Simply Said
Simply Said
Simply Said is the essential handbook for business communication.

Can’t We All Just Get Along


“It’s the most wonderful time of the year.”

With the tree going up at Rockefeller Center and the ubiquitous festive displays in New York City, the holiday season is officially in full swing.

This time of year always reminds me of the so-bad-it’s-almost good movie, Jingle All the Way (1996). For those of you who haven’t seen it, the movie is about two fathers, played by Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sinbad, who fight for the hot toy of the year - Turbo Man. Of course there is only one available and the entire movie is about the clash between two dads vying for one toy. If you want to feel nostalgic or prefer a visual – watch this clip.

These two well-intentioned dads fight because they want the best for their sons and see the other person as an obstacle to this noble goal. This is no different than well-intentioned global leaders in conflict because they want the best for their region and people.

No matter how much you learn about other cultures, listen perceptively or communicate clearly, conflict will arise. Your skill to move a tense situation to a productive place as soon as possible will be a valuable one for you and your firm.

When you find yourself in conflict with someone else, take the lead to diffuse the situation. Resist the natural tendency to ignore it hoping it will go away. Almost always, the situation gets worse.

Conflict resolution starts with a conversation. Unless you’re planning to leave your firm or have the power to fire the other person, your goal is to rebuild your working relationship. Follow these steps to navigate clashes at work.

Step 1 - Get their side of the story

When you’re in conflict with someone, the other person is usually tense and on guard around you. Everything you say and do will seem self-serving except for pure listening.

If you invest time to show that all you want to do is understand where the other person is coming from and why he acted the way he did, you will help to calm the other person down. You will make them more open to your views. You may even learn something that might cause you to reassess the situation.

This step is difficult because much of what you’ll hear will seem unreasonable or like an excuse. You feel this way because your focus is still on you. Keep shifting your focus over to the other side until you can honestly acknowledge why the other person may be justified for her behavior.

Step 2 - Share your perspective

Once you understand the other person’s side of the story, you want to share your perspective to ensure you are both working from a common pool of information. If you don’t share your view, you may end up resenting any solutions that come out of this process.

Move past this step only after you and the other person feel all of the relevant information has been shared.

Step 3 - Determine the real need

When you both feel heard and share a common understanding, identify each individual’s real need if it wasn’t clear after the first two steps. It’s important to separate the need with the method to fulfill the need.

If you’re not sure what your real needs are, question your behavior by asking yourself why multiple times.

For example:
     Why am I recruiting this person from my colleague to join my team?
          - Because I need someone to start right away
     Why do I need someone to start right away?
          - Because my project is late and I need the right expertise and
            manpower to get it back on track

In this example, your need is to get the project on track. Poaching your colleague’s staff is just one possible solution.

Step 4 - Brainstorm ideas together

Once you understand your true need and realize that there might be different ways to fulfill that need, it’s time to collaborate and come up with ideas together on how you can both achieve your needs. Make a list and don’t worry about feasibility until the next step.

Step 5 - Choose the way forward

Once you have a list of solutions, choose the best ones that can realistically fulfill your needs. Once you agree on what you and the other person will do differently, keep each other accountable. Clearly note who will do what by when.

If you are still unable to come to an agreement, the solution may be to involve a third party to either decide or advise the situation.

The holiday season might be just the right time to put these skills to the test. If you have kids, walk them through the steps when they fight. It’s a great way to reinforce the skills for you and the threat of having to walk through these steps with you might be a deterrent for your kids to get into trouble.

For those of you who want to see what happens at the end of Jingle All the Way – watch this.

Enjoy your holidays and have a wonderful new year!

All the best,

Robert Chen
Exec|Comm Consultant

← Previous This newsletter is part four of a four-part series.

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