Who is difficult; is it you or them?

Who is difficult; is it you or them?
July 9, 2018 Linda Murray

Whenever conflict occurs, it’s typical for both parties to be surprised to learn they themselves are seen to be the source of the trouble. It’s this “us against them,” mindset that’s often the root cause of conflicts.

If you want to reduce conflict and solve problems, you need to take a step back from the situation and gain some insight so that you can assess it correctly. Pause for a moment and think about why someone is withholding their agreement and cooperation.

Are they being difficult simply because they are stubborn? What part have your own actions played in their behaviour?  Or are you the one that’s actually being difficult?

The best way to reduce conflict is to rise and listen to what others are saying

Very few of us always mean what we say or say what we mean. Words and the tone can have different meanings to different people. The words we don’t say when we are speaking also convey meaning, as does our body language. The posture, gaze and hand gestures we use when we are speaking with someone also convey meaning.

Everyone wants to be heard when they express themselves. When we listen to what others have to say, it shows that we value them and respect them. That’s why it’s so very important to be present and pay attention to what people are saying. We need to make certain that we understand the true meaning.

Difficulty with others is the natural result of unintended meanings

Misunderstanding the speaker’s true intention can easily lead to conflict. If someone is being resistant to your ideas, the reason why they are being difficult with you might be because of your own speech, tone or body language!

For example, you might be talking with a member of your team about something that’s bothering them about your work together. You know they are pressed for time, so you present them with a list of your talking points to be efficient and save you both some time.

Rather than seeing that you are trying to help, your team member could feel rushed. They might believe that you don’t really care about their feelings or opinion – that you don’t value them as a person – which will just exacerbate the conflict!

Don’t assume everyone will hear your communications with the meaning that you intend. Don’t jump ahead in conversations by thinking about your response. It’s not a competition.

Slow down and focus on what others are saying when they speak. Check to make certain that you have captured the correct meaning and they’ve been heard.

Value open dialogue and honest conversations

In addition to being heard, everyone wants to be treated with respect and as an equal partner in their relationships. People resist cooperation when they feel trapped or believe they don’t have a choice in a situation.

When negotiating with others, don’t try to score points or “win,” the argument. Especially if you are in a position of power in the relationship, avoid using overt threats and other forms of intimidation to gain someone’s cooperation.

Even when you need to deliver bad news, such as confronting someone about their performance, take the time to empathise with them. Listen to them and work with them to come up with a list of solutions so both of you have had input on whatever agreement is reached. Allow the other person to choose the option that best suits their needs if it’s possible.

Be aware of how people react to what you say and do. You might be surprised to find that YOU are the difficult person.

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