By Theresa Horak
Dealing with conflict has been a struggle for me from a very young age. I grew up in a family where kids were only to be seen and not heard, and whatever the adult said was the law. Conflict had always been an uncomfortable inner battle.
However, when you are running a business, conflict becomes inevitable, especially leading a team towards a common goal. At least once a week, I am confronted with some issue that needs to be resolved, which means I have to pucker-up and be the best leader I can be. Some days it goes well and some days it doesn’t, but every time conflict arises, it is a new opportunity to learn how to handle conflict a little bit better.
This week, I had a major breakthrough.
It wasn’t the standard work-related challenge – it was conflicting needs with my spouse. Disclaimer: I have the sweetest husband, but when his mind is set on something, it is not easy to change. I share this characteristic too, but to keep the peace, I generally just give in.
It had been a tiring day at work. I had worked overtime, again, arriving home around 6:30 p.m. I was ready for our afternoon walk in nature which is my non-negotiable reset after the workday. However, my husband had been very busy too, had skipped both breakfast and lunch, was famished, and he was adamant we had to skip our walk and make dinner instead. It was a tight timeline: if we made dinner, I wouldn’t get my walk in as it would have been dark by the time we were done. The catch-22: usually I would have given in and forfeited my walk, but nature is so important to get myself back in balance, I wasn’t going to budge either. There was an argument looming on the horizon, but instead of going head-to-head on this, I took a page out of my Plan C book.
In negotiations, a Plan C is ideally an option where both parties win.
I put on my leader’s hat, took a deep breath, calmed myself down, and tapped into that positive, creative side.
I knew if we had dinner first, there was no way we would get into nature because the standard sequence of events is: eat – feel tired – watch TV shows – fall asleep. It would still be light by the time our dinner is made, so if we changed our standard sequence and packed a picnic, I would have my win of getting into nature, and he would win with a wonderful meal. I proposed the idea, and my husband agreed.
I had not been on a picnic in years and had forgotten how amazing it was! After a short walk, we discovered a picnic table, unpacked and had our dinner with birds chirping around us and the sun slowly setting in the background. With all these lockdowns, we had not had a meal outside the house in months, so a part of me was excited as it was the closest we got to dinner on a patio!
It was a magical experience for me – much better than just a hike. My husband loved it and started his birdwatching during dinner, getting excited about new species on our birding list. It was truly a win-win where the compromise (Plan C) was better than either of our individual plans were.
My takeaway from this: when conflict arises,
- Take a few minutes to breathe deeply,
- Calm that fight or flight instinct, and
- Listen carefully. Investigate the spoken words carefully to get to the root of the issue and the true motivation behind a person’s request.
- Investigate your own thoughts and get to the root of your own reasoning, i.e., why do you want this.
- Tap into your creativity and explore options to find a win-win for both parties. You will be pleasantly surprised when more often than not, the compromise turns out to be more fun than the original plan!
I do hope you have the opportunity to go on a picnic too, whether to keep the peace or simply enjoy the peacefulness of some TLC time in nature.