Managing conflict can be a tedious job, once I was walking along a pavement recently and a taxi pulled up to wait at a nearby red light. A cyclist followed shortly afterward and proceeded to exchange angry words with the taxi driver through the car’s open window. It was a tit for tat conversation on a relatively low level until the taxi driver called the cyclist a d**khead. That sparked a reaction!

The cyclist leapt off his bike and started to chase the taxi which was moving off (a green light, the taxi driver was no fool!). The cyclist was now running and brandishing a heavy solid bike lock, swinging it high and narrowly missing the back of the Taxi. Then he charged back to pick up his bike and cycled furiously after the Taxi. There were several other sets of traffic lights coming up but unfortunately not sufficiently near for me to find out the next chapter in the story. For all I know criminal damage has been done, an assault has taken place and the police have made an arrest. I only hope the cyclist did manage to regain some sense of perspective as he cycled after the taxi. If not, he may have to worry about an upcoming court case, a possible criminal record and/or a custodial sentence; all because the taxi driver called him a rude name!

As per the taxi driver, customers who are not getting their own way know how to hurt and get staff members to react. It’s a game we all have learnt from when we were young. If children don’t get what they want they get angry, pout, throw tantrums, and name calling, to name but a few tactics. The customer in front of you or on the telephone may look like a grown-up, but when angry, they can have those childlike behaviours inside, waiting to get out.

The problem is, we, the staff member, can be going through the same process. When we feel attacked, we can feel an overwhelming desire to defend ourselves by correcting the client, talking over them, being sarcastic or sulking and trying to ignore them completely.

Thinking             Reacting                                     Raging
1       2       3       4       5       6       7       8      9       10

In any difficult interaction your task is to stay in ‘thinking’ mode (1,2,3) rather than in ‘reacting’ (4,5,6,7) or ‘raging’ (8,9,10) mode. When reacting to our decisions, speech and actions tend to happen at a faster rate and that is when we can say or do things we regret.

To avoid this happening, it is useful to consider and reflect on the fact that we can only manage and take responsibility for our own behaviour. We might be able to influence the client’s behaviour, but we do not have control over how they will respond. We do have control over our own behaviour. The cyclist gave away that responsibility and control and was then at the mercy of what every insult the taxi driver chose to use.

Keep in mind or recite to yourself, that in any conflict situation you can take responsibility for your own behaviour. From that position, you will have a better ability to think, pause and respond appropriately regardless of how the client responds.

Taking responsibility for your own behaviour is an effective way of managing conflict.

If you would like any extra help to managing conflict then please reach out to us or in the meantime take a look at this blog post all about managing conflict.