Working Through Conflict
Writer / Aaron Tevebaugh
Happy New Year! It’s that time of year again to get a fresh start and decide what major changes you intend to make in your life during the upcoming months. While most people focus on life adjustments concentrated on making them physically fit or more organized, many people actually neglect the most dysfunctional area of their lives, personal and professional relationships.
I have had the opportunity to be immersed in leadership and organizational development for the last six years as my full-time occupation. In my hundreds of hours attending and instructing various training sessions along with the dozens of books and articles I have the opportunity to review each year, the one thing I believe everyone struggles from in one shape or form is conflict. Have you ever wondered how multiple intelligent and educated people can get in a room and have such a huge disagreement on almost any topic? If you are currently in an active conflict or have a disagreement with someone in your personal or professional life, maybe now is the time to focus on a better way to approach your differences with others.
Before we can dissect any issue with another person or attempt to use a system of solution, we must understand the origin of conflict at a very basic level. In my experience, and through the analysis of hundreds of situations, I have come to the conclusion that conflict is the product of frustration, which manifests from unfulfilled expectations. Everyone goes through their daily routine with both direct and indirect expectations. You may have a special evening planned that goes the wrong way, which is a great example of a direct expectation. An example of an indirect expectation would be arriving home to find your dog decided to have your couch for lunch.
In both cases you find yourself frustrated. The good news is even though many things in life are completely out of our control and are unpreventable, frustrations and conflicts can be mitigated through expectation management.
If you are familiar with the Pygmalion Effect, then you understand how expectation management can be the key to productivity and performance. By simply increasing the minimum acceptable level of what a work environment considers to be the standard for productivity, an organization will bring most of the employees to or above that minimum standard. In understanding conflict, we can use expectation management as a mitigation tool to prevent us from setting others up for failure and ourselves up for even more frustration.
For example, if I have a friend who is always busy and continuously declines my invitations to social events, I have two choices on how to handle a future situation. I can continue to invite them based on my schedule and continue to get declined, this will likely frustrate me to the point I believe they are not a very good friend. The other option is to reach out to them and get their availability and schedule my event around them. Option one sets the friend up for failure and me up for frustration from the unfulfilled expectation. Option two meets both people’s objectives and mitigates or eliminates any need for conflict in this situation.
In the future, I will expand on the power of interpretation and how we can increase our own awareness of this in order to be more alive to others around us.
Aaron Tevebaugh is the President of the Avon Town Council as well as a Leadership and Organizational Development Advisor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.