How to Connect through Conflict

Improve Conflict - Work relationships

Conflict, especially in the workplace, is tough. As much as we know that communication is key, the success lies in how we communicate through this conflict. A heated debate, discussion, or argument involves feelings – both logical and illogical. It goes without saying that someone may be left hurt by what is said, confused by what isn’t said, or just outright frustrated by both.

Conflict requires understanding and one simple thing known as validation. Defined in the dictionary, validation is the recognition or affirmation that a person, their feelings, and their opinions are valid or worthwhile. It’s basically acceptance while disagreeing. Through validation, we communicate that we care and respect one’s opinion – at the end of the day, there are always two sides (at least) to every story or debate.

During a seminar at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, Oprah Winfrey spoke on leadership and life and addressed that all conflicts should boil down to three questions:

  1. Did you see me?
  2. Did you hear me?
  3. Did what I say mean anything to you?

If an employee is upset because of a change to their role, they will address it to their supervisor because they want to be seen, heard, and validate that their boss cares. Rather than defend their issue, this boss should console their employee and understand where they are coming from. This may not come easy for some, but through the six levels of validation created by Dr. Marsha Linehan, we can get on the path to improving our arguments and relationships.

  1. Being present – Give all of your attention to the person you are speaking with.
  2. Reflecting – Verbalise what someone is trying to tell you as this validates you are listening.
  3. Empathising – Try to put yourself in their shoes & feel their pain.
  4. Understanding – Think about the person’s history & biology to understand why they could be feeling the way they do.
  5. Normalising – Know that other people in their shoes would most probably feel the same.
  6. Radical Genuineness – Treat the person as an equal, a normal person with real feelings.

Validation is support on a deep level. It will turn a conflict into harmony – watch and see.