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Some related titles from How to Books

Conducting Staff Appraisals

How to set up a review system that will ensure fair and effective appraisal – and

improve individual performance and organisational results

How to be a Motivational Manager

An essential guide for leaders and managers who need to get fast results with

minimum stress

The Pocket Media Coach The handy guide to getting your message across on TV, radio or in print Killer Presentations Power the imagination to visualise your point with PowerPoint Developing Mental Toughness Gold Medal Strategies for transforming your business performance howtobooks

Please send for a free copy of the latest catalogue:

Spring Hill House, Spring Hill Road, Begbroke, Oxford OX5 1RX, United Kingdom info@howtobooks.co.uk www.howtobooks.co.uk







How to manage disagreements and develop trust and understanding


McCONNON howtobooks Published by How To Content, A division of How To Books Ltd, Spring Hill House, Spring Hill Road, Begbroke Oxford OX5 1RX. United Kingdom Tel: (01865) 375794. Fax: (01865) 379162 info@howtobooks.co.uk www.howtobooks.co.uk All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or stored in an information retrieval system (other than for purposes of review) without the express permission of the publisher in writing.

The right of Shay and Margaret McConnon to be identified as the authors of this work has been asserted by them in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 © 2008 Shay and Margaret McConnon First edition 2002 Second edition 2004, Third edition 2008 First published in electronic form 2008 British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data.

A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.

ISBN: 978 1 84803 249 1 Cover design by Baseline Arts Ltd, Oxford Produced for How To Books by Deer Park Productions, Tavistock Typeset and design by Baseline Arts Ltd, Oxford NOTE: The material contained in this book is set out in good faith for general guidance and no liability can be accepted forloss or expense incurred as a result of relying in particular circumstances on statements made in this book. Laws and regulations are complex and liable to change, and readers should check the current position with the relevant authorities before making personal arrangements.

We have attempted to acknowledge all known sources. We apologise for any that have been missed. Please contact us so that we can include an acknowledgement in the next edition.


–  –  –

3 Fight the Difference or Celebrate it?

Is conflict inevitable? Can conflict be constructive? This 41 chapter suggests that conflict comes more from the management of these differences than from the differences themselves. Understand why rows can spiral out of control.

4 Are you Building a Bridge or a Barrier? 53 Explore the win–win and the win–lose mindsets and the consequences of these approaches. Discover the language that fuels conflict and find out how ‘you’ and ’I’ can become ‘we’.

–  –  –

6 Develop your Skills and Increase Your Choices 69 Discover the three key skills for managing conflict. Learn how to listen acceptingly, talk constructively and negotiate successfully. Also ways to disagree and keep rapport.


7 Four Steps to Resolution 93 Do you want to manage differences in open and honest ways without conflict or argument? This four-step model gives you the language and the processing for win-win. The ‘steps’ will reduce defensiveness, deepen understanding and create collaboration. Learn to deal with power plays.

–  –  –

Appendices 114 The appendices include a questionnaire to help you discover your preferred conflict management style and a collection of other tools to enable you to turn difficult situations around.

There is also a case study showing symptoms of organizational conflict – low morale and a high turnover of staff. The study demonstrates how using the processes and language of the ‘steps’ enables staff and management to listen, understand and work towards a mutual solution.

–  –  –

“This book offers many tried and tested approaches to ensure that conflicts are managed so that they are positive and creative rather than a process of discrimination.”


“Your Conflict Resolution Workshops have given staff a greater understanding of themselves. Consequently we now have much improved relationships within the company and with our customers.”


“Conflict resolution is a big part of my work. The techniques and skills in this book have helped me and my team, freeing up precious time for us to be more productive.”


“The is the best on communication, leadership and understanding people I have ever seen, and believe me, I have seen a lot.” A. ROBBINS, TRAINER “This readable and accessible book looks at how to resolve conflict, and how to avoid it in the first place.”


–  –  –

In 1988 they founded People First, an international training and consultancy group that specialises in leadership and culture change programmes.

People First is best known for An Even Better Place to Work. This is the world’s first on line culture and behaviour change programme. It is being used by leading companies around the world to create happy, motivated and well led staff.

Margaret specialises in one to one work and couple counselling. She is the co-author of workshop materials and trains on people issues within education and the service sectors.

Shay speaks regularly at conferences on people issues in the workplace. He has been awarded a fellowship by the Professional Speakers Association and voted best new speaker by Vistage, the world’s largest organisation for CEOs.

His keynotes are packed with practical, workable ideas and he uses magic to illustrate the learnings in a fun and memorable way.

www.ShayMcConnon.com www.PeopleFirst-Intl.com www.anevenbetterplacetowork.com This page intentionally left blank Preface Our differences define our uniqueness – nationality, culture, gender, beliefs, values and our behaviours. From a very early age, we are aware of those differences, with siblings and peer groups. We may have different abilities, talents, and levels of attractiveness or interest. Those differences define mankind, allow progress and contribute to the dynamics of the world.

We are also aware that those differences contribute to conflict in our world.

Each of us is likely to experience some degree of conflict, be it personal, professional, national or international.

Why is it that the very essence of being human contributes directly to the varying degrees of unhappiness, distress and destruction?

Each of us has our own unique window on our world, fashioned by our socialization and our place in history. We have our own needs, defined by our values and beliefs. When needs are not met, or are denied to us, we are in conflict.

This book offers an understanding of the nature of conflict and structures, which enable the reader to negotiate a solution.

It aims to remove the mind-reading syndrome, which often accompanies conflict, and to replace it with open communication, trust and respect and a simple structure, which allows all parties to reach the magic of win–win.

Shay & Margaret McConnon This page intentionally left blank Acknowledgements Many influences have contributed to the writing of this book. Thanks to our friends and colleagues who have encouraged and supported us in developing the ideas and approaches.

In particular we would like to thank Andy Colehan and John Jerwood for their time, professionalism, friendship and most of all their willingness to challenge.

We are particularly grateful to all the people who have attended our workshops. The shared experiences have contributed greatly to the approaches contained in this book.

We wish to acknowledge all these influences and trust that what is offered in these pages reflects the ideals we share.

intro Introduction Language for conflict or co-operation ?

N Have you ever slammed a door in rage?

N Are you inclined to avoid the issue?

N Do you say ‘you should’ or ‘you never’?

N Do you get the boxing gloves out every time a row beckons?

N Do you sometimes make accusing statements like ‘you started it’ or ‘it’s your fault’?

N Do you often cover up your real feelings by saying ‘it doesn’t matter’ when it does, or ‘I’m fine’ when you are not?

N Ever been so hurt, angry and resentful that you don’t care about the other person, you just want revenge?

N Have you ever wished you could handle those difficult people better?

If so, then this book is for you. It will give you some tried and proven ways to prevent and manage conflict in your life. It is written for parents, managers, teachers, students, anyone who wishes to manage differences in open and honest ways without argument or conflict.

Me and my big mouth!

No matter who you are, or where you live, if you are in contact with other people you are likely to face some form of conflict, be it a minor irritation or an earth-shattering row.


The answer to resolving these conflicts is right under your nose, in the words you use. Words enable you to build bridges or create barriers.

Words have the power to N heal or wound N unite or divide N create conflict or harmony.

The cost of conflict Of course we are all different from each other. We have different needs, tastes, opinions, beliefs, preferences and values. The question is, how do we cope with the differences? Are they allowed to get in the way and be the source of conflict, or can we celebrate the differences and view them creatively? Let’s look at a few problem scenarios.

Conflict wastes time and money

Relationship cost Kate finds Pete increasingly distant and hostile at times. She would like to come home from work and chat about her day and hear all about his day, but he comes home wanting to be left alone to unwind. Kate feels excluded, and Pete seems to be spending more and more time in front of his computer.

What needs to happen? Would a good row clear the air? Should they pretend there isn’t a problem? What choices do they have? What are the words they need to use to resolve this difference?

Mike wants up-to-date information for the monthly sales meeting. Lisa seldom meets the deadline, complaining that she never has time to collect the data and write a comprehensive report.

–  –  –

Mike is getting increasingly frustrated and angry with Lisa. She feels that Mike is unreasonable and insensitive to her situation. The increasing tension and anger shows in the raised voices whenever this matter is discussed.

They are getting locked into a ‘you against me’ scenario. What choices do Mike and Lisa have for moving this situation forward?

Cost to the individual While conflict can be constructive, most conflict is destructive, with time, emotional and health costs. Kate and Pete, Lisa and Mike might argue, retaliate, blame and engage in a war of words. Such power struggles can result in stress, loss of confidence, unhappiness, hostility, withdrawal and even illness.

Cost to the organization Conflict not only has a high personal cost but it is expensive for your organization. Research indicates that a typical manager loses 25% of the day responding to unhelpful conflict. This is time lost to creative, productive work.

Take a medium sized organization with one hundred managers. Let’s assume the average annual salary per manager is £40,000. With managers losing 25% of their time on conflict, the cost will be £1,000,000.

This only accounts for management time. The true cost will include wasted employee time, higher staff turnover, missed opportunities, absenteeism, inefficiency, low morale and poor teamwork.

Conversely of course, people who are skilled at managing conflict are more likely to be perceived as leaders, are more influential, gain respect and co-operation and increase the worth of an organization.

Unmanaged conflict is the largest reducible cost for many organisations and it is usually the least recognized.


Breaking the stalemate In conflict, there is the danger that people get locked into their own positions, digging their heels in and insisting they get their own way. If this happens, it is stalemate with both sets of needs unmet. It is a you against me scenario.

This book is about how to make the transformation from you against me to us against the problem. It is about giving the reader more behavioural choices in managing differences. It will leave you better equipped to deal

with the difficult people in your life. It will show you how to:

N prevent blow-ups N defuse anger N build bridges N keep your cool N resolve conflict for good N build better relationships N avoid the pitfalls.

Chapter 1 How the View Explains our Differences

In this chapter:

N understand your unique window on the world N your view is subjective, partial and likely to be distorted N hero or villain – who’s viewpoint?

N opinions are not right or wrong they are points of view N seek to understand rather than to change others N beware of making assumptions about people’s intentions N explore different perspectives for richer solutions.

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