When was the last time you disagreed at home? Perhaps with a spouse or partner, maybe your child or even a parent.

How did it make you feel?

Was it helpful or harmful?

Could you have handled it better?

Whilst conflict is never pleasant in the moment, it’s a crucial component of healthy relationships.

We put a lot of time and effort into working on our communication in the workplace. After all, teams that communicate well trust one another more and perform better. These important lessons we learn at work needn’t be forgotten when the clock strikes 5:30. The skills you learn and practice in the office are just as applicable in the home.

Every relationship has its tensions. Whether it’s with your manager or your spouse you can smooth over and learn from even the most difficult conversation in much the same way.

Here are a few ideas for you to consider.


Understand your differences and meet in the middle

The world would be a very boring place if we all thought and did things in the same way. Even in the closest families idiosyncrasies abound. Sometimes these differences are what’s needed to solve a complex problem or navigate a tricky situation. The key to these being a source of inspiration rather than friction is to accept the differences for what they are and, if all else fails, compromise.

Disagreements at home can range from whether to do one big weekly shop or several smaller ones through to significant conflict over major parenting decisions. No matter the stakes involved if you want these discussions to be fruitful, you’re going to have separate what is being said from the person saying it. If you don’t do this, your emotions will take over and you’ll struggle to get your head around what’s being said. If you’re not careful this can lead to you both digging your heels in and what might have been an easy compromise can slip out of reach in exchange for an extended argument and a week of frosty nights at the dinner table.

We can have these sorts of disagreements at work too. Whilst you’re (hopefully) not as close to your boss as you are to your partner or parents work is far from an emotion-free zone. If you care deeply about what you do and your team does too it’s easy for disagreements to spiral out of control. Much like in the home when emotions rule our arguments, trench warfare erupts.

Sometimes views are irreconcilable. But, more often than not the best solution is somewhere in the middle. However, no matter the setting, compromise can only be reached if both parties understand where the other side is coming from. Empathy and listening skills are king here and if you can master both, a viable compromise won’t take long to appear.

Don’t win the argument. Solve the problem

When you’re knee-deep in a buoyant discussion over whose responsibility it is to wash up on a Wednesday, it’s easy to lose sight of why you started the conversation in the first place. Instead, both parties end up fixated on ‘winning’ rather than solving the problem.

We all find ourselves in this position more regularly than we’d like to admit. Disagreements can rapidly devolve into point-scoring exercises. Once this has happened it’s almost impossible to find a solution and if you don’t put the problem to bed, the argument is going to reoccur. This leads to a recurring cycle of pointless squabbling that can go on for weeks.

When it comes to minor problems like washing the dishes, this isn’t the end of the world. It’s pointless and unpleasant but probably won’t single-handedly turn your relationship into a smoking ruin. However, if enough of these niggly little ruffles are left unresolved or, heaven forbid, you reduce something really important into the who’s right game things can end badly.

It’s in your interest to be vigilant to disagreements devolving into competitions at work, too. Often these come about when two colleagues have equally valid ideas to move things forward. When neither argument has any glaring flaws it’s easy for dialogue to devolve into pointing out one another’s mistakes and weaknesses. This won’t solve the problem at hand. All it does is leave the participants hurt and demotivated.

It’s much better to take a step back and find the root cause of the issue at hand. For example, if the distribution of chores making you feel put upon, try not to throw out an accusation of laziness. Instead, talk about schedules and work commitments. You’ll probably find that the other party is busier than you first realised or perhaps they’ll see that they haven’t been doing as much as they could.

Either way, you’ll be much closer to a solution. This same principle applies perfectly to how tasks are distributed in the office. Your colleagues probably aren’t lazy, they just might not understand how much you’re dealing with.

Take a look in the mirror

Communication is a two-way street. It’s ever so easy to forget this when you’re in the midst of an argument with a family member. When tempers flare and emotions get the better of us even the best of us wait impatiently for a gap in the conversation to make our point.

Thing is, if you’re listening for a gap in the conversation, you’re not listening to what’s being said. Your ears might be hearing the words, but your brain isn’t processing them. When this happens, you’ll both get more and more upset and no closer to a compromise.

You might have experienced this at work, too. Perhaps you’ve experienced the joys of a colleague who has a knack of barging back into the conversation whenever you pause to take a breath. It’s incredibly frustrating but the good news is it’s relatively easy to counter.

Mirroring is the most effective way to slow the conversation down and force both sides to listen. When it’s your turn to speak, instead of countering with your feelings simply turn what’s been said back around. For example, ‘it sounds like you’re feeling upset because you don’t think I’m doing enough to help.’ This technique works because it shows you’re listening. This simple act can diffuse even the most heated argument simply by showing that you understand and care about their point of view. Follow this up with a few authentic questions and you’ll be well on your way to establishing a productive, healthy dialogue.

Approaching conflict in the spirit of charity can be a profoundly moving experience for both parties. When people can’t find the words to describe how they’re hurting this often manifests as frustration, aggression and even anger. This isn’t personal, articulating needs and fears can be a real struggle for many. However, whether at home or work, this can be tough to manage. But, if you can establish genuine two-way communication a resolution to the conflict will be within your grasp. Not only that, if you go the extra mile and adopt a curious approach you never know what you might uncover. Your family member or colleague might reveal things even they didn’t realise they were struggling with.

Want to make the most out of difficult conversations?

Disagreements with loved ones are tough. They’re almost always emotionally charged and uncomfortable. But, as difficult as they are, these conversations are foundational to happy, healthy relationships.

Whilst you don’t love your colleagues in quite the same way, the people you work with can become family. As a result, simple disagreements at work can carry quite a lot of weight. Or, you can avoid conflict altogether for fear of upsetting someone you care for and respect.

The good news is that using conflict, at work or home, is an opportunity for both parties to grow and learn. This, in turn, strengthens trust and deepens bonds. Over time, you’ll still conflict but these disagreements will become calmer, more logical and highly productive.

However, you won’t see the benefits of healthy conflict if you don’t have the tools to manage it. So, if you want to make the most out of those uncomfortable interactions, a Difficult Conversations workshop will equip you with all the skills and knowledge you need.

You’ll explore how you communicate and relate to those around you, looking at inspirational figures from your past. This will inspire you to craft a leadership that embeds honest conversations into the very fabric of the way you do relationships.

This sort of work isn’t for everyone though. It’s can shine a light in places some people would rather remain shrouded. As you’d expect from a ‘Difficult Conversations’ workshop, the subject matter can be very challenging indeed.

Therefore, if you’re interested in attending a workshop we’ll need to chat first.

This is to allow you to find out exactly what the course is about. This isn’t a normal sales call. It’s a genuine opportunity for you to ask questions and decide for yourself if the workshop is a good fit.

We’ll guide you through the process and ask some questions too. Then, at the end of the conversation, we’ll figure out how to move forwards. Whether that’s booking you a place on a workshop or parting ways with some advice.

Sound interesting? Start a conversation by filling out a contact form.

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