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Navigate conflicts

How to navigate conflicts?

A WORK COMMUNITY WITH EXCELLENT PROBLEM-SOLVING SKILLS IS ABLE TO STOP AND REVIEW THE CAUSES OF DIFFICULT SITUATIONS, WHAT EMOTIONS ARE INVOLVED, AND HOW THE SITUATION CAN BE RESOLVED. THIS WAY, THE COMMUNITY CAN HARNESS THE ENERGY HIDDEN IN CONFLICTS.

End-user: Helmi Hämäläinen, Trainer: Jarmo Manner

A customer in a bad mood can cause a major conflict in a work community. Here’s how: Pekka is angry and gets customer service agent Helmi in a bad mood. She is angry and snaps at her colleague Antti, who takes the comment personally. The situation escalates when Antti begins spreading information about Helmi’s bad collaboration skills. All this started from a negative feeling and lousy communication, which caused Antti to make a wrongful conclusion about Helmi’s behavior.

Little did Pekka know that his actions created a massive conflict within the work community. He was just offloading his ‘hungry anger’ on Helmi, who was innocent in the situation.

‘Conflicts often arise from our expectations and might therefore be totally pointless.’ Corporate management trainer Jarmo Manner says that in such circumstances we imagine disagreements even if our actual objectives are the same.

Manner is the coach of Academy of Brain’s online course on solving conflicts. During his career, he has noticed that conflicts in organizations cause financial losses and human suffering.

‘At its best, a conflict can be a source of creativity, but at its worst, it can kill motivation and freeze the business.’ According to Manner, the best teams know how to handle conflicts and see these as a prerequisite for development. 

The four doors lead to solutions

In practice, resolving conflicts entails constructive discussion. Our online course, How to solve conflicts, teaches you to look at disputes through four doors. These perspectives help you review the causes of difficult situations, what emotions are involved, and how the situation can be resolved. The doors are used to enhance discussions that are both constructive and instructive.

The journey towards resolving a conflict starts with the first door, which offers a glance at the truth. Solving a conflict begins with finding out who is right in the situation and what perspectives different parties have. Antti could not have known about Pekka’s outburst towards Helmi.

The second door leads to emotions. Conflicts reoccur despite the people, and there might not even be a specific reason for them. However, when we act based on our feelings, it is common to start blaming others. Therefore, Antti was acting as people usually do.

If I think about my own emotions during conflicts, I first think of shame. I avoid resolving the situation as I fear I will be judged. Furthermore, I don’t want to put others in a position where I would judge their failures.

‘The most significant psychological obstacle for conflict resolution is the fear of offending others with candid talk.’ Manner notes that this is why staying silent is safe. According to Manner, small disagreements should be immediately addressed as they escalate over time.

Bad feelings are not an obstacle to solving conflicts. Our mind has two primary states: the cheetah and the owl. The first one is an emotional and intuitive predator and the other one a wise observer who only emerges in a safe environment.

During a conflict, we must identify which one is in control, as the owl is the only one capable of discussing constructively.

The third door shows the identity, which everyone puts on the table during stressful situations. Solving conflicts requires the ability to see the situation objectively: I’m not a bad person even if my colleague is critical of my actions.

The fourth door reveals the actual situation. I can be constructive during a conflict if I understand the conditions leading to the conflict and what led to its escalation.

These four doors help you clarify your own mind before discussing the conflict with others. At the same time, you have a moment to find your inner owl.

Mindfulness

Get off the Autopilot – Mindfulness means listening to your body & mind

AT TIMES, THE MIND IS LIKE A WATERFALL THAT CANNOT BE STOPPED. MINDFULNESS HELPS US GET TO THE SHORE OF THIS WATERFALL AND OBSERVE IT, INSTEAD OF FEELING LIKE WE’RE DROWNING.

Trainee: Maarit Takala, Trainer: Eeva Jaakonsalo, Finnish text: Helmi Hämäläinen

Our lifestyles and fragmented working lives promote speed and efficiency. Actually, you are an exceptional case if you can even focus on something for a quarter of an hour at a time. Research shows that in recent times our ability to focus has shortened from 12 seconds to eight.

Maarit Takala is a production assistant at Valio. Her work requires speed and efficiency. At the beginning of the year, additional work is piled on by annual reports, financial statements, and tax returns. This is where mindfulness is important.

‘During hectic periods I need easy tricks to improve my endurance and calm down to avoid panic,’ says Takala.

Takala’s job is a typical modern job where you need to push full steam ahead. For most of the day, our mind runs on autopilot, and many of us long for more awareness. Mindfulness is slowly drifting into our working lives. According to a thesis from the Finnish Hanken University, mindfulness can reduce stress and mental pressure and increase commitment at work. In addition, mindfulness improves our ability to focus, reduces stress and increases restorative sleep.

Mindfulness can be practiced

Maarit Takala cannot change her work conditions but she can use mindfulness to reduce the stress she experiences. Mindfulness helps her mind calm down even in challenging conditions.

Interested in her mental well-being, Takala attended the Academy of Brain mindfulness online training by trainer Eeva Jaakonsalo. Eeva is a mindfulness coach specialized in leadership development.

‘Up until the 1980s mindfulness was not needed at work. Since then, our methods of working have changed and many of us spend the whole day with various electronic devices,’ explains Jaakonsalo.

Many of us continue staring at the blue light even after work, as the screen-time of adults has increased up to ten hours per day.

Why does our brain need mindfulness?

Our brain is neuroplastic, meaning that it adapts to the environment. When our mind gets used to lots of stimuli, it becomes restless and loses the ability to focus. According to Eeva Jaakonsalo, the greatest challenge for people today is the inability to stop.

Mindfulness exercises help us stop and become more conscious. The exercises focus on breathing or bodily sensations and acknowledge the moments when our senses start to wonder. The objective is not to change or eliminate thoughts but to observe these consciously.

‘I do the exercises for example at the end of the day. When work is busy and I need to take care of animals at home, it’s important for me to relax properly,’ says Maarit Takala.

According to Takala, mindfulness has become easier with regular practice but often she still finds her mind wondering during the exercises.

‘The development has happened with small steps. Nowadays we are in such a rush, that living in the moment is worth a try,’ thinks Takala.

Mindfulness is self-leadership

Self leadership is a lifesaver for busy people. Mindfulness means self-leadership even if it’s not often spotted in headlines dealing with the subject. According to Eeva Jaakonsalo, academic research has shown, that managerial mindfulness skills reduce stress in the whole work community.

Just a few years ago, the corporate world was prejudiced against mindfulness.

‘People may have considered it telepathy or something mystical,’ Jaakonsalo laughs.

This understanding has changed and based on research, mindfulness is considered part of brain development. For Maarit Takala, mindfulness also means listening to your body. By developing her mind, she can influence her bodily sensations and increase overall well-being.

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