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All we have to do is pick up a newspaper or watch the evening news to know that there is conflict all over the world. How does conflict affect you and your workplace?

Conflict is not good or bad; it simply reflects a difference of opinion or interests. It is also an inevitable occurrence as we work with people who differ from ourselves.

Conflict can arise because co-workers bring with them differing perspectives and backgrounds or in some cases, employees have unclear expectations of their responsibilities. It results from a lack of trust or understanding. Poor communication is a major contributor to conflict. This can include reading body language, failure to share information or receiving inconsistent messages.

Conflict is difficult because it triggers our acute stress response, which causes us to react with 'fight' or 'flight.' If you tend to be aggressive, you will likely respond to conflict with 'fight.' If you are not aggressive, your response will be 'flight.' Either reaction bypasses our rational mind and makes it difficult to act logically.

A productive way to handle conflict is by using emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence affects how we manage behavior, navigate social situations and make decisions. The four key components of emotional intelligence as described in Primal Leadership: Learning to Lead with Emotional Intelligence, by Annie McKee, Daniel Goleman, Richard E. Boyatzis, are:

• Self awareness - being aware of your reactions and tendencies
• Self management - staying on top of, and managing your reactions
• Social awareness - being able to perceive what others are feeling and thinking and picking up on the emotions of others
• Relationship management - using your awareness of your emotions and those of others to manage interactions. This includes communicating clearly and handling conflict.

To use emotional intelligence in conflict resolution, make calm statements of fact, ask questions and listen. Try to understand the other person's point of view without judgment.

Tell the facts as you see them and how they affect you. Explain the outcome you are hoping for and ask for other ideas for solutions. Discuss how you can resolve the conflict to make sure everyone's needs are recognized and met.

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