12 Steps to Getting Along with Difficult People – Part 1

Conflict - 1Do you have anyone in your life who drives you nuts? Maybe it is a child, a spouse, a friend, a co-worker or a vendor. Well, if you are like most people you do have one or more people like that in your life. I want you to get a picture of that person’s face in your mind as we begin this blog because I want you to think about how you apply these principles of conflict resolution to your relationship.

These principles have worked wherever I’ve taught them in dozens of countries around the world. So, think about how you can put them to work and see broken or damaged relationships become whole!  Also, use these principles to keep your personal and professional relationships and teams healthy, productive and enjoyable.

And, I know that your personal and professional success will be greatly determined by your ability to master and help others master these principles 

George Bernard Shaw said it well, “In the right key one can say anything. In the wrong key, nothing; the only delicate part is the establishment of the key.”

In other words, if you are out of sort with people and living with unresolved conflicts you simply can’t maximize your productivity, profitability and success. You must be in the right key of harmonious and unifying relationships.

In this blog (part 1 of 4) I want to begin to coach you on 12 steps to resolving conflict. First, let me give you the 12 steps in summary form and then I’ll unpack them start now and in my next two blogs. 12 Steps to Resolving Conflict

  1. Learn to embrace and resolve conflict.
  2. Address your anger appropriately.
  3. Seek understanding, not victory.
  4. Assume the best.
  5. Learn to share your feelings appropriately.
  6. Watch your tongue. Ask, is it true, is it kind, is it necessary?
  7. Speak the truth respectfully.
  8. Attack the problem, not the person. Don’t use “You” statements; use “I” statements.
  9. Deal with specific areas, not generalizations.
  10. Seek and grant forgiveness.
  11. Deal with conflict personally. Go to that person. Don’t reprimand anyone in front of others.
  12. Be gentle. People are fragile.

 Now, that you have an overview of the principles, let me give you a little more practical application of these.

1. Learn to embrace and resolve conflict. How was conflict handled in your life growing up? Did your family deal with it in a healthy way or didn’t they? It’s important to think about this because most of us tend to respond to conflict the way our families did, or we overreact and go to the other extreme.

The tendency is for us to react by “Fight” or “Flight.” We can get abusive on the one hand or run away, deny and hide on the other. Both of these processes are unhealthy and never resolve conflict.

Remember, the goal is to embrace conflict and resolve it. So, what do you do? You commit to resolve conflict routinely. You embrace it the way one fighter embraces another who is beating him to a pulp. You try to get your arms around the conflict, evaluate it, not wasting emotional energy but letting your energy be used for positive problem solving.

The next 11 principles will tell you how to do this.

2. Address your anger appropriately.  Learn how to handle anger. First, realize that anger is not bad. It isn’t. In fact, anger is an emotion built within you in order to help you deal with impending danger the right way.

Let me illustrate. You are driving on the freeway and a car pulls right in front of you. What do you do? Well, you may be tempted to do all sorts of juvenile things. I sure get tempted to. But, hopefully, I let the anger I’m feeling lead me to step on the brakes, swerve and avert a fatal accident. You see, anger is a tool to help you.

So, anger isn’t bad. A response of flight or fight, however, is NOT the right way to respond. Instead, admit your anger and ask yourself what is causing it. Again, don’t waste your emotions by moping or screaming or being resentful. Instead, let all the emotional energy go toward completing the next 10 steps.

3. Seek understanding, not victory. Learn to listen! That’s a killer for most of us. But, you’ll never be a pro at resolving conflict unless you let go of trying to always win and focus on truly understanding. So, keep your mouth shut and ask questions.

If you are feeling hurt by someone due to what they may have said or done, don’t attack the person but ask questions to determine what was said and why it was said. Again, don’t get in an attack mode.

Instead, try to understand the other person’s perspective.

Remember, your goal is to get and stay in the right key of unity.

So, take a minute now to review the 12 steps summarized above and rate how well you do. And, this week focus daily on these first three steps.

And, let me know how you are doing and how I can help you process these as we work our way through them.