“No matter how thin you slice it, there are always two sides.”
I get to mediate conflicts. One of the jobs of the CEO is to sort out disputes which occur between plants or people. Often, the dispute occurs because of miscommunication.
Someone says something that is misinterpreted. The misinterpretation cuts off communication and problem solving. The problem is left to fester and to pollute. It isn’t good.
Several things I’ve learned:
Most people don’t intend to offend or to cut off communication. No doubt it happens. But, when it does, the offended frequently suffers in silence rather than clarify the offense. Thus, the wound festers.
When miscommunication happens, it occurs most often because the parties are making a point instead of listening for points. One of Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is “seek first to understand”. When someone says something that offends me, I assume they didn’t mean it. I try to clarify.
I say something like, “should I take what you just said to mean ….” Most times, when I feed back the statement that offended me, they don’t like the sound of it and work to make me understand better what they intended.
To be sure, discussing conflict is not all “seashells and balloons”. There is dicey stuff. Some unpleasant. Some not easy to hear.
It takes some practice to courageously communicate difficulties. When communication is cutoff too soon, problems worsen.
So, pause. Make sure you try to understand the other side before you proceed to the resolution.
PalletOne CEO Howe Wallace
Since 2005, he has been sharing his thoughts on the organization, leadership, and communication in an online daily note to teammates called Daily with HQ.