Whatever you might think about how your airport operates, or how the local FBO sets its rates, or if it’s time to build a tower at your field or remained non-towered, eventually you’re going to disagree with the folks in charge.
Alternatively, if you are one of the folks in charge, you’re going to disagree with your airport’s tenants and users at some point.
At such times, it pays to have a strong sense of perspective, a willingness to lighten up a bit, and a basic understanding of conflict resolution techniques.Conflict is a naturally occurring reality of life. If there are two people involved in any activity, eventually there will be conflict.
That’s not to say there must be shouting or name-calling. It’s not necessary to throw office supplies around the room to make your point. Conflict is not a euphemism for fighting. It merely describes a situation where there is disagreement. It may be personal or professional in nature.
Either way, it’s worth knowing right up front that you’ll face conflicts in life. When you do, it’s often best to seek out a resolution rather than pursue a victory.
Knowing the difference between those two possible outcomes is very important in the long term.
If you’re short-sighted, you’ll seek victory at all costs. Unfortunately, the cost of winning your argument can be quite high. There are few times when it’s worth pursuing an absolute win over a person or group of people you work with on a regular basis. The cost may be a loss of hard-earned trust, or faith, or loyalty. It may even create the condition for a long-term war of aggression between parties that used to work together well.
With that in mind, is your win really so important? Wouldn’t conciliation be a viable option?
Keep in mind, although you deeply believe in your view of the issue, there is always a chance, slim as it may be, that the other guy (or group) has a valid point. It’s also at least worth considering they may believe in their perspective every bit as much as you do.
Rather than beating each other into submission on your way to a dubious win, which is a sure way of making sure everyone loses in the long run, why not put a bit of thought into a more creative approach that may accommodate most, if not all, the concerns of those involved.
When motivated to get our way, we often speak, or even shout, in an attempt to make our point more clear. Typically, we would be better off listening.
No matter how much or how eloquently you may speak, the only way you can truly get to understand your partners better is to listen. Consider their perspective seriously. Not as a competition set to thwart your goals, but as a potentially viable alternative.
Speak when the opportunity presents itself, but be sure to listen more than you speak. If nothing else, it shows you have some respect for your counterparts.
Discuss the issue
This may seem obvious, but when listening to interactions between warring parties, it’s often the case that they debate each other’s worth, not the possible resolutions to the issue at hand. They begin to attack, rather than collaborate. They oppose each other on principle rather than remaining open to new, innovative ideas.
Whatever the issue, no matter how monumental the problem may appear to be, make every effort to discuss it as dispassionately as possible. Your personal feelings about the people sitting across the table are irrelevant. Work the problem, not the emotion surrounding it.
Be willing to praise others
One of the common missteps made by inexperienced managers or those unused to leadership positions is to criticize others in a public setting.
Remember this rule: Criticize in private, praise in public.
If you can imagine your opponent criticizing you publicly, berating you for being short-sighted, announcing boldly that you’ve lost your way…you can imagine your reaction to such an event. You would be inclined to resist any new information coming from them. You’d shut down, cutting yourself off from the possibility of being cooperative with someone who had just attempted to belittle you in a public setting.
Well, the other players in the room feel similarly. So don’t go there. If you have a criticism, share it privately and with compassion. If you have praise to share, shout it from the rooftops.
Use your eyes
People in meetings about subjects that can be tedious and technical share a lot of information about how they’re feeling and what they’re thinking via body english. It is to your advantage to become proficient in reading these signs, at least to some degree.
Is your audience bored? Are they looking agitated? Has the person opposite you shifted in their seat, leaned forward, and begun staring at you with a stern expression on their face? These are all signs that what you’re saying has had an impact, and the impression you are leaving may not be a positive one. As a wise man once said, when you find yourself at the bottom of an ever deepening hole, stop digging.
There will be conflict in our lives. Thankfully, there can be satisfactory resolution to those conflicts as well. Whether there are or not is largely up to us.
So let’s make an effort to reach across the table in a show of real collaboration and cooperation, regardless if we’re in the manager’s seat or inhabit the user’s side of the table. It may take a bit more effort, but the results will be a whole lot better than a sharp stick in the eye.