You Agree With Me, Right?: Navigate a Political Minefield Using Conflict Management

These days, it seems like political conflict can follow us around like an elephant chained to an ankle. You might not see it every minute, but it’s always hanging out in the background.

Sometimes you may be tempted to hide from the conflict and pretend it’s not there.

This will only hurt you — your mental health, etc. — in the long run, as well as your relationship with the other person.

Here are 6 Steps for Managing Conflict of a political nature. You know: the person who talks constantly about a very controversial, political issue and automatically assumes you feel the same way….when in reality, you strongly believe the exact opposite.

At the end of this download, you’ll find 2 case studies that you can work through to practice what you learned. Take the time to practice!

The more you practice these skills, the easier it will get (I promise…) to work through conflict.

This will free up your time and energy to use spreading good in the world, rather than focusing on the negative.

The choice is yours. Use it wisely!

Step 1: Speak Up!

You probably already know this, but it’s worth reviewing: staying silent when someone is saying hurtful things to you or around you, YOU are the one who is negatively impacted. Not the other person.

Remember that your voice and opinions are worth hearing.

Other people around you are looking to you for leadership….and counting on you to step up and day something.

If you don’t, who will?

Step 2: Put a [Boundary] Around the Topic

If you want a change to happen, YOU have to be CLEAR and SPECIFIC about what you want or need to change.

This can take some time!

Start the conversation by talking about the most recent and relevant instance of the conflict.

Don’t try to cover year(s) of history! Talking about the past can be sticky and muddy. You may have different recollections of what happened, but most importantly, there’s not much either of you can do to fix what happened three years ago.

Focus on the most recent example of the conflict.

Focusing on a recent example demonstrates the conflict to the other person, but then allows both of you to talk about how it’s going to be different moving forward.

Step 3: Describe What You Need To Change

Remember that you do not need to apologize for your feelings. [As women, we do this more often than men!]

You have a right to feel whatever you are feeling.

In order for things to change, though, you have to get CLEAR and SPECIFIC about what needs to change.

This might take some thought and process time, especially if this is an ongoing conflict with someone you’ve had a relationship with for a period of time. If possible, try to give yourself the opportunity to work this out before the conversation.

Here’s an example:

  • “While you are in the clinic, please do not share your political views. Everyone has different viewpoints, but this setting is not the right place to get into it.”

In this situation, I’m being 1) clear and specific about what behavior needs to change, and 2) why the request is being made. Both of these factors will help the other person understand the request and why it’s being made, even if they aren’t happy about it.

Step 4: ***MAYBE Ask For Input And Collaboration***

Sometimes as a leader, you have to ask yourself:

  • Do I need to enforce a rule right now for the safety/well-being of my team and clients, regardless of how much I piss off the rule-breaking person? OR
  • Do I care enough about the relationship at stake to handle the situation more delicately in an effort to preserve the relationship?

These are hard questions to answer, and ones that change depending on the person and the day (and sometimes even the hour!)

When dealing with conflict, a more straightforward question to ask is: do I want to nurture and cultivate this relationship?

If the answer is no — because you are dealing with an obstinate client — don’t bother asking for input or collaboration in solving the conflict. In these situations, you need to make the conflict go away as quickly as possible.

If the answer is yes — because you are dealing with a team member or colleague — then a good way to resolve the conflict is to ask for input and collaboration.

You may be working together longer, and you don’t want to harbor hard feelings for the other person. And you don’t want the other person to harbor hard feelings towards you, either.

Work through this situation by describing what you need to have changed, but also ask the other person for input.

Here’s an example:

  • “It’s difficult to hear you discussing [___TOPIC X__] because I don’t see the situation the same way, and I often leave the conversation very upset.

    I value our working relationship, though, which is why I’m bringing this up. I don’t want [___TOPIC X__] to come between us.

    Can you think of ways that we can avoid this topic? Or a phrase the change the subject when I’m starting to feel uncomfortable?”

Step 5: Recap the Conversation

At the end of your conversation, be sure to tell your counterpart what you heard.

Again, be as clear and specific as possible.

“I’m hearing that we both agree [___TOPIC X___] is not something we should discuss at work.”

Look for a sign of understanding and agreement (head nod, etc.).

Step 6: Document the Conversation

Follow up the conversation with a written record of:

  • What you talked about;
  • What you heard;
  • What the agreement is for moving forward

Include any other people on the message that is necessary (i.e., HR, supervisor, etc.).

The great thing about the documentation is that 1) it gives the other person a chance to let you know if they heard something different.

Most important, it records your conversation and gives you something to refer to if, after time passes, the other person’s behavior doesn’t in fact change.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Self-awareness is key in this situation. You’ve got to take a good, hard look at your own behavior while you are also looking at the behavior of others.

No one is perfect. And, no one likes to think they are hurting or offending others (especially if they thought you’ve been “on their side” for a while).

You have to be patient with your counterpart. Change is hard for everyone.

You have to be persistent in asking for change and what YOU need to be different.

And, you have to be fierce as you defend your new boundary. Change is hard for everyone – and sometimes people will slip up and forget your new agreement. Patiently remind them but stay fierce in defending your needs. No one else is going to do it for you!

Remember that you are stronger, braver, and capable of so much more than you realize. Change is hard, but you’ve got this.

Keep rocking and I look forward to connecting with you online SOON.

P.S. Looking for the case studies mentioned? Check them out, along with a downloadable guide with this content, here.

Have a question that you want some perspective on? Email your situation to
emily@brightbusinessconsulting.com. To make sure you don’t miss a post, subscribe here.