What’s in your conflict management toolbox?

“It is tempting if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail”.

The above quote by American Psychologist, Abraham Maslow is very well known with people who are interested in conflict management – and we will reflect on its significance later. However, to begin with, let’s look at a quote from someone from the world of business. A man who has become synonymous with business success and wealth – John D. Rockefeller. By the time he retired at the end of the nineteenth century he was the world’s richest man. To be that successful, many things need to go your way, but Rockefeller himself identified one key factor: People skills. Rockefeller identified this as the skill he and his employees needed most and he populated his business with people who were great communicators.

It could be argued that these days good communication skills are even more valuable. Building rapport with customers (and in particular managing conflict effectively), are essential for any business relationship.

So taking this in to account, why would anyone not ensure they always avoid conflict and maintain rapport? Well, sometimes it’s easier said than done – and trying to manage conflict situations without the right skills and techniques can be disastrous! This is where that Maslow quote comes in – when it comes to conflict management you need the right tools for the job. If you’ve been reading our knowledge centre articles on our website you will have already seen some of the wide range of tools available to use in conflict management situations – and of course on our conflict management training courses we cover a whole lot more, including how to stop that conflict ever arising in the first place.

To help you think about your conflict management toolbox, it’s good to start with thinking about what are the potential sparks that could lead to conflict arising. What are they with your customers, your suppliers, your business partners, the people you manage, your peers, and your boss. If you want to of course, you can think about relationships away from the work setting.

Next, think about the specific situations that may arise where disagreements may occur. These could include where expectations or agreements have not been met. Some differences of opinion, attitude, outlook or work ethic may also exist. Doing this will highlight where conflict may potentially occur – and of course there will also be the examples where it has already happened or is happening now – they are easy to identify!

Finally, think about the tools you have to manage these situations. What can you do differently to manage each conflict situation? How can you tailor your approach to these different people and situations? In other words – have you just got a hammer, or do you have the right tools for the job? Taking time to work through your approach to each potential conflict will pay great dividends in helping to maintain positive relationships.

Don’t forget to check out some of the other articles in our knowledge centre – we’ll be back with another one in a month’s time.