Tools for tough situations

Within every conflict there’s a possibility for growth

It’s easy to be a good team player on days when everybody is happy. It takes a whole lotta more talent to be a good team player on other days, when opinions, goals and personalities clash. However, each argument, conflict and difficult situation contains a possibility to develop as a human being.

These situations feel uneasy at first. We have a tendency to avoid discomfort, fear and rejection. In addition to that, most of us have been brought up to believe one should not argue. No wonder we would like to circle around difficult topics and put out any potential conflict as fast as possible. But that is not a sustainable way of dealing with things.

Not all arguments are necessary. I want to help you to recognize the ones that are. I want to provide you with tools to withstand and endure difficult situations and deal with challenging people. What is good argument like? How can you disagree in a constructive manner? How to find the growth within the conflict?

Start with these

Separate interpretations from observations

Separating interpretations from observations sounds like an easy task, but is more difficult in practice. We think of ourselves as reliable, objective and neutral narrators whose observations are true. However, our own interpretative framework always affects our observations.

You don’t listen – No, I don’t obey

You’d think it’s obvious whether someone is listening to me or whether I’m listening or not. Yet I’ve repeatedly stumbled into disagreements about listening in my personal life, at work and in literature.

Summarizing is a good listener’s superpower

Simply put, summarizing is repeating the other person’s narrative to them briefly and in your own words. Let’s delve a bit deeper, though: why, how and for what purpose you can use summarizing.

The Observation + Impact feedback model

In my everyday life, I’ve noticed that the most usable model for giving feedback is a simple observation + impact model. It’s simple enough to be understandable and still demanding enough that you have to think about how you give feedback.

Other people’s behaviour doesn’t make us angry

“Other people’s behaviour doesn’t make us angry? Of course it does. It happens almost every day!” We are accustomed to thinking that it is people’s behaviour that makes us angry and thus, that it is bad behaviour. In reality, our reaction is not universal or inevitable.

Let’s Save the Meetings!

Are there too many people in the meetings you attend, just to be safe? Is there no agenda, the topic is unclear and no one quite knows what’s the point of the meeting? Is no one listening but doing other work during the meeting? Let’s save the meetings!

People harp on about things when they don’t feel listened to

Sometimes you just can’t get your point across. You get frustrated. The other person harps on and on, and sticks to their own point like week-old chewing gum. How many times, and in how many different ways, must you express something before it’s finally accepted?

That one person is just sooo difficult

It’s easy to label a person who feels negative as a killjoy and a nuisance without considering any further what drives their behaviour. But what makes someone be the person who always sees the risks and threats, and who always asks the irritating and difficult questions?

Is it our biggest problem that people don’t read?

One tech professional told me once in a fit of frustration, “Elisa, the biggest communication problem this organisation has is that people simply don’t read.” But if we know for a fact that people don’t read, is that then a problem – or a fact of life that we need to adjust to?

Hanlon’s razor teaches us to interpret things better

People have a tendency to assume that anything unpleasant was done with malicious intent. However, Hanlon’s razor tells us, “Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by neglect.”