Recently I attended a course through the Real Estate Board that educated Realtors on the importance of resolving conflicts and arriving at a Win/Win outcome. Now, this is something I feel that I do well, and have been practicing this art since I was a boy observing my Father in action as a Developer. Still, I found the course very useful because it articulated what many of us know intuitively, and by doing so, allows me to practice negotiation more purposefully. Here is what I took away from the course.
First of all – What is conflict? Conflict may be described as:
The actual or perceived opposition of needs, values, wishes, or perceptions resulting in stress or tension.
Of course, conflict can be either personal or interpersonal. This article will focus only on interpersonal conflict. For personal conflict, you may prefer seeing a Psychologist over a Realtor!
1) Most conflict is ego based. Ego based conflict results from individual values, personal prejudices and cultural influences. These types of conflict also happen when we misinterpret each other’s behaviour or vocabulary.
2) Some conflict is situational. This stems from differing needs and expectations. For example, when a seller is willing to accept $1,000,000 for a home and a buyer can only afford $900,000. Here we have a situational conflict of $100,000.
A Realtor’s job is to minimize ego-based conflict and overcome situational conflict through awareness.
Next, the course articulated the five general ways in which people approach conflict:
1) Treat the conflict like a competition. Some people need to “win” at all costs and may display pushy or threatening behaviour. Usually, personal relationships are damaged along the way.
2) Avoid the conflict all together. Some folks shy away from conflict altogether. This leaves issues unresolved, and will not lead to a negotiated solution!
3) Accommodate and put the relationship before the issue. People who take this approach are usually seen as weak-kneed and lacking confidence.
4) Compromise. On the surface, this may seem like the ideal way to resolve conflict, but it almost always leaves both parties feeling like they have given in to the other.
5) Collaboration. This is the best way to resolve a conflict. This style of conflict resolution is hard on the problem and soft on the people.
Recognizing these situations will help you identify better solutions. Here are some of my techniques learned from years of working as a developer and Realtor:
1) Understand your own triggers and know that you have a choice of how to respond to a situation. Never simply react.
2) Practice active listening by questioning, paraphrasing and clarifying an existing point of contention. You can also be more empathetic and encourage the other party to give you more information.
3) Practice non-defensive communication by using “I” statements instead of “you”. In other words, instead of stating, “You insulted me,” say, “I feel hurt by that comment.”
4) Whenever possible communicate in person. Context is lost through e-mail, text and even phone conversations. Remember that most communication is “non-verbal” and expressed through body language.
5) Seek to understand. Understand the person as well as the problem in as much detail as possible before trying to come up with a solution.