Conflict: one of the most feared words in the English language and sadly one of the most misunderstood as well. My mission: to bring deeper awareness to this benign term, to remove all preconceived negativity associated with disagreements, and to reinstate it’s position of value in our vocabulary. If anyone is prepared to undertake such a loft goal, it is I – Conflict Resolution Girl! (Ta-da-ta-da!)
Lately I’ve been conducting a lot of conflict resolution workshops for businesses. In almost every case attendees admit to avoiding conflict whenever possible. “I hate fighting” is a common response. Yet conflict, I explain, is not synonymous with arguing. It’s simply defined as “two forces in opposition”, two differences of opinions or views. With the proper skills, disputes can actually be a valuable asset.
Consider the PROD Method the next time a disagreement arises. PROD stands for Position > Request vs Opinion > Demand. Let me explain:
First, state your Position: how you see things, what is not working for you, and how you feel. Here’s an example: A manager notices that one of her employees takes longer than permissible lunch breaks. She approaches the worker and states the following: “I’ve noticed that on several occasions you’ve left early for lunch and/or returned later than the thirty minutes allowed. Company policy is very clear as to when employees may leave and exactly when they are expected back. I find it disconcerting when you bend the rules.”
Secondly, express your Request: ask for what you need/expect, being fair and reasonable, assertive and confident. “I need you to pay closer attention to the time you come and go. I’m confident that will not be an issue for you. If you need assistance, I’d be happy to help.”
The second portion of PROD refers to Opinion and Demands.
Consider the same scenario but the manager expressing her Opinion rather than Position. “You’re taking advantage of this company by not obeying the rules. You think rules apply to everyone but you.”
Follow this with a Demand: “Do it again and I’ll have you fired! Don’t push your luck or you’ll regret it.”
Can you see the distinct differences? Position shows respect for the other party by dealing with facts only and refraining from assumptions, judgments, or threats. It speaks in the first person (“I” terms) about an observation, feelings and needs, and treats the other party as an peer. The Request is based on fairness, seeks a reasonable solution, and relies on trust that the other party will fully comply.
Opinion, on the other hand, is subject to interpretation rather than being fact-based. It’s judgmental, rude, hurtful, and fails to take into consideration the other person’s feelings.
Demands create an imbalance of power – a parent/child or authority/subordinate relationship. (Even though it may apply it is not necessarily advantageous.) Its fear-based origins lend themselves to giving strict orders with severe consequences in order to gain control and obtain the desired resolution.
Consider how you would best respond to another person approaching you to discuss a sensitive issue. Polite, fair, reasonable, and respectful vs judgmental, rude, excessive, and hurtful. It’s a no-brainer. And no, that does not mean that you don’t need a brain. It takes a fair amount of intelligence to master the art of resolution but even more than brains it requires sensitivity, compassion, consideration, and respect. And those all come from the heart.
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