right to take a stand on this issue and not to avoid confrontation.

The right way to take an assertive approach to conflict management is to be firm in your response and not allow yourself to be bullied.  It is not about shouting back at the person shouting at you, but being calmly firm.

What enabled me to take this new approach to conflict management was not just understanding the different theory of the different approaches to conflict, it was about learning to manage my own emotional state in that moment of deciding to respond in a different way.  Without emotional control I couldn’t have taken a different approach. I would either have given in or been as aggressive as he was.

I’ll admit that before I engaged with this aggressor, I did shout around the office for a bit – I got rid of the energy that had come from his aggression towards me. After that, I was able to get my breathing under control and choose a more controlled response and that felt good.  It’s not about responding in the heat of the moment, but achieving coherence and then choosing how you want to deal with the confrontation.

What is your approach to dealing with conflict? Please submit a comment below.

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Sarah Watkins

Sarah is co-founder of Complete Coherence and has been involved in the development of the business over the last 15 years.

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2 Responses to “A new approach to conflict”

  1. Brett
    November 16th, 2014 @ 8:38 am

    Hi Sarah!
    Firstly, for the record I’m certainly no expert. So… rightly or wrongly, the way I personally try to deal with conflict is very similar.
    1. I make sure I listen very carefully to everything that other person/s is saying and if need be repeat and clarify my understanding. For me this is the most important aspect of communicating effectively. People are far less likely to listen to what you have to say until you have listened to them. I picked this up in a leadership course a few years ago and have since found it to be extremely helpful.
    2. I Try not to let anyone see my frustration (not easy as you pointed out!).
    3. Before responding I try to ensure (where practicable) no-one else is around so they feel less likely to feed their ego or retaliate to protect it.
    4. Ensure my response is respectful, assertive (as required), and I try not to sound condescending or make them feel inferior.
    5. Ensure my response (again, where practicable) addresses each point that was made originally and why.
    6. I also try to always admit when I’m wrong or where i believe the other person was right or made a good point.

    Interested in other comments

  2. Rebecca Lauren
    March 29th, 2017 @ 10:48 pm

    Be assertive in your situation, but never aggressive. That’s where one gets into trouble. Moreover, when being assertive the other party will sometimes think you are being aggressive. (because they are) I just remain as calm as possible, speaking slowly and deliberately with intention, showing the other party I am not going to engage in a row with them. It usually works because the aggressor gets calmed down.

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