The first time I heard Jack Canfield (Chicken Soup for the Soul, Success Principles, and, my mentor) speak he said “little things get bigger” and gave an example of going for a walk with a tiny pebble in your shoe. He asked the audience to think about what the pebble would feel like in one hour of walking on it. In partners we shared our perspectives. You got it! Most of the crowd said things like “I wouldn’t even last an hour with it in my shoe”, “it would feel huge after an hour” or “it would drive me nuts, I would not be pleasant to be with on the walk.”
Conflict is a lot like the pebble. If it is not dealt with, managed or resolved, it gets bigger. For many people conflict is very uncomfortable and a conversation they would rather avoid. As a former Correctional Officer and having been a mediator for more than ten years, I can tell you that avoidance usually never brings good results. Dealing with conflict early, before it can grow bigger, will definitely help the resolution process.
Some of the actions that help you become a little more comfortable having a conversation that involves a conflict are:
- To prepare for the conversation. Think about what you want to say. Practice saying it. If you don’t like how it landed, you can change it. Notice your non verbal language (this is why practice in front of a mirror is so helpful). Write down a few points about what you would like to say.
- Get a good night sleep before the conversation.
- Set your intention for success. Approach the conversation with hope and a willingness to resolve (instead of dread and fear).
- Be careful not to make assumptions (about the other person, the issue or solution), assumptions are usually wrong.
- Choose the right time, and right location to have the conversation.
- Drink water (not coffee).
- Remember to breath during the conversation. Sometimes in nervousness people hold their breath.
- Slow the pace of your speaking ever so slightly, this can reduce anxiety in the moment.
- Summarize the solutions or next steps before leaving the conversation.
- And of course…. Follow up.
Remember, little things usually get bigger so addressing the issues sooner than later is an important first step.