Conflicts are a fact of life. While they are never fun, these conflicts can strengthen relationships when properly managed.
In this regard, many Singaporeans have asked me how StrengthsFinder can be used in conflict resolution. It is my view that while StrengthsFinder might not be able to resolve every challenge faced in conflict management, it does provide a few good handles. This article was written to share how I have integrated my personal leadership experience with the StrengthsFinder tool.
How do I use StrengthsFinder to resolve conflicts?
1. Recognize that because of our talent themes, we all have different lenses through which we see the world.
Many clashes are caused by differences in perspectives. If we add that to our natural tendency to impose our lenses on others as we interact with the world, we see the two primary reasons why conflicts are commonplace.
StrengthsFinder provides the science behind conflicts by building on the above two reasons. Using StrengthsFinder, Gallup has shown through research that the probability of two individuals having the same top five strengths in the same order is 1 in 33 million.
This statistic provides the science and demonstrates empirically a fact that no other tool has been able to illustrate: we all see things differently. Conflicts therefore occur when we impose our perspectives (which come from our strengths) on others. The unfortunate thing is that most people impose their strengths on others while remaining unaware that they are doing so.
While it may seem obvious that everyone is different and has different perspectives, the negative emotions generated in a conflict often hinder this understanding. Our emotions are therefore not the best go-to place if we are to resolve conflicts. We need a tool that enables us to dig into our rational mind to counter the negative emotions.
StrengthsFinder as a tool fulfils this purpose. By understanding the science behind conflicts, many begin to understand that most conflicts happen not because of office politics nor personal attacks. These conflicts are simply a result of views imposed onto one another (often without awareness).
Understanding this science therefore empowers us in two areas: it allows us to have an increased capacity to be patient and open-minded with others, which becomes a source of strength to resolve conflicts. It also empowers us to move forward in finding solutions instead of playing the blame game.
2. Ask good questions to decipher why you were upset.
This point is a continuation of the first point. When we are clear on what triggers us, we are able to better manage our emotions. We are also able to strengthen communication by sharing these trigger points with others. To build this self-awareness, we can use the StrengthsFinder tool to better understand ourselves.
If I have the Communication theme, a question to ask myself might be, "What were the words said to me that triggered the negative emotions?"
If I have the Analytical theme, a question to ask might be, "What was said or done that I found illogical or hard to accept?"
If I have the Empathy theme, a question to ask might be, "What was said or done that I perceived as unkind or without consideration of one's feelings?"
If I have the Discipline theme, a question to ask might be, "Was there anything that caught me off-guard and created more chaos?"
3. Seek to reconcile and forgive rather than simply forget.
Many people choose to sweep things under the carpet, believing that the conflicts will eventually be forgotten. I personally would not recommend this approach of conflict avoidance. The fundamental belief of such an approach is that time will heal all wounds. However, I have seen how the seed of distrust will keep on growing unless there is an ability to destroy this seed (through proper conflict resolution).
I believe in taking ownership of the conflict. This requires both humility and courage. It is always easier to blame others, but taking ownership means seeking a way to move the relationship forward. I am a firm believer that relationships can be strengthened from resolving conflicts.
I often advocate the idea that “the individual is more important than the issue.” It takes great humility to consider and value others more than seeking our own rights. The reason that parental love is so powerful is that parents are able to lay down their rights and do what is best for their children, even if it means moving out of their comfort zone. I believe the same idea can be applied towards relationships at work and at home.
4. Understand what strengths might have caused the conflict to happen.
When we understand our own strengths, this understanding helps us to grow in maturity. When we understand the strengths of others, this understanding helps us to grow in patience with them and strengthen the relational capacity.
A simple way to discover what strengths are clashing during a conflict is to debrief and ask each other this question after things have cooled down: "Which strengths (in the StrengthsFinder language) do you think caused us to clash?"
Recently, I had a heated argument with Jason, my business partner. Angry words were exchanged, and I found out later that I made a statement during our argument that caused him to be emotionally charged. The statement I made was, "What you did does not build trust." As Jason is a Relator, trust is extremely fundamental to him, so these words were cutting to him. Through our debrief, I learnt about this importance. We agreed that moving forward, "trust" as a word shall be used only for affirmation and to build one another up, rather than in the heat of the moment.
Such debriefs can help us to avoid future conflicts on this topic. Further, the respect and trust we have for one another can be deepened as a result of these debriefs.