Let Your Mouth do the Talking: The Power of Face-to-Face Conflict Resolution

After three long years with a separated accounts and creative team, we finally moved the TIS team back together under a single roof. One big, happy family. : ) Right?

Despite the strong desire to have the team back together again, I was a bit apprehensive, though I couldn’t put my finger on why. It certainly was better than trudging back and forth across Diamond, dodging sleet, ice, hipsters and commuters with death grips on their lattes.

The Great Diamond Street Divide

While a far cry from the global workplace dynamic, you’d be surprised at the power 37 feet of separation has on the psychology of the work environment. For starters, we were having more conversations with our fingers than our mouths; never good for creatives who thrive on brainstorming and interaction. Having an in-person conversation is essential for a small team and it decreases one of the biggest drains on company resources—lack of clarity.

Accounts vs. Creative

Also, the issue of our two halves—creative and accounts—was further detached by the physical divide. I liken it to the family dynamic of avoidance. It’s often easier to avoid an issue that has potential for conflict than to address it head on.

As I thought and googled on it, one article explained how conflict is neither good nor bad, but a natural dynamic in all relationships that must be embraced. That’s when the light turned on. As an expert at conflict avoidance, I realized I’d once again have to deal head-on with the accounts team—no more hiding behind chat or email. And I wasn’t the only one.

Confronting Conflict Face-On

We’ve been back together for a few months now, and yes, we are one big, happy (mostly!) family. And just like families, we have good moments and bad. But we’re confronting the tough issues directly and having the difficult conversations face to face. I’m confident we’ll grow stronger by talking with our mouths vs. our fingers, and working through our issues—together.

KT’s 4 Guidelines for Effective Face-to-Face Conflict Resolution

These are the rules I do my best to follow for effective in-person, face-to-face conflict resolution:

1. Understand you’re on the same team.

Your teammates are your allies, not your enemies. They want to accomplish the same end game—producing good work, finding effective solutions, and pleasing your client.

2. Listen first.

Hear out your colleague. Listen to his ideas first, and resist the urge to blurt out your opinion until he’s made his case. When he’s finished, first ask why he feels this way, then offer your perspective. You may find that you’re not too far apart.

3. There might be a better, third option.

When working through a conflict in a healthy manner, by listening carefully to one another’s viewpoints and requesting clarification, you might discover an entirely new perspective emerges offering an even better solution than either of you had in the first place.

4. Remember, nobody ever died from a disagreement.

If you’re like me, your fight-or-flight reaction kicks in with the mere mention of the word “conflict.” But, if you employ the above rules, you’ll emerge with a healthy discussion, a better appreciation for your teammate, and a better end result.