Question: As an entrepreneur, I consider myself to be a pretty easygoing person. But there are times and situations where my interaction with others can become pretty intense. How can I avoid these situations?
Answer: You can’t avoid them but you can change the way you feel about them. What you have described is confrontation. Many entrepreneurs don’t deal well with conflict and confrontation and attempt to avoid them at all costs. Often this makes the problem worse. By avoiding dealing with a particular situation that could result in a perceived confrontation, we may be giving tacit approval to bad behavior on the part of someone else. Or we may not be resolving a particular situation that could become poisonous for our organization. This doesn’t just apply to the business world, but to life in general.
Why do we try so hard to avoid conflict? Are we afraid of hurting someone else’s feelings? Are we concerned about our own image? Does it make us anxious when we’re in the middle of a disagreement? Is there a chance that a relationship could be damaged? It’s true that all of these things could happen . . . if we believe they might. But what if we changed our attitude and didn’t view them as truths?
Suppose instead, that we look at a potential conflict or confrontation as an opportunity to accomplish several things. Perhaps it’s an opportunity to truly understand someone else’s point of view. Maybe it’s a chance to learn of a new idea or a new way to accomplish something. It could also be an opportunity to strengthen a relationship. Conflict will occur only if we believe that it will and allow it to be so. The key to the preceding statement is keeping an open mind.
I’ve encountered plenty of confrontational situations over the years and in many cases I dug in my heels and probably caused the conflict to intensify. More recently I’ve taken a different approach. Over time, I’ve found that it has gotten easier to open my mind and truly listen to someone else rather than being loaded for bear. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t intense conversations however. For example, if someone isn’t performing to expectations, this can’t be ignored. In these situations I’ve taken more of a mentoring or coaching approach rather than just having harsh words with the other person. Instead, I’ll start by asking them if they believe they are meeting the expectations. Often they’ll admit that they aren’t and we can move quickly into the coaching process. If they don’t make such an admission, it’s my duty to show them where they are falling short and make recommendations for improvement. Notice my wording here. At no time do I feel as though I’m in conflict with the other person.
We can avoid confrontation by changing our mindset. If we think a situation will be confrontational, it will be. But if we view the situation as a positive opportunity to have an open mind and reach an agreement with another person; or if we can turn an intense conversation into a coaching opportunity, then we can avoid that queasy feeling altogether.
This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.