A sign of a humble person is one who can take responsibility, own their mistakes, and sincerely apologize. Sounds easy until you are the one in the middle of the conflict and you have no idea what you did wrong. Yet, how you handle the situation can cost you – in business, opportunities, relationships and peace of mind.
Okay, so you were going about your business as usual when you begin to get this sense that something is not right with this employee, or this team, or this vendor, or this client.
You are not sure what went wrong, but something is wrong, and you are clueless as to what the problem is. What you do in that next moment is key.
Unfortunately, many of us try to go inside our heads and figure out the problem. After much analysis, we’re still clueless, but by then another urgent matter has demanded our attention, and nothing gets done.
Here is the maddening part. What I find with countless communication/ conflict resolution situation is, the trouble usually started with a very small thing, such as miscommunication that in hindsight is ridiculously insignificant.
In fact, most likely the offended party knows it was a very small thing. They tried to let it go, but for some reason it just got under their skin and festered into a mega filter that they now see everything through.
To ever have closure, that small little thing must be dealt with, and it can be painful.
Pain Points Aren’t Petty
I often get push-back from folks who want to just address symptoms so they can get relief. “Why do we have to deal with these petty issues from the past? Can’t we just move on?”
Um, no. Not until we address the pain point.
Yes, I know whatever what you said was misinterpreted in a way you didn’t meant. Yes, I understand that the offense was not your intention. Yes, I know you don’t like dealing with all these people and their emotions.
However, if you want to stop wasting energy maneuvering around “the issue,” if you want to truly bring to an end the draining politics of dealing with “that person” you are going to have to deal with where the wound originated.
Padding the Problem Is Putting It Off
The whole thing is like the time I got a miniscule sliver of glass in my foot. I didn’t deal with it correctly, and it turned into a huge drama.
I should have known better than to go to the garage in bare feet. I took a whopping total of six steps. But next thing I know, I have this searing pain. Sure enough I could feel something in the ball of my foot.
Try as I might, I couldn’t hold my foot, a flashlight, and tweezers all at once, so I was unsuccessful in finding the invisible sliver of glass. I tried all the home remedies I could think of. I had to, because I had a ten-mile hike scheduled for the next day. I had been the instigator of it – no way was I missing it.
When nothing succeeded, I went to bed hoping it would work itself out in the night.
Messy, and Freeing
It didn’t. Dropping tweezers, BandAids, and a soaking bucket into my backpack, I headed to the trailhead. The first adult I saw I nearly tackled and pleaded for help in getting out my painful irritant. No luck. Three more people gathered around to help. They all claimed they could not see anything. It must have worked itself in deeper. So we padded the area with moleskin and hoped for the best. For the next two days, most of the time I didn’t feel pain. Every once in a while the little glass sliver would shoot a reminder it was still there. But although I could only wear my boots and I couldn’t run, I was able to walk – inconvenient but good enough.
Then back home, I was working around the house when I stepped and up my leg shot the worse pain I’ve ever felt. It nearly doubled me over.
Luckily my mom was visiting and ran to my rescue. Like only a mom can do, she took the offending foot in her hands and endured my yanking and yelling. Persevering with her sterile needle, she dug until she dislodged that piece of glass.
It was painful and messy, and the little hole required time to heal – but I was free and I knew it. The irritating pain was gone, and it never came back.
It Can Cost You
Leaders, many times you have to deal with the small but painful stuff to get the results you want. Why? Because the “little stuff” is costing you too much.
I estimate that on an average leadership team, 30 to 40 hours get eaten up a week by emotionally draining office politics and work-arounds. Not only is it an expensive problem, it is a sad waste of human capital and greatness.
And at home, it can cost you happy memories, emotional growth, and character development. And in some cases, it can cost you your family.
Please deal with the small issues. Yes, you will probably need to invest money, time, and energy into resolving them.
Would love to hear your success conflict resolution story below!
Your Coach for Clarity,
This article CONFLICT RESOLUTION: THE HIGH COST OF IGNORING THE SMALL STUFF previously appeared at True Life Coaching