If you struggle to embrace conflict, you are not alone. Many shopping centre marketers and others in business aren’t comfortable with conflict for fear that rocking the boat will hurt a colleague, anger their boss, make them seem arrogant and/or not a team player. “Play nice” and everything will be fine—right?
Playing nice has a price. It protects the status quo, limits the range of thinking, invites passive aggressive behavior, and discourages risk management, among other effects.
Recently, we had the fortune of hearing Liane Davey; VP Team Solutions at Knightsbridge and the author of “You First” discuss the idea of “conflict for nice people.” She recommends that we “redefine nice.” Nice can be about embracing and encouraging differences of opinion and hard conversations when done with positive intent and the language of possibility.
Here is the ‘Reader’s Digest’ version of some the tips she shared.
Start with a mindset that is about “adding unique value.” Make it your role to regularly offer a different perspective from that of your team. If everyone agrees, someone must be redundant—make sure it’s not you.
The Power of “AND”
It’s OK to disagree if you eliminate an “I’m right and you’re wrong” mindset. If you disagree with something, try using “AND” to set up your thought and encourage collaboration. For instance, consider: “I understand you think we need to cancel the fall fashion event AND I believe that we need it to help profile our strengthened fashion retail mix—what are our options?”
Imagine A Different Solution
Being nice doesn’t involve defending your idea like a Harvard lawyer when you meet resistance, it means inviting your team to imagine a different version of what you have in mind. For instance, try: “I hear your concern about lack of resources to deliver this campaign within 3 weeks; if we could get more resources effective tomorrow then what might be possible?”
Explore the Impact
Open-ended questioning is a useful way to encourage your team to think through the impact of their ideas, especially when you have concerns. Instead of shutting down the conversation, consider using language such as “how might that idea affect X,” or “in what ways might implementing X lead to Y.” Never underestimate the power of being open, curious and collaborative.
Seek First To Understand
If you disagree with an idea from one of your team members, don’t diminish it or set it aside too quickly. Instead, strive to understand the reason and rational for their idea—what’s behind it? They may be onto something and you may be able to use your new understanding to work together to finesse the idea or find an even better solution. Consider using “tell me more about what you have in mind,” or “help me understand” to open up this conversation.
Moving forward, try some of these tips to help you embrace conflict and strengthen the effectiveness of your team. As Davey says, “the alternative is withholding your concerns, taking them up outside the team, and slowing eroding trust.” And that’s not nice.