Conflict pivots are a great way to change the way a workplace conflict unfolds. When you pivot early in a conflict, you can find a better path through it and avoid lasting damage to the working relationship. And even if the conflict that brought you to this page is well established and stuck, pivoting gives you the chance to change the trajectory of that conflict from here on.
Here are some ways I’ve used conflict pivots at work myself or with my organizational clients. If you’re an organizational leader, a team leader, or an HR professional, see my Leader’s Guide to Conflict Pivots in Workplace Teams for additional ideas.
Calm down during conflict
You can have all the best conflict resolution skills and tools in the world, but if you can’t access them when you need them most, they’re of little use to you.
When you know the kinds of situations and conflicts most likely to hook you (snag your attention) in conflict, though, you have an immediately accessible tool for calming yourself down in the midst of messy conversations, getting your balance back, and regaining access to your good skills and tools. And when you’re blindsided by a situation you didn’t know could hook you, the simple, three-step conflict pivot approach can help you immediately drill down to why you’ve been knocked off balance and what to do about it.
Preserve an important business or workplace relationship
Great working relationships can have great conflict and still be strong. The trick is to capitalize on the collision of ideas without allowing the collision to leave lasting damage in the relationship. This was one of the primary reasons I wrote The Conflict Pivot–to help preserve relationships that might otherwise be jeopardized by a conflict.
You can work through the conflict pivots on your own or invite your sparring partner to join you in the process. When I’m working with colleagues who are in conflict with each other, I give them both copies of the book and the worksheet and have found it often results in rich, hopeful conversation.
Find the courage to confront
Over the years, many of my clients have told me they fear conflict and confrontation. The reasons are varied, of course, but many of them fall into one of these categories: I’m afraid I won’t handle myself well. I’m afraid I’ll make it worse. I’m afraid it will cause more damage in the relationship. It’s bothering me but doesn’t seem to warrant a confrontation.
Conflict pivots can make a huge difference in helping you find not only the courage to confront, but also increase the grace with which you confront and help ensure that when you do raise the issue, you’re raising the real issue that needs sorting out.
Know which conflicts to avoid
Not every conflict warrants a confrontation about it or serious attempts to sort it out. That’s because some conflicts arise not so much because of what the other person said or did, but because your sensitive trigger got in the way. It’s true: Some conflict in your life can be dispensed with easily and without a big to-do when you know your conflict hooks and how to un-snag yourself.
When you know how to pivot in conflict, you’ll make sure that you’re spending time and energy on the conflicts that matter, and moving past the ones that don’t.