Kharissa Forte is a writer, certified health coach, and columnist for Startland News. Read her “Holistic Hustle” columns for Startland News here. For more of her self-care tips on how to keep your cup full, visit graceandgrind.co.
One of the hardest things to navigate at work is conflict. When your beliefs or ideas are challenged, sometimes it can feel as if your very identity is under attack. Part of self-care involves knowing how to handle conflict in a healthy manner without compromising your authenticity. With this five-step practice, you can position yourself to fight fair sans any unnecessary drama.
As Psychology Today explains, responding is a slow process that factors information, not just emotions. Responding takes long-term consequences, the company’s core values, and the well-being of all parties involved into consideration. Reacting, on the other hand (or, as I like to call it, poppin’ off) is purely emotional and happens in an instant. In many ways, reacting is a defense mechanism that’s executed in survival mode. Responding is cool, calm, collected, and confident because there’s an understanding that neither you nor your position is being threatened. This doesn’t mean that you sweep your emotions under the rug. It just means that you realize the goal is to find a solution, not to put your emotions on display, so how you move is more carefully thought out.
If you’re a fan of any show Shonda Rhimes has created, then you’ve likely been blown away by how cool some of her characters come off with their fast talking, quick-witted responses (or, in this case, reactions) in the face of conflict. I mean, it was a skill every gladiator on Scandal mastered and quite a few doctors at Grey + Sloan Memorial Hospital have it down, too.
Contrary to how you may feel at the moment, your workplace is not the latest Shondaland production and you’re not auditioning for the starring role. That means you get to think before you speak. You totally have permission to say, “I want to make sure our discussion is fruitful, so let’s table this until after lunch when we’ve both had a chance to process and think things over.”
When you do come together to hash things out, it’s not a bad idea to have a fair, non-biased mediator present who can help ensure things don’t get out of hand. Be an active participant in the conversation by listening to understand, not to respond. Respect is a two-lane street, so it’s important to take stock of the other person’s tone and body language just as much as your own. If you’re giving or receiving signals that suggest emotions are still a bit too high to converse, press pause on the conversation and take a beat.
With that last piece being said, keep in mind that ego has no place in conflict resolution. Take ownership for snarkiness, lack of empathy, or anything else on your part that contributed to the situation going south. Remember that key aspects of responding include taking long-term consequences, the company’s core values, and the well-being of all parties involved into consideration. Those principles should be upheld in every stage, but especially now.
The final step is to actually reach a solution. People can go back and forth all day when it comes to their biases, beliefs, and feelings — and it’s not always combative. I’ve seen some people start off with a disagreement end up in a bonding session. Even if you find yourself holding hands and singing kumbaya, you still need to reach a solution. Communicate triggers, boundaries, and expectations so that you’re on the same page on how to proceed and reduce the risk of blow-ups happening in the future.
Fueled by her expertise as a writer, certified health coach, and local business owner, Kharissa Forte is passionate about helping entrepreneurs in Kansas City achieve their goals without sacrificing self-care. Check out her personal blog and connect with her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
This commentary is possible thanks to support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a private, nonpartisan foundation that works together with communities in education and entrepreneurship to create uncommon solutions and empower people to shape their futures and be successful.