This month we tackle how to prepare for conflict given the constraint that other people might behave somewhat randomly.
Q) Margaret you say that when I know I will face conflict or a difficult situation I should prepare in advance. You also say you cannot control others, only yourself. I am confused. How can I prepare when I have no idea how others involved will behave?
A) Sorry, I don’t mean to confuse you. I do believe that you can only control your own behavior and not the behavior of others and I do believe that you should prepare when you know you are walking into a difficult situation or facing conflict. What do I mean by all of this? Your ability to navigate conflict comes from within. You can control your part in the situation. This means you need to understand in advance how you naturally behave during conflict and how that will influence the outcome. You do have some idea as to how others around you MIGHT behave and you can prepare yourself accordingly. For example, if you know you are going to share bad news with your direct manager and you know they do not handle bad news very well; you can adjust your approach to them to make it as easy as possible for them to receive the news. If you know that they like to yell, you can be prepared for the yelling, so that you do not respond inappropriately. You should even think about some of the different paths the discussion may take so that you are ready to handle each of those potential paths. Although it is wise to consider your response you don’t want to sound like you are reading a script either. You don’t have to memorize what you want to say and do, but have a good idea of the outcome you desire and how you can best speak and act to reach that outcome.
See what I mean? Before you face a difficult person or into a conflict, strengthen your skills, think about your potential responses and it will go easier for you. It will not MAKE anyone else behave they way you want them to behave, but if you are calm, cool and collected, perhaps they will be able to temper their behavior too.