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Toxic and confrontational business relationships can be a real barrier to career progression and being a great manager. People often respond to confrontation by the three “F”s – Fight , Flight or Freeze, which is inbred in us all. But there are alternatives.

Executive Coaches and their clients frequently explore how to improve relationships that are consistently confrontational. The first stop is to examine whether the client’s behaviour is driving the confrontation, by demonstrating high levels of aggression or timidity.

Coaches ask their clients to put themselves into the other person’s shoes, to see things from different perspectives.

Emotional Intelligence coaching techniques (http://www.huntwoodassociates.com/Coaching) are useful to achieve this, as they help to build empathy, self awareness and awareness of others to improve self and relationship management.

We also use MBTI (http://www.huntwoodassociates.com/Masterclass) to examine why misunderstandings get started.
The boss may be an “S” (sensing) detail person and as an N (iNtuition) big picture person, you may not be giving them the enough detail.
Or indeed vice versa. Recently I was working with an ENTP boss who frequently asked his ESTJ brand manager for a quick overview of projects, giving her an hour deadline. The boss thought that this was really helpful as expectations of input would be a few bullet points. That was agony for the S (and the J) person, as their profile means they want to refine the information and provide detail.

We have grouped our ideas and recommendations about managing confrontation into four areas P A C E P – personal characteristics and behaviours you can employ to stop confrontation or help to de-escalate conflict. Be confident and demonstrate your self control through your courtesy. That is an old fashioned word, but an invaluable approach to maintaining control.

A – analytical skills that build a picture of the underlying causes of confrontation and signpost the way forward. Try to get under the skin of the reasons for the confrontation and the sticking points. Be really clear about what you want, why it matters and the benefits of resolving the conflict. Know your non negotiables in the confrontation, and where you will be prepared to compromise.

C –creativity to change the thinking and perspectives about situations and relationships. Develop some new ideas and thinking about the confrontation, the stakeholders and the situation. Activate your left and right brain (left brain is where for logical and rational thinking, right brain is the creative side) and have better conversations.

E – empathy is the underlying principle to gain a new perspective on the confrontation and build your own flexibility. Listen actively and ask great questions to build up a picture of their point of view. Put yourself in their shoes (we often use NLP techniques to achieve this).

It is helpful to remember that confrontation can have positive effects. We often need to address rather than avoid the person or situation, otherwise tension casts a big shadow. And sometimes when passions

run high, great ideas emerge. Many situations are enhanced by being straight and courageous, it is always good to have a conversation.

Try the PACE tips.
They can improve toxic business relationships, help defuse confrontation and conflict, and reduce your dependence on the 3 Fs.

TED resources

For a different perspective, for people who are terrified of conflict: Conflict – Use It, Don’t Defuse It | CrisMarie Campbell & Susan Clarke
They talk conflict being terrifying an balance that with a the perils of avoiding conflict. They recommend demonstrating Curiosity and Vulnerability.

Dana Caspersen offers the same advice: Conflict is a place of possibility | Dana Caspersen | TEDxHackneyWomen

Clair Canfield discusses how we get trapped in justification when manageing conflict The beauty of conflict | Clair Canfield | TEDxUSU

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