Creative Insights: Karen Wallace

How to work with Conflict
Most of us will do anything to avoid conflict. We hate how uncomfortable, confusing, and upsetting it is. Unfortunately, in life conflict is unavoidable. It may be an employer, employee, unsatisfied customer, friend or partner but we do run into conflicts. How do you handle them when they arrive? We have different styles.

AVOIDING : These people are afraid of conflict and feel helpless when confronted.
PUSHING: These people do not like to take no for an answer. Their goals are so important that they are prepared to achieve them at all costs.
: These people value relationships so much that they will give up anything to keep a friendship. They are afraid of conflict.
COMPROMISING: These people like to look for a common ground. They dislike extremes and try to find an outcome that is good for the common good.
RESOLVING: These people know that relationships do not thrive unless both people feel satisfied. They resolve conflicts by trying to confront all issues.

If you are an avoider you may go to extremes to avoid the person, or maybe you’re not finish a commissioned piece of art or a deadline for a magazine article. You just want the situation or person to go away. If you are a pusher you will get caught up in being right, getting your way and usually alienate everyone around you. You will push away potential clients and friends and maybe make the final sale but you may never get asked back to do a workshop or do work for that client again. Soothers suffer greatly at giving up their time, money and energy to make the other party happy. You may keep the relationship with the client but at great emotional, financial, and/or personal cost to you. Compromisers usually come out of conflict pretty healthy. They don’t want to sell their own soul but they want the other party to be happy, also. Resolvers know that it may take time and energy but they are willing to talk, listen, and work out the conflict.

Why confront someone?

  1. To create intimacy.
  2. To increase understanding, communication and empathy in the relationship.
  3. To affect change and behavior.
  4. To examine your feelings and thoughts and engage in giving and receiving feedback.

As artists, we need to be assertive in our business dealings. Assertive people are not afraid to express themselves openly and honestly to communicate their needs and feelings. They do not use their words and feelings to hurt others, or put down the wants, needs, and feelings of others. They respect the rights and feelings of other people. They can evaluate a situation, decide how to act, and act without being loud or angry. The way we look at another person when addressing them says volumes about ourselves. If we look directly at them, we convey a sense of openness.
Constructive Language                               Destructive Language
One possibility is . . .                                      You never . . .
It would be good to . . .                                   There’s no way . . .
People like you and me . . .                             Don’t go there . . .
My reasoning is . . .                                         Don’t start . . .
I’m best at . . .                                                 Would it kill you to . . .
Let’s make the best of . . .                               When I was your age . . .
That’s a good point . . .                                    I’m afraid that . . .

How can you look at the next time you have a conflict as a opportunity to be clearer, more assertive and open?


Read Karen’s Contributing Editor Profile here.

Listen to a podcast with Karen and Ricë Freeman-Zachery here.



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