Emotions and Conflict Resolution Part 4
Divorcing the situation from the emotion
In every altercation there will be a great deal of emotion. Emotion is great at helping us to express our hurt to other parties and it also helps us to free ourselves from pent-up frustrations that would make us ill were we to internalise them. Emotion, then, has very useful functions, but it is not effective when it clouds thinking processes and prevents rational decision making. Telling someone in distress, ‘Don’t be so emotional’, is not very helpful either at the time or in the long term. Dealing with emotions in the team needs a gentle touch.
There is no point, as mentioned above, in expecting an emotional person to act rationally so shelve any solid actions for now. Let’s deal instead with the emotions and try to get those under control. When people are upset it is understandable that they may want to cry. This can be a really useful way of dealing with emotion. Take them to an area of privacy and allow them to cry for as long as they need to, offering only a tissue and firm support. Do not try to elicit details from them or try to engage in a conversation. No one cries for ever, and they will eventually cry themselves out. Crying is the body’s natural reaction to shock, upset, anxiety and so forth, so don’t berate them for it, but offer encouraging speech such as, ‘Crying is cleansing and I think you needed to get that emotion out.’
Telling someone in distress, ‘Don’t be so emotional’, is not very helpful either at the time or in the long term.
If the emotion is anger
If the emotion is anger then again try to steer them to an area away from other people in case they say something that they later regret, or try to draw others in. Do not mention the outburst, instead suggest that they take some deep breaths to help gain a sense of control and equilibrium. Acknowledge their anger, ‘I understand you feel angry about all of this’, but add a way forward, ‘so I think a five minute break might be helpful before we continue this conversation.’ This statement has the added, but subtly understated, proviso that you will not be conversing until they calm down.
Anger is a frightening emotion but it is not long lived. No one can stay in a state of anger for ever as it is immensely tiring, therefore your staff member will calm down, and you will then need to work with whatever behaviours remain (despair, sarcasm, a willingness to listen, and so forth). Once you have dealt with the emotion, the resulting behaviour returns to behavioural management. Poor behaviour can be managed through your organisational policies on behaviour. The main aspect is to ensure the communication continues. You will never resolve a situation if the communication stops.
There are many training courses on Conflict Resolution (or independent facilitators) that will help you (and the team) work through major issues. Help is never far away and as you grow in skills, you will grow in confidence. Here at Sussex Bussiness School, we offer a wide range of accredited Leadership courses a couple of them listed below that deal with Conflict Resolution: