Conflict Resolution: A Business Mantra
Updated: Sep 15
When I was beginning my first ride in the C-Suite, there was a lot of jostling. We were building new locations, acquiring and integrating businesses, and wooing investors all at the same time. It was the dot com boom and every one was important, too busy there was a lot of rushing and tackling and deal making.
My role at one of those companies was to build and grow a service division in the company. I also on occasion was consigliere to most of the senior team. (without bloodshed ). Years later, one of the leaders mentioned to me that a statement I use frequently, had helped him successfully manage the more tricky of the company's internal and external business relations.
The mantra? "Always assume best intentions." I'm pretty sure I picked this up from one of my mentors. And who ever you are, I am eternally grateful.
For those of you who are tired of my blah, blah blah, I encourage you to read a little more- because this is not an easy statement to actually act on- but it is an important one to the core philosophy of how I prefer to do business. It has defused and then transformed any number of relationships that were tense into collaborations . It's also helped me to be a better listener.
As a note, this should be taken into consideration with your personality. If you are a, "whip out the flaming sword to right a wrong" type of person, you might use a modified version --perhaps a hot dagger in some cases.
Always assume best intentions. to resolve conflict.
When there are any interactions that might be perceived as hostile, I usually pause before getting angry. (As a note, I spent years being cranky. so this takes practice). I quickly think about 3 things.
1. CONTEXT & CULTURE First, think about the environment and circumstances. If there is a time crunch, and everyone is tense and tired, what might in a calm environment be viewed as trivial, in your current circumstances you might view as deal-breaking. Also, as the saying goes, you never know what the other person is going through. Find out.
Second, I think about the influence and culture. We mostly follow an example. Whether it is a CEO, or our cultural norms, we know from what we see and we mimic what we admire. What is more difficult to do consistently is understand how we are being perceived.
2. INDIVIDUAL SUCCESS FACTORS Even when negotiating, there is often a shared goal, but again, a difference of style in how to achieve that desired outcome. Take a moment and add incentives (what is driving that behavior?) to your assessment of context and culture.
3. TRANSFORM THE TONE Finally, when assuming best intentions, I shift my mental space from , "what an idiot" or "why are they being so aggressive/angry/an ass". My new mentality is, "This person is doing the best they can in this circumstance. How can I help them be more successful? ". By the way (and here's the key) it doesn't matter if this is true at that time. just shift your mentality.
At this point you're shifting from "defense" to "strategic offense". You're also changing the tone and behavioral signals that are unconsciously being sent (hostile/defensive/upset).
This mental shift usually reduces the overall tension of the situation, moving the overall relationship to a increasingly productive one over time. This isn't easy, but I've found it works not only for me, but others beyond the workplace. I hope it works for you!