Minimising conflict with effective communication
By Lee Hopkins
Did you know there are 5 types of communication that lead to
Let's look at them...
Definition of 'Conflict'
It helps if we first define what we mean by 'conflict'
* Conflict is an expressed struggle between at least two
parties, both of whom perceive interference from the other
towards achieving their goals
* A conflict can only exist when both parties are aware of a
The 5 types of negative communication that lead to conflict
* Negative communication
We all know a 'Negative Nigel/Nancy' in every team "
they exist and we find it near impossible to remove
them. But constant negativity drains the other team
members of enthusiasm, energy and self esteem. So Nigel
and Nancy need to be confronted with their behaviour.
This can best be achieved if all of the other team
members individually feedback the effect of this
behaviour on them. An 'I message' is the best approach
for this'such as, "Every time I put forth a suggestion
your negativity frustrates me and I find it hard to
work with you."
* Blaming communication
Blamers spray blame around, effectively stopping
reflection and scrutiny of their performance and
behaviour. However, their impact can be reduced by
fostering a learning environment, as well as the use of
'I messages', peer pressure and individual feedback.
Find out what the blamer's issues are and try to
address them one by one.
* Superior communication
'Superiors' frequently order people about, direct,
advise and moralise. They are also very skilled at
withholding information. Such behaviour sets up team
members for frustration, resentment and sabotage. But
'superiors' and their behaviour can be addressed with
individual assertiveness and 'I messages'
* Dishonest communication
Dishonest communicators frequently fail to practice
listening to understand and fail to display empathy.
They also display circumlocutory communication - also
known as 'talking around the issue, not addressing it'.
It's kind of like casually wandering around the outside
edge of a garden when what's really required is to walk
confidently through the middle of it. Dishonest
communicators also often use royal or imperial 'WE'
statements - as in, "We are not amused" - when in
reality it is just they who are not amused.
They also deliberately choose to not address
unprofessional behaviour or behaviour that is damaging
to the team and its mission. All of which leads to a
dysfunctional team. But it can be addressed: everyone
in the team must insist on open, honest communication,
foster mutual respect, stop blaming, bullying and
* Selective communication
Selective communicators only tell what they think
others need to know, hence keeping themselves in a
position of power over the other team members. Such
behaviour can be effectively addressed through
assertive requests for having access to all the
The importance of a team's values to communication
There are negative team values that can actually sabotage good
communication within a team. For example:
"As long as I do a good job that's all that matters to me"
undermines team cohesiveness and co-operation.
"Problems are the result of other people's mistakes" is also
"If someone 'stuffs up' it's their problem" is really not
helpful to anyone.
Such values induce competition, not co-operation and
collaboration. These team values destroy teamwork!
Positive team values
There are 5 key values that aid co-operation and cohesiveness
within a team:
* We are all in this together
The performance of the team is seen as more important
than individual performance. Note that blaming styles
of communication lead to individual performance
becoming the paramount object, resulting in little or
no team work.
* No member is more important than another
When individuals consider themselves more important
than another ('superior communication') then
communication breaks down and competition takes over.
But when everyone is seen as an equal, communication is
open and there are high levels of co-operation and
* Open, honest communication is essential
When you are thinking of a reply, instead of really
listening to the other, you are engaging in 'dishonest
communication'. Similarly, when you see something done
that is not acceptable but you 'are polite' and ignore
it you are equally being dishonest with your
There is no room for dishonest communication in teams.
Open and honest communication requires the use of
listening and empathy. Listening to understand gives us
the other person's perspective"it allows us to hear
their experience. Empathy reduces the need to judge the
behaviours and beliefs of others. By listening and
empathising we model open and honest communication.
* Everyone needs open access to information
Information facilitates collaboration and co-operation,
and effective decision-making requires all the
information. Decision-making always has an element of
uncertainty attached to it, but having all the
information available makes the decision-making easier.
* We all need to focus on the team's goals, aims and mission
Without a clear and sustained focus minor distractions
become major blockages.
Managing personal criticism
It is always discomforting to be on the receiving end of
criticism. It hurts! Ouch!
But there are ways of managing your feelings when someone 'has a
go at you'.
1. Listen to understand:
Listen with your ears, your eyes and your senses
Engage your mind and disengage your emotions - pack
them up (remember, YOU are in control of what you think
Be flexible and accommodate another view of the problem
Evaluate, discriminate and judge the decision you make
2. Don't go into 'defensive' mode
3. Use an 'I message' - such as, "When I am just simply
criticised I feel angry and hurt and disregard the information.
However, I would welcome constructive feedback."
About the Author
When you match consumer psychology with effective communication
styles you get a powerful combination. At Hopkins-Business-
Communication-Training.com you can find the secrets to
communication success. At Hopkins we show you how to communicate
better for better business results.