Resolve Workplace Conflicts
Easily and Creatively
Tired of Conflicts? Substitute Creativity!
Fed up with an unending barrage of conflicts and gender communication difficulties at work, many successful leaders have borrowed a technique from the world of drama to curb defensiveness and resistance and create surprisingly innovative solutions to thorny issues. The technique I’m sharing with you, “Improv Conflict Resolution,” adds to what I’ve already written about transforming toxic employees into excellent team players.
Improv Conflict Resolution emerged from improvisational theatre. Because improv is totally composed of solution-focused language, improvisational conversations consistently stimulate creative thinking by all parties.
The technique emphasizes inclusivity and equality, which fuels collaboration. Because the comments of all participants are respected and are an essential part of the problem-solving process, everyone feels heard. People sincerely and intently listen to each other. Conflicts dissolve as totally new perspectives emerge.
How Improv Works
Tosses out an initiation. This is an opening statement that is informative and provocative.
Agrees with speaker one’s statement before adding new information.
Agrees with speaker two’s statement before adding new information.
All responses are verbally unlimited as long as each new speaker accepts the previous player’s statement before adding new input.
Other participants continue with this format, listening carefully and reflectively, before respectfully reinforcing something or simply making a neutral comment about the previous speaker’s point of view. When it’s clear that emotions could flare over a controversial issue and when one speaker represents a minority perspective, teamwork can be restored by sincerely informing the original speaker that their position was heard and people are doing their best to understand their point of view.
Comparison of Typical Approach and Improv, Which Creates Collaboration
Traditional Approach Fuels Conflict
“That approach will never work!”
“Yes, it will work! You’re just not giving it a chance.”
Becomes defensive and argues for their point of view.
Continues the tone of defensiveness. Each speaker tries to convince the other they have the correct answer to the problem.
“That approach will never work!”
“It’s true that some people think it could never work. What do you suggest?”
“I’ve been using ____. It hasn’t totally resolved the problem but it at least it works to a degree. I’m not sure what would be better.”
“I agree with you. I don’t know what will be the best answer, either. Let’s come up with some ideas to test so we can discover a more ideal solution.”
Why Curiosity is Such a Powerful Antidote to Conflict
Albert Einstein was an exceptional role model of substituting curiosity for our ego’s need to feel smug by appearing to have all of the answers. Einstein’s famous self-effacing comment was, “It’s not that I’m so smart. It’s just that I stay with the question longer.”
All of us sometimes forget that positive results are more important than exaggerating our personal importance in a conversation and pretending to be perfect.
Improv protocol prepares us to engage in fascinating conversations. We get to know people we would normally disagree with, discovering what they want or need and noticing how possibility thinking lights them up. Because we’re much more curious than judgmental, we learn about ourselves while preventing disagreements and solving problems.
Instead of needing to be “right” or achieve a certain predetermined result, we’re passionate about what we can learn, personally and professionally. We enter each conversation with the enthusiasm that is natural when we adopt a blank beginner’s mind.
With a little practice, the improv technique is also an almost effortless way to open a potential opponent’s mind, create a problem-solving environment and delete defensiveness before a disagreement occurs.
Curiosity + Creativity Creates Collaboration
Since negative judgments about other people cannot coexist with genuine curiosity, we also enhance our ability to perceive the innate strengths of other people. Perfectionism vanishes because we’re rewarded for taking healthy risks instead of struggling to maintain a shaky, short-term image of being superior in some way.
Communication is genuine because participants agree to listen, harmonize and then add to what each person says. The following examples illustrate how the improv process constructs bridges that dissolve conflicts.
- “You just made some great points. And, I think we should also consider the approach of . . . “
- “Your perspective is really interesting. I’ve never thought of the situation that way. What would you think about . . . ?”
As the above examples illustrate, to take advantage of the improv method, simply agree and build on the last person’s comment. Avoid disagreeing with them and don’t waste your energy anticipating their next move. When you accept each comment before adding new input, you’ll be amazed at the results of this easy, creative process. Practicing improv can produce positive ripple effects across all areas of your life.
The Proven Value of Women’s Leadership Coaching and How to Apply for Executive Coaching
Although this article focused on external conflicts, many women sign up for Women’s Leadership Success Coaching because of the internal leadership conflicts that create confusion and sometimes cause self-sabotage. Read more about internal conflicts and how I help my Women’s Leadership Coaching clients resolve them here.
The ROI (return on investment) of Women’s Leadership Coaching is over 500%. I help women business owners and leaders in all types of industries, partnerships and nonprofits prevent and resolve leadership challenges, including those specific to women in male-dominated industries.
Click here to complete a short application so I can contact you for a complimentary 20-minute consultation. If we decide we’re a good fit as client and coach, we’ll discuss a coaching agreement. I’m looking forward to getting to know you and being of assistance.
© 2020 Doris Helge, Ph.D. as interviewed on “The Today Show,” CNN and NPR. Certified Master Leadership and Executive Coach Doris Helge is author of bestselling books, including “Joy on the Job,” Doris has helped hundreds of leaders like you meet every challenge you’re facing. Click here to view examples of solutions to women’s leadership dilemmas and sign up for your complimentary Leadership Coaching Consultation.
Most of the article above was originally published on Forbes.com