Overcoming Conflict and Developing Peaceful Resolutions
Conflict Resolution in the Business Valuation World
Conflicts exist with clients, co-workers, and with the other side on valuation issues. Most valuation cases settle well before litigation. This article focuses on steps that can be taken to enhance your perspective and work with those you find difficult to communicate with in any setting.
Think about conflicts you have with clients, with co-workers, and with the other side on a valuation issue.Â Wouldnâ€™t we like to resolve all confrontations with a peaceful resolution that is acceptable to all of the parties?Â Our brains are naturally inclined to search out and approach food shelter and other primal needs, such as sex.Â Unfortunately, according to neuroscience we approach everything else negatively as a first response.Â We are not oriented initially to search out issue resolution when new ideas are introduced.Â However, our brains can be trained to remain calm when provoked, to listen effectively, to focus on the interests of others and to work with others to resolve issues.Â This is a learned skill.
Think about the broad category of communication: communication is a learned skill.Â In communication we know the words we use make up less than 10% of communication, the tone and attitude presented make up less than 40% of the communication, and that body language and facial expressions make up more than 50% of the communication.[i]Â Knowing this, we are much better off when in conflict with others to have a face-to-face discussion and focus on the facial expressions and body language of the other person first, the tone and persona second, and the actual words being said third.
One of the keys is to realize there are barriers to listening and to work to overcome those barriers.Â In the QuickRead article on September 10, 2015, I stated that: â€śThere are three sides to every issue: my side, your side, and the truth.â€ťÂ We all see the world through our own lenses.Â How often do we truly stop and listen to the other party, stopping to ask questions for clarification and reflecting back to the other party without offering suggestions?Â When someone truly listens to you, how do you feel?Â Who do you admire as a good listener and why?Â John Gray, in his book Men Are from Mars, Woman Are from Venus, offers insights that men need some help with listening and the two sexes often speak right past each other. Â As a man, I have learned I needed help in this area and find that most men do.Â Often we think we are good listeners, but I suggest you ask a friend you trust who you feel is a good listener.Â You may learn more about yourself.Â If this is an area that needs work, this may be the first step towards reducing conflict going forward.Â You can seek out and obtain training and practice listening skills to assist you with conflict resolution.Â Consider searching â€ślistening trainingâ€ť on the internet for exercises and courses to help you or taking listening classes locally.
Often times, if we are in conflict with someone else we have already escalated the issue.Â We may have started out in conversation, which became a discussion, then something happened and we became entrenched and so did the other party; as we escalated the situation, tension rose and we knew our position was right and the other party was clearly wrong.Â Does this sound familiar?Â To de-escalate the situation we have to reverse this scenario.Â We also have to realize that as we reverse this scenario, the other party may not de-escalate at the same rate.Â That too can cause problems, so be aware of it and realize that either you or the other party may take more time to de-escalate once tensions have arisen.Â De-escalation involves a number of steps.Â First, it is necessary to stop demonizing the other party.Â Donâ€™t call them names or refer to the other party in negative terms.Â Remember the other party is a person with needs, wants, and concerns as well.Â Second, we need to acknowledge the 600-pound gorilla in the room and apologize for any inappropriate behavior on our part.Â Third, we need to listen to the other party and reflect back in neutral terms what they are saying to demonstrate that we indeed are listening. Â Only through de-escalation can we move to a discussion and possibly a conversation related to the area in conflict.
Letâ€™s take a look at the steps associated with conversation, discussion, negotiation, listening, mediation, and collaboration.Â Starting with conversation, think of how pleasant it is to have a conversation with someone you truly care about and they care about you.Â This type of conversation is pleasant.Â We listen carefully.Â We ask open ended questions.Â We focus on the other party.
Taking this to the next level, what about when we have a discussion with someone we donâ€™t know as well, such as a stranger or neighbor that is culturally different than ourselves?Â In this situation, respect for each other is critical.Â We need to avoid the two stinky twins of BS (blaming self) and BO (blaming others) and focus on the facts, the issue(s), developing alternatives that consider the various stakeholders interests, evaluate the alternatives, and propose workable solutions.
What about when we have a negotiation?Â The first step to successfully negotiate is to foster a relationship. Â This cannot be over emphasized as our brains are 98% emotional and 2% rationale.[ii]Â Learning about the other party and understanding the other party is critical.Â Once we have developed a good relationships it is possible to better understand the differing interests and facts (as presented). Â In this instance, we need to focus on the people, their interests, options, and criteria related to the negotiation.Â We need to consider neuroscience and the SCARF model, where SCARF stands for Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness, and Fairness from each partyâ€™s perspective.[iii]Â The SCARF model presents the true drivers of human social behavior at the most basic level of how we see ourselves communicating with others.
I have found when we feel tension or escalating emotions it may be possible to address these before going on further using a relatively simply model.Â That model to alert the other party you are having some concerns is:
What are we going to do about it?
So for example, when you said…
I think you meanâ€¦
And, that makes me feel you are not really listening to my concerns.
Try practicing this model with a friend before applying it in a conversation with a party you may be in conflict with on an issue.
We need to focus on interests during a negotiation.
Sometimes we need help because we have demonized the other party and/or they have demonized us.Â If we cannot move past this, a neutral client-based mediator can help.Â The mediator may apply a model after having spoken to each party and asked each party to apply the FIFI model of:
What are the Facts
Determine the Issues
Identify the underlying Feelings (your emotion and your perspective of the other partyâ€™s emotion on each issue)
And, your Interests
Once these are known, it may be possible to work towards a solution.Â With mediation, it is important to understand everyoneâ€™s role.Â We need to be hard on the problem but soft on the people.Â We need to separate emotions from the issue.Â Recognizing that we are emotional beings, this requires a conscious effort.Â It is so very important to define the problem correctly up front and then to listen carefully, item by item, as issues are presented.
Compromise requires the generation of options and solutions.Â It is necessary to understand the impacts of various alternatives to all stakeholders and, once understood, to evaluate those impacts to come up with a best possible solution or least harmful solution. Â This should be tested.Â The parties should consider the Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement (BATNA) and the Worst Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement (WATNA) if compromise is not possible.Â Often this focuses the parties back towards compromise.
If you are interested in exploring this subject matter in more depth, or learn about leadership issues, I invite readers to visit www.mikegeg.com to explore both books and videos.
[i] http://businessballs.com/mehrabiancommunications.htm 9-9-2015
[ii] http://www.nollassociates.com/Neuropsychology%20of%20Conflict.pdf 9-9-2015
[iii] http://www.your-brain-at-work.com/files/NLJ_SCARFUS.pdf 9-9-2015
Michael Gregory worked for the IRS for 28 years as a specialist through executive level. Twice he was nominated by his employees and received the honor of IRS civil servant of the year in his career; both as a front line manager and a territory manager. In 2011, he founded Michael Gregory Consulting, LLC. His web page is www.mikegreg.com offering his videos and books. He can be also be reached at (651) 633-531.