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Winning ways

Conflicting ideas
A survey sent out to a sample of readers included an open question about which concerns they would most like life coach Jo Middlemiss to address in 2009. This third article suggests that, by taking a step back from workplace conflicts, you can find a creative and satisfactory solution.
“The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.” Carl Jung ‘Why can’t they just get on?’is a pretty universal question in families, schools, voluntary organisations, businesses, religions and countries. Is conflict just part of being human? If so, why is it so uncomfortable? Why does it leave us finished either high with excitement or low with the legacy of hurt feelings and minds racing with unresolved issues? When Speech & Language Therapy in Practice editor Avril Nicoll asked readers what problems they most often encounter as speech and language therapists, conflict figured highly. The frustration that conflict can provoke comes out in some of the language used – readers want advice on dealing with “demanding patients” and “difficult members of the multidisciplinary team”. It is clear that conditions can engender conflict, be it the “very antagonistic” nature of SENDIST work, or “being managed by someone from another agency with very different priorities and working culture.” Readers understand they have responsibility for “negotiation” and “resolving situations” but want to succeed in “assertiveness and still retaining enthusiasm”. This suggests that, like me, you believe conflict is a part of being human and that until we are all raised to the levels of the great enlightened ones - we just have to deal with it. There are many different reasons as to why people argue but they can generally be boiled down to issues around values, needs and expectations and rights. People want to be right, and will defend their corner energetically if the ego-ruled position is threatened. There are healthy and not so healthy ways to deal with conflict. Everyone has their own conflict style and it’s my contention that your conflict style, and your ability to stand back from and change it, will largely determine the outcome. I was recently asked to evaluate a course which is in preparation for young people to help them develop healthy relationships (‘Training for Youth in Relating to Others’). It defines the various conflict styles very usefully as follows: READ THIS IF YOU WANT TO BE • AWARE OF CONFLICT STYLES • EFFECTIVE IN CHALLENGING SITUATIONS • CREATIVE IN RESOLVING DIFFERENCES

1. Avoidance - No Way 2. Accommodation - Your Way 3. Competition - My Way 4. Compromise - Half Way 5. Collaboration - Our Way. Avoidants simply won’t engage and can drive others crazy by refusing to acknowledge the causes of the conflict. They hope that, if they ignore it, it will all go away. It often does, but will always come back in another form, maybe with a bigger kick. Those who accommodate give in, with an ‘anything for a quiet life’ attitude. Again this is a slow burner and can cause deep seated resentment in the accommodator, leading to illness, sudden bursts of emotion or a severe case of ‘victimitis’. Competitors think that they need to be right more than they need to be happy. They feel good for a little while when the ‘victory’ is theirs, but if that victory is at the expense of the relationship, where is the value? People who have a compromising style are into give and take. They need to be open to the opinion of others and are prepared to be partially satisfied and not overly attached to their own position. They do believe in ‘win/ win’ and this is often a very effective style indeed. The slight downside is that they may be saving up their compromises and will use them at a later date to win a big battle. It is one to be a little wary of because there may be an unexpected payback! Collaborators are not those that deal with the enemy as the war time term would have you believe. No, they focus on working together

with the team to find a solution which meets the needs of all parties. Collaborators listen and talk, they discuss and clarify and really do want to keep going until everyone can at least be aware of and acknowledge the positions of others. This requires courage and honesty and really does lead to healthier relationships in all areas of life. No prizes for guessing which one I favour. The challenge now is to work out which style is yours, and which style operates in your workplace. How can you change and become more effective when conflict makes its appearance, as it most certainly will? Thinking about your conflict style and recognising the conflict style of others helps you to take a step back from the conflict and a step forward into the creative and satisfactory solution which is SLTP most assuredly available to you. Jo Middlemiss is a qualified Life Coach, who offers readers a complimentary half hour coaching session (for the cost only of your call). Please note that Jo moved in May 2009 and her new telephone number is 07803589959. Jo’s book with CD ‘What should I tell you? A Mother’s final words to her infant son’ is now available.