How to Solve and Prevent Conflicts?

Often, there are situations where one of the engineers wants to develop a feature in a certain way, and another engineer finds the solution stupid. The engineer may insist on the solution they suggested or push a significant change in the codebase. When other developer stands on their way, these kinds of situations result in resentment and conflict. Luckily, there are strategies to solve these conflicts.

When you have a problem with someone, the situation puts you under such stress that you spend sleepless nights. After you have a massive load of work, along with a conflict in the team, you might feel incompetent. You can avoid annoying people to solve the conflict, but it's not that possible at work.

Miscommunication and lack of empathy lay beneath the conflicts. The expectation of a magic wand resolving everything can put high pressure on managers' shoulders. However, there are initial steps managers can take.

Finding a solution requires immense preparation. Both sides in the conflict should prepare a plan with all the possible solutions, including the ones where they are entirely defeated. Both sides should think through mainly two things: what they truly need and what the other side needs. They can't do this alone. Managers play a significant role here. People not only neglect to ask about what the other side needs but also don't answer the question themselves. With the help of a good manager, people can figure out the demands and wishes from both sides.

Instead of getting stuck in meaningless and bitter discussions, you need to work towards a complete plan. Creating a strategy for every possible situation sounds difficult at the beginning. However, this approach also forces you to have a tangible goal and not begin the discussion without it. The whole journey of finding out the goal and the needs requires self-awareness and self-analysis.

Analyzing yourself involves a lot of effort and time, which might be why you avoid it in the first place. The analysis may (and most probably will) unveils different inner conflicts. Since writing forms thoughts, the plan helps a lot to detach these internal conflicts and surface them. When your internal feelings see the light, you recognize what you need in the end. Yet, you still have no idea about what other person needs.

Finding the needs of others starts with listening. During a battle, leaving out the anger and opening your inner selves is difficult. Emptying your mind and listening with your whole being is what's called empathy. When you have this level of understanding, you start listening to how people feel and what they need rather than what they are thinking at that specific moment. It requires practice. Paraphrasing the questions is one of the most helpful practices. When the other person says, "I don't want to work with you.", instead of asking, "Why don't you want to work with me?" ask, "Are you feeling unhappy because you need to be heard?". The change in the phrase is so powerful that it switches the course of the discussion. The mood shifts from tense to emotional. With this attitude change, you also take another step to care about other people affected by your disagreement, the team.

The circumstances of conflicts also affect other people around you. The struggle breaks the team spirit, and people start advocating sides. It leads even more misunderstandings, and the team loses focus and speed. However, once you begin resolving conflicts, everyone recovers incredibly fast, relationships get more robust, and people start looking after each other. When caring people surround you, you also recover from failures faster than you think.

Creating plans help resolve the conflicts while listening with empathy and paraphrasing helps in avoiding new ones. Understanding what other people need is a game-changer. It's not only valuable for conflicts but also handy in day-to-day communication. When someone comes with a wish or a request, you can ask questions by focusing on their feelings or needs. Understanding another person enables you to create a better strategy to both resolve problems and work together efficiently. Although these strategies will not be like a magic wand and solve every conflict right away, they are just starting points. If you are in a conflict, ask yourself what you truly need and what the other person needs. Last but not least, if you want to learn more about this, read Non-violent Communication.

Medium Length Last Updated: Sep 16, 2021