Your ears are two of your most important business tools, and listening is one of the most important conflict management strategies you can master.
Imagine how you’d feel talking to a brick wall. That’s probably how some of your most contentious subordinates feel and it may be one of the main reasons they are so contentious.
We all want to be heard. When people listen to you, they validate you. When they tune you out, it’s almost as if they’ve erased you–and you feel that you might as well not even be there!
First, there must be the willingness to listen and that requires self-sacrifice. A laying down of your own needs, demands, and personal agendas to take up someone else’s. That’s because we don’t just listen with our ears.
We listen with our cultural filters. We interpret what we hear with our generational biases and social preferences. What people say, what they mean, and what we actually hear gets diluted and even polluted by our own political ideologies and emotional longings.
The ability to listen is an invaluable skill, one to be honed daily and sharpened deliberately. Yes, there’s work involved, but the good news is that practice really does make perfect!
Remember how it makes you feel to talk to a brick wall in a three-piece suit.
Relive the frustration and the sting of resentment, and decide here and now never to make anyone else feel like that! With practice, you can transform that brick wall into a mirror. Visualize what you’d like to see if the roles were reversed, that is, if you were the underlying trying to communicate with your manager.
The most effective conflict management strategies are consistent and reliable. For example, an open door policy should be mirrored consistently by open-minded management. And the object of being open-minded should always be to open new channels of communication, and to create new ways to develop the staff member’s strengths–both personal and professional.
Open-minded leaders are wise enough to understand that cultivating the best qualities in each team member will make them better leaders, and consequently the whole team wins. Strong conflict management strategies should not only mollify a volatile situation.
They should also ignite a fire of excitement in both parties to start afresh, so that in the end the two contenders are on the same side of the boxing ring fighting together. Managers who listen with open ears, hearts, and minds will facilitate this process seamlessly so that everybody feels like a winner.