There is a great deal of advice of how to communicate and get your message across, and how to persuade people to take action.
But there isn’t much said about how to ensure you don’t make someone an enemy. Conflict resolution takes tact and patience. If done well, it can ensure healthier relationships and improved business partnerships. Done badly and no one will want to invite you to their party.
However, I’ll share one lesson I’ve learned that has helped me become a welcome guest.
The two words everyone hates to hear
I know about these two words because I heard them often growing up.
And they didn’t make me more agreeable, either.
The two words?
Say those two words that have the power of a military-grade missile – and you can bet relationships will start exploding all over the place.
Who wants to hear that they’re wrong?
Even if you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the other person is wrong, they sure don’t want to hear it. Additionally, they’ll resent you for trying to expose their error.
When people hear someone say to them, “You’re wrong, and I’ll prove it to you,” it’s as though you said, “I’m a sharper tool in the shed than you, sport… and I’m going to make you change your mind.”
This is an interpersonal relationship “declaration of war.” You just sent a shot across the person’s bow and believe me, now they’re on the defensive.
Most people would rather go down on a sinking ship than admit they’re wrong.
A better way to handle conflict resolution
Instead of trying to prove someone wrong, why not instead take a different approach?
Why not admit that you make mistakes, that you could very well be wrong in this instance? Maybe you got your facts wrong. Maybe you skipped over something or didn’t understand the intended message.
As an example, let’s take customer complaints. Today’s businesses have a much more challenging situation with handling a customer’s complaint than just ten years ago.
Ten years ago, we didn’t have Twitter where an unhappy customer could broadcast their frustrations to the entire world. Now it’s become such a regular occurrence that companies have dedicated customer service reps monitoring the brand’s Twitter account and automation programs to assign specific complaints to them.
United Airlines didn’t do itself any favors when a few years ago, it told Dave Carroll, a customer who definitely had a valid complaint (the luggage handlers ruined his $3500 Taylor Guitar), that essentially, he was wrong.
After dickering with the company for nine months and finally receiving the message that no, the airline would not compensate him, he wrote a song that has now gone down into history as being the wronged customer’s “national anthem.”
As a result, United Airlines’ reputation took a huge hit and lost customers.
Was it worth it? For Dave Carroll, a musician who received valuable exposure, yes.
For United Airlines, definitely not.
Handle with care
No one likes to be told they are wrong. But if you handle it tactfully, you may allow them to “save face.”
If you’re first in admitting that you’re likely wrong, you allow the other person to review their own actions and decisions more thoughtfully. Once a person doesn’t feel as though they’re on the firing line, they relax and then admit that they also could be wrong.
Somewhere in the midst of this, true conflict resolution occurs, allowing each person to understand the other person’s concerns and then coming to a mutually agreeable solution.
It truly is a “win-win” for both sides.