Conflict that we experience from day-to-day is a natural and normal part of life. Professional planners are aware that experiencing conflict is an inevitable part of the job, which drives the need for innovative solutions to mitigate, manage and resolve conflict. Like planners, other professionals and leaders state that experiencing conflict has the potential to create a great deal of fear, anger, stress and disempowerment. Conflict can also put projects at risk and leave communities feeling disenchanted and disenfranchised. Professionals, however, that learn to understand and manage conflict effectively have been able to learn, grow, reflect on, and transform how they approach any circumstance. Here are 5 practical tips for minimizing and managing conflict in your professional practice.
1. Build Relationships.
When you invest time in your relationships you will have stronger connections to draw on should a conflict arise. This will be a tremendous resource when you are managing or resolving conflict. When working with stakeholders and the public, planners must invest time up-front to build relationships and build trust with potentially impacted communities. Like any good relationship, it must be maintained. Engage early, engage often, engage authentically and it will pay dividends later on, should conflict arise.
2. Be Aware of Your Perception of Conflict.
Know thyself. Knowing how you perceive and react to conflict will offer you incredible insight. It will reveal how you approach conflict, you’ll learn whether you’re escalating or de-escalating a situation, and it will help you assess if you are effectively dealing with conflict or making matters worse. When armed with this awareness, you can make changes accordingly in order to maximize your ability to manage conflict.
3. Know The Signs Of Conflict.
Have you ever felt like you have had the same disagreement before? Developing your ability to recognize the signs – the root causes – of conflict is critical to your success of managing a conflict situation when it arises. Learn to recognize the root causes of conflict so that you are working to resolve the issue that has presented itself. Although every individual and every community is unique, some common points of conflict or types of reactions will re-emerge in a planner’s day-to-day work. Learn from these interactions, keep a journal, and develop your understanding of what doesn’t work and what leads to productive solutions.
4. Build Your Skills.
Conflict exists in your personal and professional life. Have a process to resolve conflict (whether you use it formally or informally). Learn what skills work well to resolve conflict and master them. Strive to continue to grow in this area as conflict comes in many shapes and forms when working with others. Read articles and books, watch a YouTube video clip, learn from a colleague, or take a workshop in conflict management so when conflict does arise, you will be ready. Courses like OPPI’s Planner as Facilitator
will help equip you with the skills to mitigate the risks of conflict breaking out and will provide you with strategies for addressing and reducing outrage in your public engagement work.
5. Going from Conflict to Collaboration.
Developing the attitude that conflict provides the opportunity to change and do better is a huge
step to conflict management. Oftentimes innovative and collaborative efforts are born out of a conflict. When you find yourself in this situation ask yourself:
What has to be different about me to manage or resolve this conflict?
What are the opportunities here?
What solutions can resolve this?
Brainstorm at least three solutions before choosing one to act on.
Conflict will still happen no matter how skillful we are at mitigating it. Some things are beyond our control. However, we can manage it, respond better, and help move the needle from conflict to conversation and then to collaboration when we have the skills and awareness. By putting these ideas into action, you will have the confidence to build solid relationships and handle any difficult situation thrown your way.
Using the “Magic 5” to manage conflict will strengthen your collaborative efforts whether it is on your team, across departments or facilitating a contentious public meeting. Just remember – when a conflict situation arises, you have a choice.
Engage in the opportunity to strengthen your relationships by managing conflict. Educate yourself in the area you feel you need more skills in. Be empowered to act on the ideas you have to manage and resolve conflict.
Take care and remember – Leaders Lead!
Pramila Javaheri, B.A. C. Med.
Morgan Boyco, B.A., MSc.Pl.
As a professional planner, where do you experience conflict in your practice? Have you ever used any of the Magic 5 in conflict resolution before? Let us know below in the comments!