Many conflicts escalate into devastating clashes when one of the sides or both of them takes a professional misunderstanding or a conflict of interests as a power test. Then you get to see smart managers/leaders engaging in a dead-lock conflict or irrationally tolerating massive losses in pursuit of maintaining the an ego-driven confrontation. Make no mistake, it is part of the human nature to be defensive and biased to one’s interests even if it contradicts with rules, morals or evidences. However, having an intrinsic tendency doesn’t mean one cannot tame it. Anyone can manage to scale down his ego-driven conflicts by learning and practicing the relevant techniques. Let me share with you some of them:
1) Bring over a trusted mediator.
Mediators are useful not only for troubleshooting complex disputes but for helping disputing parties handle matters objectively and understand the other side’s perspective. Opponents are often perceived as objective critics even if they try to do so. Hence, if you are part of a conflict try to engage a trusted neutral party that would give you an honest advise or sound reflection away from the heat zone.
2) Learn that withdrawal is not weakness.
We are often told that stepping back from a confrontation is a sign of weakness not only in the military or political arenas but also in the managerial arenas. Do not buy in the idea that today’s concessions for tomorrow’s wins will tempt the rival to abuse you as long you are a firm negotiator. Withdrawal is a tactical move when the conflict is avoidable and not paying off. It is by no means a sign of humiliating defeat or submission.
3) Control Anxiety.
Decision makers with high levels of anxiety or insecurity tend to exaggerate disputes and bring them unnecessarily into the clash zone. Their tendency to focus solely on the worst case scenario and see only bad intentions gets them to perceive simple conflicts as personal threats and accordingly the intrinsic ego-driven defensiveness will kick in and take over the decision making process.
4) Keep an eye on the big picture.
Looking at a conflict strategically and on a high level helps you resist being dragged into small fight-backs. By analyzing the whole situation rather than focusing on the next punch , you will get to learn about your own inadequacies which might have ignited the conflict. Moreover, you will be able to trace the causes of misunderstanding in between rather than sticking to your own view point.