Through compassion and a solution-oriented mindset, we can have greater control over how we manage conflicts even in uncertain times, says Shalini Bhattacharya
In life, there are more things outside of our control than we care to admit. We face uncertain situations in many aspects. The latest example being the unprecedented yet a tremendous challenge that was the COVID-19 outbreak. However, most of us find it difficult to be comfortable with not knowing the eventual outcome of our decisions. This low tolerance for ambiguity often makes things harder for us. Training ourselves to be comfortable with uncertainty will benefit both us and also those around us.
In workplaces, conflicts can arise when there is uncertainty, which can be about areas of responsibility or business outcomes. Uncertain situations are unavoidable, and so are conflicts. However, we often shy away from resolving conflicts because we fail to accept the need for resolution or we don’t know how to go about it.
Resolve Conflicts through Active Practice of Compassion
Though unavoidable, conflicts can be prevented or resolved before it becomes disruptive to businesses. Quick and effective resolution of conflicts allows organisations to work productively. The most effective tool for conflict management is the active practice of compassion. In most cases, conflicts stem from a misunderstanding, and they can be resolved through gleaning understanding. Compassion is nothing but our willingness to understand the perspective of another person and the desire to help.
How to Put Compassion into Practice?
Identify the problem
Constructively resolving and preventing further conflict begins with seeing things as they are. Our views are often clouded by prejudices and deep-rooted perceptions. Compassion is practicable when there is awareness and acceptance of subjective experience. We must separate the real situation and our perception of it while resolving conflicts.
Through understanding ourselves we can understand others. Practice self-awareness. When conflict arises, what is your immediate reaction? Can you notice certain patterns of thought which stem from your cognitive biases towards a person or situation? When you acknowledge this in yourself and accept it, it becomes easier for you to accept this in others as well.
Communicate even when it’s uncomfortable
We need to communicate to gain understanding of other’s perspective and emotional reaction to a certain situation. However, people often find it difficult to communicate, especially when their views are in conflict with another’s. It is easier to shut down but it doesn’t solve anything and often leads to further conflicts.
Learn to listen
Listening is the key to effective communication. Let the other person explain the situation from their perspective. Create a space for them to be vulnerable and acknowledge their issues. You can get uncomfortable and be tempted to explain, give advice, justify and defend yourself and even divert the conversation to your own experience. Avoid this while listening to someone else.
It is easier said than done. Compassion takes practice and a constant eye on our own reactions and responses. However, it’s worth the effort. By doing this, we encourage others to decode their own responses conditioned by their perceptions and build successful work relationships.
Importance of positive outlook
As we discussed earlier, uncertainty is inescapable. We shouldn’t ask — ‘Will I experience uncertainty?’ but rather — ‘How do I foster the right mindset to deal with uncertainty?’ There is nothing wrong with experiencing fear, anxiety or panic when it hits us. These are our common responses when we face uncertain situations. But we can take a step back and look at things differently. Negativity is quick to affect our thoughts, what we hear, speak and how we interact with people around us. We start blaming ourselves or others. In those moments, problems give birth to more issues. Though we can’t control certain things, we can gain control of how we approach an issue. If we are to strive for the best possible outcome then we need to adopt a solution-oriented mindset.
How to Become Solution-oriented
A solution-oriented person adapts and shows resilience in the face of challenges. Not many people are inherently solution-oriented. However, this can be practiced and developed over time.
Recognise problem-oriented thinking
Understand what problem and solution-oriented thinking sounds like.
- Problem-oriented thinking: I want to do ‘A’ but can’t because of ‘B’.
- Solution-oriented thinking: How can I work my way around ‘B’ so that I can do ‘A?’
It’s important to recognise and catch ourselves when we are slipping into the problem-oriented mindset.
Understand the issue
Try to look back to a situation where you blamed yourself, other people or circumstances. It led you to nowhere and probably created more problems. It is essential to see the uselessness of problem mindset to adopt a new mindset. J Krishnamurti said, “Freedom from the desire for an answer is essential to the understanding of a problem.” Our need to find an answer can become an obstacle. We need to understand the problem fully from its roots to the surface. Breaking it down can help us approach problems without getting overwhelmed.
Commit to thinking to out of the box
We tend to lament over a situation rather than being solution-oriented and it’s not hard to see why. Albert Einstein once said, “We are boxed in by the boundary condition of our thinking.” Being solution-oriented requires thinking out of the box, which most of us don’t do readily. However, this too is practicable. We can make a conscious decision to think differently, unconventionally and from a new perspective whenever we face problems.
It’s important to practice until it becomes our second nature. We must commit to channeling our attitude, time and energy to find solutions to problems and conflicts. Through compassion and a solution-oriented mindset, we can have greater control over how we manage conflict even in uncertain times and there is nothing more empowering.
(The author is the executive leadership coach and the founder of White Ray Coaching.)