Wednesday, September 19th, 2018

What NOT To Do In Conflict by Baby Boomer Zoe Routh


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What NOT To Do In Conflict by Zoe Routhzoe routh What NOT To Do In Conflict by Baby Boomer Zoe Routh

I’m never short of an opinion. My colleague remarked that I was unusually forthright in board meetings, disagreeing with the chair openly on several occasions. I’ve never been one to balk or pander to others because of rank; I believe whole-heartedly that every individual has something to offer debate, regardless of experience, position, or job title.


Apparently this opinion is not shared by others, as I learned recently in a strategic review meeting.


I was told with different words but with clear meaning: “shut up buttercup and respect your elders.”


I do not take kindly to being told to pipe down, I can assure you! The blood boiled in my face and I sat seething in my chair.


Now I’ve learned a thing or two about what not to do, and this helped me a lot as I fumed, steam lifting my shirt collar.


Here’s what NOT to do:


1. Do not let your emotions speak for you.

I was severely peeved at this point; had I let rip with what was screaming in my head, all the others would have heard were my feelings, red and raw. Plus they would be distracted by wiping the spittle from their eye.


The thing to do at this point is to feel the feelings fully, on my own, without vomiting these in a messy explosion. Once I’d let the storm dissipate, I could look more rationally at what the issue was, and how I’d like to present my side of the argument.



2. Resist the urge to want to win the war then and there.

Having been told to get back in my box and then patronized with a deferential pat on the knee, I was ripe for a fight. However I am quite certain had I insisted on crossing swords, then I would have come off the worst – losing both my dignity and perhaps the esteem of my peers.


Taking the long view on the issue is far more effective than wanting to score points in a tit for tat battle of semantics. Knowing the ultimate outcome I wanted – to make effective long lasting change to an educational program – was far more important than arguing over the effectiveness of past programs. You can’t change other people’s view of the past; you are better off shaping a compelling vision of the future and inviting them to join you.


3. Don’t dismiss other people’s opinions because they’ve pi**ed you off.

I may have been insulted and irritated, but this does not mean the others did not have a valid opinion. Taking a step back and asking, “Is there anything I can learn from this?”


As it turns out I had actually missed a key strategic point my colleague was making and that I agreed with. I was very glad not to have had pressed my argument more forcefully, only to realise later I had missed the point. Phew!


4. Mind your language.

This is an obvious one – avoid swearing or insulting your peers. Here’s a less obvious one – be careful how you express your point of view. I have a tendency to use colorful, vivid language to make a point. I think this is my Canadian background seeping through. However, other people may not appreciate being told they ‘need a fire lit under their a**’ when a simple phrase like, ‘focused motivation’ would be more appropriate. Ahem.


5. Don’t forget – you’re all on the same team and ultimately want the same outcome.

I heard Chris Howard, personal development guru, describe this as ‘chunking up’ an argument until you get to the place where you realize you want the same thing. Then you can work down again around the issue where the differences come up, seeking common ground and a compromise. This can help take the sting out of disagreement and reassert respect.


Lastly, the basic common denominator is about respect. No matter if I was patronized, denigrated, or dismissed, I can still be a leader and respect my colleague, agreeing to disagree, and conceding our differences.


I can always take out my frustration in the gym. It’s hard to be angry when you’re lathered in a pool of sweat on the step machine.


About the Author:

Leadership Coach, Speaker, and Author Zoe Routh works with women in business to enhance their personal effectiveness and leadership capacity for global effect. Go here for free tips on how to become a more effective leader that will save you time, money, energy, and stress.

 Also, grab your copy of David Riklan’s book 101 Great Ways to Improve Your Life.


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