REACHING AGREEMENT: A SOLUTION-SEEKING MODEL
Once managers understand the nature of conflict and how to establish an environment that will nurture positive relationships, Shearouse introduces a model with specific steps for reaching solutions when conflicts arise. Using this model, managers can help slow down the decision-making and avoid jumping to a solution. The model also helps them keep an open mind when struggling to resolve conflict.
The solution-seeking model includes four steps:
1. Prepare. How will each person effectively contribute to the discussion? Shearouse suggests that managers ask these questions: What is the issue? Where can we talk? When can we talk? How can we make it “safe”? Who needs to be included?
2. Discover. This is the time to listen and talk. Managers need to avoid the natural inclination to state positions or solutions upfront. Rather, collect information and understand the other party’s perspective. People can start by sharing perceptions, exploring issues, and identifying interests.
3. Consider. Consider options for solutions.
4. Commit. To commit, managers need to write down the agreement, identify next steps, and regroup later to re-evaluate the solution.
LISTENING IS THE PLACE TO START
Shearouse also examines a couple of critical conflict-resolution skills needed to best take advantage of the solution-seeking model. Before jumping into a difficult conversation, it is important to vow to listen first. Listening is both essential to solving conflict and especially difficult to do in the middle of a conflict. Shearouse states that listening is the single most important and powerful tool when resolving a contentious issue or repair an awkward working relationship.
Managers should strive to develop the following three skills to become better listeners:
1. Nonverbal listening. Be aware of nonverbal cues, but do not jump to conclusions about what they mean. Managers also need to be aware of their own nonverbal communication.
2. Paraphrasing. Restate what the other person just said.
3. Asking questions. Raising questions enhances the ability to listen.
SAYING WHAT NEEDS TO BE SAID
Another critical conflict-resolution skill is communicating well, especially during tense interactions. Before starting a difficult conversation, managers need to objectively think about their own interests in the situation, as well as their own tendencies in conflicts.
When a conversation gets going, they should speak in a way that will encourage others to work together, not in a way that will lead to heightened confrontation or defensiveness.
It is critical to be respectful. If managers want to successfully present the importance of their message, they need to talk to everyone respectfully. Finally, to persuade people, managers should know where employees are coming from–what is important to them, and how they approach problems. Armed with this information, managers can more easily and effectively translate their thoughts into a message that makes sense to employees.
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