Whether in the workplace, the classroom, or at home, everyone's bound to run into a conflict or an argument with someone else. Some people are more inclined to go head-to-head with someone in an argument, while others might cower and try to avoid a confrontation altogether. But there are ways to effectively manage a dispute, no matter how emotionally charged.
1. Consider the other side's good intentions. Very few people get into an argument with an intent to cause harm or humiliation. Instead of assuming the worst about the other person, try to consider their convictions and why they hold onto such arguments.
2. Offer hypothetical questions. It's natural to challenge someone who disagrees with you, but what about taking their point and running with it instead? Try to start a discussion about the other person's idea and where it might lead or how it might be put into effect. All too often, conflicts are rooted in neither side being willing to give the other's point of view a chance.
3. Turn misunderstanding into a chance for dialogue. When presented with a strange idea or an accusation that doesn't seem to hold water, don't automatically shut it down. Self-deprecation can put the other party at ease. Express your concern as a misunderstanding and ask for further clarification. It can give the other party a chance to reconsider their own position and for the two of you to work out your own solution.
4. Avoid using "but" or "should." People get defensive when they hear "but" or "should" in a sentence, as in "But I have a concern about…" or "We should be looking at…" Instead, try using more constructive and thought-provoking phrases like "and" or "could." Promote a feeling that everyone's contributions are being heard and all possibilities are being explored, so that you have a discussion instead of a dispute.
5. Discuss the underlying problem directly. Some conflicts or arguments are just the result of not being on the same page in a conversation. Talk directly about the other person's concerns and what they hope to achieve. It may only be that miscommunication that's holding you back from real progress.
Image by Quinn Dombrowski on Flickr