By: Brian Maher, Vice President, Career Services
I find the most effective means to resolving disputes is to simply ask questions. Statements oftentimes will only inflame an already tense situation, but questions will not only eventually lead to the truth of the matter, but will encourage a less accusatory atmosphere.
I’m not saying this always works, but historically I have found that statements rarely lead to resolution. While questions can exasperate others their exasperation usually stems from being proven wrong versus being made to feel like they are being interrogated like making statements can.
One of the issues I deal with now involves what others like to call “daddy ball”, in which a parent favors their child over others in sports. This wouldn’t be an issue if the parent in question wasn’t the coach of the team and in charge of distributing playing time or what position each player will play, etc.
Having spent most of my time in collegiate athletics, this not only was a relatively new experience for me, but one that I found quite humorous at first. To accuse a parent of doing this, however, would only make matters worse. Instead, I approached it by asking the coach/parent in question a number of questions in order to better understand what their reasoning was. Eventually they came to recognize what they were doing and stopped it.
They weren’t being malicious (most aren’t, though some are and there is no helping them). They love their son or daughter and only want the very best for them. And, for the most part, they want what is best for the other children as well. They either lack perspective or experience. Rather than become their enemy, I try my best to become their support system and help them see the big picture. In college, while “daddy ball” also exists it exists on a much smaller scale because most coaches don’t have any children on their teams and even if they do they are employed only so long as they are successful and can’t afford to play anyone who doesn’t give them the best possible chance to win.
If I have a dispute with a colleague, I try and resolve it by asking questions that will (hopefully) lead to a resolution that both parties can agree is in everyone’s best interests, rather than simply make statements that make one party feel at fault or accused of doing something wrong. I know colleagues that do that and eventually they are an island unto themselves that no one wants any part of. They’d rather drift at sea for eternity than have to spend a minute on an island with such a person.
What one must understand is that most of the time people are honestly working toward a successful outcome. Again, they just may lack the experience or perspective to do so in an effective way. Cut them a break and give them the opportunity to correct it mid-stream by asking questions, rather than making statements that reveal that they are wrong and are made to feel like a fool or incompetent. You just might make an ally instead of an enemy.