What not to do when conflict exists in a relationship.

Effective communication does much to reduce conflict; while poor communication increases fault lines that eventually wreak long-term damage between people. What follows are examples of ‘what not to do’ when conflict exists in a relationship. What can you do to prevent these damaging attitudes and behaviors from showing up in your conflict situations?

1. Avoiding
Whether it’s our attempts at being polite, or just the danger of feeling out of control, we have a tendency not to say anything until push comes to shove and all of a sudden we explode, losing control of our emotions and saying things we later regret. Avoiding, or perhaps better, suppressing our feelings only serves to let a variety of ill-feelings incubate until the point when a much bigger argument finally erupts. Take care of yourself and address conflict in an open, honest, and straightforward way.

2. Defensiveness
Rather than being objective and curious to know how another sees the situation, we often let our egos control the proceedings, becoming defensive of our own behavior. Denying any role in the problem, or believing that all our actions have been benevolent, only ends up distorting reality. The truth is that it’s perfectly okay to be wrong – to share in the blame. This takes far less effort than it takes to put up a front and convince everyone, including ourselves, that we did not contribute to the problem in any way. Denying responsibility may seem to be the quickest way out of conflict, and all it really does is prolong the day of reckoning. So just rip the Band-Aid off, clean out the wound, and let the real healing begin.

3. Righteousness
There’s a temptation to default to a position of being ‘right’ no matter what the circumstances or the facts may indicate. By swiftly claiming that you are ‘right’ and the other person is clearly ‘wrong’ is really just a thinly disguised way of saying that the resolution can only be one way – your way. If you demand that others see the situation as you see the situation, you will never be able to realize that in most conflict situations, more than one point of view can be legitimate. So stay away from labeling perspectives ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ and just be open to the compelling truth that can rest among multiple points of view.

4. Attacking
Separate the person from the behavior in question, and remember not to make the other person out to be a villain. Everyone possesses character flaws, yet those flaws do not describe a person entirely. Good traits also exist in every person. Again, temper your negative perceptions and remind yourself that everyone wants to live up to a fine reputation.

5. Assuming
When we do not understand something, especially the behaviors of others, we dismiss it. In other words, we are quick to judge the behaviors of others, and that judgment is often quite unfavorable. Give others the benefit of the doubt and forego the inclination to interpret other’s actions. If you do not understand another’s behavior, simply ask about it. You may be surprised at the answer you hear when you remain unattached to what you believe is going on.

6. Listening
Listening is actually far more active than it appears on the surface, which means to pay attention we must manage the thoughts that pop up in our minds. If you are distracted by your own thoughts, or thinking about what you are going to say next, you can not possibly be listening. If you do not make an effort to understand where someone else is coming from, it is likely they will not make the effort to see where you are coming from. Listening and empathizing with others is the sun that warms the icy coldness of most conflict situations.

7. Winning
There’s a cost associated with any conflict, and that cost is measured in either the ‘issue’ or the ‘relationship.’ Which one will you pick? You can not have both; one automatically is given up when the other is chosen. When we are bound and determined to ‘win’ the argument, we pay with the price of the relationship. It’s that simple. So next time you want to win, make sure the issue you are fighting for is worth the price of sacrificing the relationship, for relationships are hard to heal once injured.

8. Generalizing
With any situation or event that happens, we all have the choice to see it for what it really is or quickly turn it into a sweeping indictment of everything that’s wrong. Sentences that start with, “You always…” and “You never…”, lump everything that’s wrong together and neatly wrap it into one big package with a giant bow for good measure. Resist generalizations that can not possibly be true as emotionally stated. Such statements stand smack in the way of true conflict resolution.

9. Obstructing
Not wanting to talk about an issue when the other party wants to will not lead to a healthy resolution, instead it leads to hard feelings and bitterness. Sulking in our own emotional wounds, refusing to talk or listen, allows for conflict to fester and grow. If the other person raises a white flag, calls for a truce, or hands you a peace pipe, by all means take advantage of these openings. Accepting an invitation to reach agreement or understanding should not be perceived as a gesture of weakness. Standing firm and preventing progress from happening is hardly a gesture worthy of respect.

In any conflict, always remember that the most important thing is not what you want, or what others want. It’s the health and future direction of the relationship.

Corinne McElroy CPCC, ORSC.
Executive & Leadership Development Coach

Coaching Tip: 3 Secrets of Impactful Leadership

3 Secrets of Impactful Leadership

As you are leading and impacting others, are you getting the results we want? If yes, do you know what you are doing to get those results so you can keep getting them again and again? And if no, do we know what you are doing that is disempowering others, so that you can change your approach to achieve your desired results and empower others in the process?

So, what does it take to be an impactful leader? Being a leader is not about your title, the power of your position, or how many followers you have. It comes down to three critical steps.

1. Know where you are coming from – Know what you believe in and what your values are so that you can make decisions and lead your team in the direction that supports your vision.

2. Adopt a leadership mindset that positively affects your behaviors, your outcomes and therefore your impact. When you have a leadership mindset, you take responsibility for your team and your results.

3. Empower your team members to be their best. Identify the strengths and talents of your team so you can empower them to achieve the desired goal.

After all, isn’t that what we’re all after? Reaching a common goal while making a positive impact?

As a leader, you are not only influencing others, you are impacting them – for better or worse. In his book, The Majesty of Calmness (1898), William George Jordan, American editor and essayist said that we cannot circumvent this responsibility by saying it is unconscious, because “every moment of life [we are] changing…the whole world.” We all have the ability to uplift or dishearten others.  By adopting a leadership mindset, we can ensure that to the best of our ability and intentions, we impacting others in a positive way.

Your impact stems directly from your mindset as a leader, because your mindset affects your behaviors, which then affects your results. So what is your mindset?

The term “mindset” means a mental attitude or inclination. Our attitude determines our behavior, and our behavior produces specific results. If you are getting effective results from those you are leading, you are having a positive impact on them, and therefore yourself. And vice versa.

Are we getting the results or having the impact we want, or are we experiencing unwanted results and outcomes? By looking at the relationship between our mindset, our behavior, and our impact, we can integrate all three components to generate the results we really want.

Your behavior is representative of your mindset. As a leader, you want to maintain a leadership mindset. If your perspective is filled with negativity or limiting beliefs, then you have a mindset that will negatively affect others, and will not give you the results you desire. If your mindset however, is on abundance, strengths and positivity, which are qualities of a leadership mindset, then you will positively influence others and achieve your desired results.

We often engage in behaviors without considering that we have a choice in whether or not to engage in them. If our circumstances are not going the way we desire, we may feel and act like a victim. If you make different choices about your behavior and change your actions, your results will change. You can stop being a victim of your circumstances.

It is important to note that changing your behavior is not sustainable unless you change your negative mindset to a leadership mindset. A great example of this is what happens when people do assessments. If they just change their behaviors but they do not change their mindset around their natural styles,  qualities and skills, they rebound to old ways of doing things  because they haven’t changed the underlying problem – they haven’t changed the mindset that drives them towards results they do not want.

Changing your behavior without changing your mindset is not sustainable. Changing your mindset, however, creates sustainable behavioral change.

Observe your impact on others, observe your actions as you carry them out, and observe your mindset as it fills your thoughts and shapes your attitudes. When you notice negative, limiting thoughts, make a choice and shift your perspective to an abundant leadership mindset.

Reminder: Your mindset/Belief Systems drives your thoughts, your thoughts drive your emotions, your emotions drive your behaviors and your behaviors drive your results.. You “GET” to start with your mindset..

To your success and happiness,
Corinne McElroy CPCC ORSC
Leadership Coach


Coaching Tip: Help for Time-Starved Communicators

Coaching Tip:  Help for Time-Starved Communicators

Even though we live in an age with more communication tools than ever (Facebook, email, Twitter, texting), we are not necessarily more connected with the people around us.  Many of us yearn to be more connected with our loved ones and friends.  In addition, we long for more effective and efficient communication in the workplace.  The amount of busyness in a person’s life can hinder their ability to communicate effectively.  Here are some tips to help, if you are a time-starved communicator.

Consider the important people in your life, and what form of communication works best for them.  Then think about how often you would ideally communicate with them.  Does your boss like a or weekly status report over email?  Does your mother like a phone call once a week for thirty minutes?  Do your kids each crave ten minutes of your undivided attention at bedtime?

Once you’ve identified these things, look at what needs to change in your life to make room for your communications.

Ultimately, communicating effectively saves you time.  Be intentional, and make your communications work for you, not against you.

Reminder: Behaviors drive results. Overall what are the results you want?

To your success and happiness
Corinne McElroy
Leadership Coach