Conflict happens regularly in life. Conflict often arises when minor disagreements go unnoticed or unaddressed and become larger issues. In other cases we experience unnecessary stress over perceived conflicts because we have been conditioned to focus on negative experiences.
How we deal with conflict has a significant impact on our health, happiness, and success in life. By overcoming emotional attachments and self-defeating attitudes we can manage conflict more easily.
No really, it’s true! At least, it’s true for me. I wouldn’t say managing conflict is easy but it can be easier than we make it. I don’t fear or avoid conflict the way I used to because I’m confident and compassionate in how I address conflict in my life today. As a result of my changed attitudes, my personal and professional relationships are greatly improved as I’ve learned to positively deal with conflict.
When it comes to conflict, here’s how I roll:
How To Deal With Conflict
“Be kind. Everyone you meet is carrying a heavy burden.” ~Ian MacLaren
You can’t go wrong with kindness. Always be kind. Be kinder than you might feel.
It’s not all about you
Other people have a right to their thoughts and feelings, just as you have a right to yours. Respect the other person’s position- at the very least recognize they have their own life to consider.
Some of it IS about you
In some situations you may defer to someone else completely but this approach isn’t helpful or healthy, either. You have a right to express yourself and address your concerns- just not at the expense of others. Just be honest about your position.
Take responsibility for yourself
The rest of the world doesn’t exist to make you happy- that’s your job! If you blame someone else for your experience you’re probably going to be unhappy most of your life.
Your happiness is up to you! In a conflict don’t expect someone else to make things right for you.
Don’t take responsibility for others
Just as your happiness is your responsibility, someone else’s happiness is their responsibility.
If you’ve done someone wrong by all means own up to it and let the other person take it from there. Make amends and let it go, even if they can’t let it go- you can’t make it right for them.
Respond, don’t react
Do you go on the defensive when facing conflict and react instead of responding? Don’t react- take a few moments to consider how you want to respond.
Remember, you don’t have to attend every argument you’re invited to and you don’t have to respond to every verbal jab.
Use emotion to inform, not define
Facing conflict is an emotionally-charged proposition. Use your emotions to inform your position and avoid allowing your feelings to determine your actions. Just because you feel anger doesn’t mean you have to act out in anger.
Is your response to the conflict Thoughtful, Honest, Inspiring, Necessary, and Kind? If not, it may be helpful to stop and re-THINK your position.
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One of the most valuable skills I’ve learned in Toastmasters is how to give helpful and encouraging evaluations. I’ve learned the best feedback is constructive and motivating.
Most of us have many opportunities to give professional feedback. Managers need to give feedback regularly (not just once a year!), as do committee members, project leaders, team members, and customers. We all improve and grow from thoughtful feedback. When done well, feedback is energizing and engaging!
Giving feedback takes intentional thought, purposeful effort, and skill. Effective feedback highlights what was done well, what needs improvement, offers specific suggestions for improvement, and affirms the evaluated individual’s efforts.
How to evaluate to motivate!
Photo credit: Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos
It’s not about you
Giving feedback is not about you. Feedback is most effective when it focuses on shared, organizational, or project goals.
Assess the individual critically and without judgement. One way to do this is to consider whether or not an individual’s efforts were effective instead of sharing feedback based on whether or not you like them or what they did.
Ask questions first
Before you give feedback it can be helpful to understand the individual’s process, methods, and goals. Asking clarifying questions can help you make a thorough assessment that addresses real issues instead of evaluating based on assumptions.
When giving evaluations it’s important to be specific about what was or was not effective, and why. Use examples- lots of examples!
Make suggestions and clarify goals
If an individual’s efforts were not effective, offer suggestions for improvement and clarify goals. Make sure they understand what they need to do differently to achieve better results.
Getting right to the point will help the recipient of your feedback understand what worked, what didn’t, and how to improve.
Don’t try to soften the blow by preempting an evaluation with casual conversation as this method can be misleading and cause the individual to be surprised by your feedback.
Avoid hedging language such as “I just think”, “what you did was really good, but”, or “sort-of”, “perhaps”, “maybe”. Hedging language causes the listener to doubt your assessments.
Don’t expect perfection
No one is perfect. Mistakes are okay! Focus your evaluation on progress, not perfection. Consider where the individual is in their position, in their career, in their industry. If your expectation is based on ideals they will feel discouraged, not encouraged.
Give credit where credit is due
No effort is 100% effective or 100% ineffective. Make sure to recognize what was well done and ask for more of it! Encourage them to take it to the next level!Join the Conversation
I read an article listing the top things never to say to your boss. It was a ridiculous article that focused on the boss’s needs and made employees sound like whiny self-centered complainers, which in my professional experience this is very rarely the case.
The vast majority of people I’ve worked with throughout my career have been hard-working and dedicated employees with frustrations, struggles, and occasionally negative phrasing that is the result of bad habits not a bad attitude.
For most of us, staying on good terms at work is important, but viewing work as work and putting your boss’s needs in front of your own is not the way to live a balanced, happy, and healthy life.
Instead, I take care of myself first and do no harm to others. When I focus on me instead of everyone else, I am a better employee and a better person. When I manage my mental, emotional, and physical health I am successful in just about anything I do!
I’m going to take the focus off what your boss wants to hear and consider common phrases that don’t show you at your best. It’s not about your boss- it’s about you. This is your life, don’t you want to rock it?! Hell yeah!
6 phrases to avoid in the workplace
Assuming you’re a conscientious employee with a few bad habits, let’s take a look at some phrases that don’t show you for the awesome employee you really are!
Saying no can be a good thing, but saying “I can’t” to imply you’re not capable is unfair and untrue. (You can!)
Many years ago I would often say “I can’t” and then go on to do the thing I said I couldn’t possibly do. Unfortunately even proving myself wrong wasn’t enough to give me confidence- I had to believe in myself first.
Believe you can do anything you decide to you- you may not do it expertly, you may not even do it well, but you CAN do it!
This may be a stupid question…
Don’t call yourself stupid and you won’t appear less intelligent than you really are. When you make self-deprecating statements other people may start to see you that way. Worse yet, you may start to see you that way!
I’m here to tell you you are not stupid! No matter who you are, you’ve got smarts! You’ve got skills! You’ve got talents! Don’t sell yourself short.
I’m sorry to bother you…
You are important and so is anything you have to say. Starting off a conversation by suggesting your presence is an annoyance is undervalues your contributions in your workplace and can set a negative tone for the conversation that follows.
If you approach a co-worker and you truly feel you need to justify the interruption try, “please excuse the interruption”. Simple, effective, and respectful to you and the person you’re talking to.
Did you hear…
Anything you’ve got to say that starts with “did you hear” is usually just gossip. Maintain your good reputation with customers and co-workers by sharing your news, not anyone else’s. If it’s not about you, don’t talk about it. You’ll be more successful focusing on making the best of your day instead of focusing on what happened to someone else.
Don’t tell anyone, but…
This goes right along with “did you hear” and “I probably shouldn’t be telling you this”. Just don’t go there! You’re too awesome for gossip and any topic that is confidential needs to be kept that way. Keep the focus on yourself and your work and you’ll make great contributions to your workplace!
Complaining focusing on everything that’s wrong in your workplace and sets a negative tone to your workday. Sure, there are frustrations and annoyances at work but that’s what you talk about, that’s what you’ll keep getting. Stop complaining and you’ll enjoy work more!
3 awesome phrases to use often in the workplace
You’re awesome and you know it! Here’s some positive phrases that will boost your professional satisfaction and enhance your career success!
Gratitude can make every day a great day. Being thankful benefits you as much as it others. Gratitude helps you gain perspective and reminds you there’s something good in every day.
If someone did great, tell them! Everyone appreciates having their hard work acknowledged and it’s a great way to create a supportive, positive, and friendly workplace!
How can I help?
Being of service to others benefits you in more ways than one! When you help others you have the opportunity to share your expertise and become known as an authority on that topic. You also become part of a community that will no doubt help you some time in the future. Helping others is also a great way to expand your experience and grow by applying your expertise to new areas.
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If you want to live a happy life, you’ve got to stop complaining! But sometimes complaining is a good thing- if you complain the right way. Complaining can be an effective way to express yourself, spark positive change, and release your stress. Enjoying the benefits of complaining is all about complaining the right way- the right way to a happier self! (Note: Complaining the right way is not the get exactly what you want way. Sorry, that way doesn’t actually exist.)
I try to avoid complaining, though I will admit sometimes a challenging situation gets the better of me and I momentarily enjoy the self-satisfaction of righteous ranting. The more other people agree my complaints are valid, the more tempted I am to repeat my complaints to someone else and get even more validation. But I know it’s a negative, unproductive cycle and one I’ve got to stop. When I have a legitimate complaint, I focus on complaining the right way to the right people.
Recently I was on the receiving end of the wrong kind of complaining. I felt berated and powerless, unable to come up with a solution while another person repeated their complaints multiple times, blaming and judging me for their perception of the problem. Not only was I unhappy, so was the person complaining. The entire situation was frustrating and demeaning to us both! This unfortunate experience could have had a positive and productive result if approached differently.
What, exactly, is the right way to complain? Here are some ideas for complaining for a positive purpose.
Complaining the right way
Put it in perspective
When you’re unhappy about something it may appear the problem is more dire than it really is. The more powerful your complaint there’s more inflation of your negative perception of a potentially neutral situation. It’s rarely as bad as it feels.
Own your part
Whatever your complaints about another person, organization, or situation, know that only you are responsible for your own happiness and well-being. When you complain the right way you own your part and accept responsibility for your actions and reactions. The best part of accepting responsibility for yourself is having greater influence over your own health and happiness.
Could you have been more communicative? Were you clear about your expectations? Did the other person have all the information? Do you fully understand the situation? Do they fully understand the situation?
Often complaints are built on assumptions or judgments. Perhaps your complaint isn’t really about what someone else did but your expectations, which may or may not be realistic. Maybe there are really good reasons they did what they did. Maybe they just made a one-time mistake (mistakes are okay!).
Asking a few simple questions about the situation can diffuse a your disappointment and provide an opportunity to clarify what really went wrong.
It’s never a good idea to communicate when you’re angry. Take a break, get some space, and calm down before sharing your complaints. You can express your concerns more effectively when you’re not emotionally charged.
Tell the right person
If you have a complaint, go directly to the source. Telling your complaints to everyone but the person you’re upset with is just gossiping. It undermines your reputation.
Say it once, and only once
If you repeat your complaints over and over again you are trap yourself in a cycle of negative thinking and your legitimate complaining becomes bullying!
Image courtesy of P Shanks
Be kind and respectful
Every person deserves to be treated with kindness and respect. If the situation were reversed, think about how you’d want to be treated. You have a legitimate complaint and still other people deserve your respect.
If they aren’t being kind and respectful to you, be the bigger person! Don’t stoop to their level. Be someone you are proud to be!
Keep it productive
You have more to gain by focusing on solutions instead of problems. Voice your complaint and follow it up with a solution. How could the situation be improved? What could be done differently next time?
Make a change
Sometimes complaining the right way won’t improve your situation. If a situation is not working for you, you have choices about how you respond- you can choose to make a change. You can change your attitude, change your behavior, or change your situation. You’re never as stuck as you think you are.
Let it go
You’ve complained the right way so what’s next? Let it go! Don’t hold grudges. Don’t keep score. The past cannot be changed and the future is not yet determined. The more you hold on to your complaints, the more likely your reality will match your perceptions.Join the Conversation
It’s the season of giving and you don’t need to be rich to give generously. Some of the best gifts are random acts of kindness inspired by a paying it forward mentality. Showing kindness to others is a simple and easy way to brighten the day of those around you. As an added bonus you are likely to feel happier when you are surrounded by people who are happy, too.
Who among us doesn’t want to feel happier at work? Many of us think of work as work, and work is one place we may forget to show kindness to others. It’s far too easy to get caught up in the ever-growing list of tasks that must be accomplished and we can forgo giving at work when we have so much work to do!
Today I encourage you to start a revolution! Be the person that spreads joy and charity in your place of business. Random acts of kindness can be directed at your co-workers or customers- even yourself!
Here’s 52 ideas to show kindness in the workplace and spread a little cheer!
01. Make a fresh pot of coffee.
02. Clean the microwave (even if it isn’t your mess).
04. Say “thank you” in person.
05. Take a co-worker out to lunch.
06. Give a glowing recommendation.
07. Organize a charity drive in your workplace.
08. Organize a volunteer day.
09. Hold the door open for the person behind you.
10. Make a mental list of all the things you enjoy about your work.
11. Be grateful!
12. Be encouraging.
13. Give a compliment.
15. Ask someone how they are and really listen to the answer.
16. Introduce a colleague to a contact in your professional network.
17. Be nice to someone you dislike.
18. Be a cheerleader for someone else’s idea or project.
19. Tell your boss what you appreciate about them.
21. Ask someone for their opinion and consider their position.
22. Invite a co-worker you don’t normally socialize with to sit with you at lunch.
23. Share praise with a co-worker’s boss and their boss’s boss.
24. Let go of a grudge.
25. Take breaks.
26. Give someone else a break.
27. Donate vacation time to a co-worker in need.
28. Share your expertise.
29. Send flowers to a co-worker.
30. Be a mentor.
31. Give someone the benefit of the doubt.
32. Admit when you’re in the wrong (it helps other people feel better about their mistakes!)
33. Don’t complain.
34. Don’t gossip.
36. Share a uplifting blog post.
37. Tell a joke.
38. Bring in books you loved and pass them on.
39. Be friendly.
40. Forgive someone.
41. Respect others.
42. Say “please” and “thank you”.
43. Start and end meetings on time.
44. Learn something new about someone you work with.
45. Bring in fresh fruits or vegetables to share.
46. Give someone a ride to or from work.
47. Pass on coupons you don’t need.
48. Start a conversation with the delivery person, janitor, or handyman.
49. Congratulate someone on their accomplishments.
50. Create a custom playlist for a co-worker.
51. Share a positive thought.
52. Be responsible for the energy you bring to your workplace.
“Practice random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty.” ~Anne Herbert
Sharing kindness at work makes work a little more pleasant for everyone. Be a spirit of kindness in your workplace today!Join the Conversation
A few years ago I found myself in a position I never thought I’d be in- I had developed a bad reputation at my workplace. I truly believe I am a dedicated and hardworking employee and helpful and considerate co-worker- how did this happen?!
More rumors than a Fleetwood Mac album.
Somehow a few people at my organization had the impression I was unstable, unreliable, and difficult to work with. Rumors got around to my boss that I had multiple breakdowns in front of multiple employees and that I spent more time chatting with co-workers than I did working. To say I was surprised by these accusations is an understatement. (Jaw, meet floor. Oh, and did I just swallow a fly while sitting here open-mouthed?)
Okay, so I’m not all that AND a bag of chips.
Of course I’m not perfect, either. I must admit my own behavior did play a part in the misrepresentation of my character. During a period of organizational change, I felt lost and unsure of my future with the company. I felt resentful about the position I was put in and at the time I didn’t have much faith in the organization’s leadership. During this time of stress and change my work may have slipped a little and no doubt my attitude showed- oops! While I didn’t do the things that were said about me, I did let my disappointment get the better of me.
I felt even more frustrated and discouraged when I realized my reputation had been damaged but I also realized I had a choice- I could feel resentful for the situation I was in, or I could rebuild my good reputation. I’m sure you can guess which one I chose. (Hmmm… do I choose to be miserable or awesome?)
I am way too awesome to let the story end like this.
Feeling bummed about my situation and the misrepresentation of my character wasn’t going to help me make the best of what was in front of me. I chose to set aside my frustrations and resentment and focus on doing great work (and thus revealing my awesomeness to all). At the very least I wanted the chance to walk away from the situation with my self-respect and dignity intact, should I decide to seek employment elsewhere.
I’m not going to lie to you, giving my best to an organization I felt treated me unfairly was really hard. It took months of my giving my all to regain lost ground. Eventually I did rebuild my reputation as a dedicated, smart, capable, and helpful employee (-which I really am, so all I really had to do was be myself!)
The best part of embracing my inner awesome is the confidence and self-assurance I gained by making the best of a difficult situation instead of letting it get the best of me. (Hells to the yeah!)
Image courtesy of judepics
Rebuilding my reputation, step by step.
Step 1. Stop complaining, talking, and obsessing about it!
At some point I noticed how much I was talking about my crappy work situation with just about everyone from my husband to my friends to an HR representative at the office. (Speaking of The Office, Toby’s overflowing complaint files come to mind.) I talked about it so much it was difficult to think about anything else. I had to stop talking about it to move on.
Step 2. Get productive!
Keeping myself busy with actual work was a great way to shut off my blenderhead of complaints, it also proved my value and worth to the naysayers in the organization. All I really have to do is apply myself to the task in front of me- be it filing a stack of paperwork or submitting TPS reports. (Office Space reference for the win!)
Step 3. Do what I can do today and leave the rest for tomorrow.
I have found many problems appear insurmountable when I’m approach them from a past or future perspective. I can’t change what happened yesterday, and I can’t predict the future. I can, however, do my best today. (You hear that, problems, you’re totally surmountable. I’ll surmount you right now!)
Step 4. Be awesome!
Everyone has inner awesome and all I really had to do is embrace mine. Focusing on my frustrations had overshadowed my awesome. Any mistakes I’ve made or misrepresentations of my character cannot squash my awesome unless I let it. I’m only un-awesome if I give up. It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks about me, it matters what I think about me. When I embrace my inner awesome, it will shine through for all to see. (Oh, yeah!)Join the Conversation