You may have noticed from the adverts on TV and at the cinema that the big blockbuster movie this summer will be the new “Avengers” movie. It’s a film that features a character with infamous anger management issues – The Incredible Hulk. Now he is a conflict management challenge! Thankfully, unless you work for Marvel Film Studios you are unlikely to come across the Hulk in your day to day work – though that doesn’t mean you won’t come across some very angry and emotional people. So keeping it topical, here are three steps to managing conflict – Superhero style.
1) Be like Professor X, get inside people’s minds
OK, so you can’t actually mind-read like the leader of the X-men, but you can make an effort to get inside the mind of the other person. Look at it from their point of view. Why are they angry? What are they thinking? Are they actually angry at you? It is much more likely they are angry at the situation, or possibly even themselves. You’re just the person standing in front of them or on the end of the phone. If you don’t personalise the conflict you will find it easier to respond in a more effective way.
2) Be like Batman, keep calm under pressure and wear a mask
We don’t literally mean wearing a mask of course, but sometimes not showing what is going on underneath your exterior can help manage a potential conflict situation. When listening to an angry person, (particularly one we disagree with), what we give away in our facial expressions, tone of voice and body language could easily antagonise an already angry individual. It doesn’t require for you to turn green and quadruple in size for people to notice that you’re having an emotional response to what you’re hearing. There is something referred to in psychology as “emotional leakage”. It means that if we have some strong emotional feelings about something it will try and find a way to come out one way or another. It is important to make sure you keep your mask in place, keeping your voice calm, your body language open, and your facial expression interested and concerned – despite what may be going on underneath. But of course make sure you really do listen!
3) Be like your friendly neighbourhood Spiderman and save the day
Spiderman needs a positive, solution focussed, happy to help attitude if he is going to save the day.
Too much time spent focussing on the problem and listing all the negative things is time wasted. Once you have listened well to the problem it is better to swing into action and quickly move the conversation on to finding solutions. It’s not about whether you necessarily agree with all that is being said, it’s about finding something to agree on, some middle ground, whether it’s an acknowledgement of why someone may be feeling the way they do, or a factual point regarding what is being said. This prepares the way for you to work on a solution together with that person, and if not save the day for everyone, or at least make yours and theirs a lot easier.
So, next time you want ensure people’s inner-Hulk doesn’t come to the surface, try these steps and remember that you don’t need to be a super-hero to do it!
The Conflict Training Company can help you and your staff get a better handle on all types of conflict. Give us a call on 0845 6585678 for an informal chat.