People Skills 101

Five sources of conflict that could easily trick you into losing your cool. Read with caution!

Conflict is all around us yet, mostly we are not taught how to effectively and constructively deal with it prior to entering the workforce. Instead we are left to learn the hard way - through experience - which if the relationship goes sour, can be a costly way to learn.

Last week was my turn to experience immense frustration with a typical source of conflict -technology.

Due to a power outage near our home we lost Internet connectivity for days. On the third day and, with a HSC student trying to study for her trials but unable to access her information online and expressing immense frustration loudly in the background, I took mercy on my ears and decided to do something about it before books flew through walls and doors were banged shut. (I am exaggerating for effect.) The very nice technician with a foreign accent calmly took me through some tests and informed me that it would be back on in a few hours. At my request for lost of connectivity and loss of potential income - as I work from my home office - he offered me a measly $5 off our bill. I was insulted. “$5 will not even pay for the petrol to drive to the library to get Internet,” I spluttered to myself under my breath.

I said in rather an annoyed tone, “no thanks,” and hung up.

Two hours later, still no Internet. Agh!

I rang back and asked to speak to a supervisor. To keep the story short a series of phone calls were made back and forth trying to fix the problem, various offers of small discounts were given and, one fellow made a serious breach of company policy and Australian law and later on I was told he would be fired. At our end, we were without Internet for a total of 4 days. Without ‘losing it’, I expressed definite annoyance to a variety of the phone company’s employees. The wash up from this rather small but sad episode is we were restored to the Internet and received a small compensation on our bill, however at the other end a young man made quite a serious error and as a result lost his job. And I was sad about that for him.

A week later when one of supervisors called back, he explained they had strict rules about how to handle a customer. Part of the training is that, no matter how explosive the tirade from the customer, customer service workers must respond calmly, with no reaction.

A little while later, when life had moved on and in a totally different circumstance with nothing at all to do with technology, I found myself reflecting on my own angry outburst, as I had become a volcano in response to someone’s behaviour. I strongly reprimanded myself, “You should know better than to engage in conflict. Ingrid if you worked for that phone company and your angry outburst was work related you would be without a job this week.”

It is as you will no doubt agree, extremely difficult to keep calm, to not respond and to reply politely in the face of a human volcano. Most good high school teachers, well trained police officers and nurses, experienced and self aware parents of teenagers and obviously, telephone customer service staff learn how to stay calm.

Next time you are faced with a source of conflict, take a big breath and give a thought to the other human being on the other end of your frustration.

Here are five sources of conflict that could easily trick you into losing your cool. Read with caution.

  1. Resource conflict - Issues around the shortage of money, supplies, people or information.
  2. Jurisdictional Ambiguities - Boundaries and task responsibilities are unclear.
  3. Personality Clashes - A personality conflict emerges when two people simply do not get along or do not view things similarly.
  4. Values conflict - Can be very difficult to resolve as our values are part of the fabric of our paradigm.
  5. Policy conflict - Conflict may occur when a client or customer hits a policy that they perceive is unreasonable or immovable.

About Ingrid Aitken Gattari, Achievers Group

Ingrid Aitken Gattari is the wife of Tony Gattari. She is executive director at Achievers Group. Ingrid has a wealth of experience across a number of industries and has worked in the fields of journalism, public relations, counselling and administration. Ingrid is highly qualified and has a degree in communication (journalism), a diploma in public relations and community services. Ingrid specialises as a trainer, facilitator and coach is the areas of team work, personal development and conflict resolution.

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