Aggressive tones, ongoing disagreements, posturing body language, and combative communication — these are things that can escalate to conflict and create stress in any employee. For introverts, this type of interpersonal conflict can be particularly difficult to manage. Fight, flight, or freeze may be triggered with certain volumes or tones of voice and figuring out how to handle conflict at work can feel impossible.
How to Handle Conflict at Work
Any kind of social conflict can be challenging for introverts, but work is where your response reflects your professionalism, so it can feel like the pressure is really on. Introverts face a lot of struggle when facing conflict, which can include struggling to keep up in a fast-paced argument so as not to interrupt others. This can lead to avoidance of the topic altogether, subsequently suppressing the introvert’s opinion. Learning how to handle conflict at work when you’re an introvert can help take some of the edge off.
Normalize Your Own Feelings
Dealing with conflict in the workplace shouldn’t fill you with doubt about who you are and how you feel. Start by recognizing how you feel about the conflict at hand: anxious, scared, sad? Whatever feelings emerge, and whatever instincts arise (e.g. to avoid conflict), are normal. There’s nothing you have to fix about yourself here.
Shake Your Jitters Out
Be sure to utilize movement to help get some of that anxiety out of your body. You can take a walk around the block, take a quick jog, or do some stretching to help get your blood flowing. This exercise can help you manage more effectively how to handle conflict at work.
Plan to Speak Up
Being conflict-avoidant may feel great in the moment of avoidance, but it might have negative longer-lasting impacts. Some of those impacts can include your professional reputation, but on top of that, you may be reinforcing negative core beliefs about yourself that you’re not worthy of adding your insight and opinions, be it because you perceive things differently or because you have a hard time keeping up with rapid conversations.
You can exercise this new muscle when it’s not needed to help make it more effective when it is needed for resolving conflict at work. This can include doing visual exercises like imagining yourself speaking up and creating positive change with your coworkers. Our imagination can have a profound impact on our thoughts, emotions, and motivation and if you’re skeptical that the body has a response to our imagination, try imagining sucking on a lemon right now and tell me your mouth doesn’t water.
Own Your Strengths
While being an introvert in the midst of workplace conflict resolution can feel like a bad experience, there are many strengths these introspective folks bring to this type of situation.
Because introverts process and energize inwardly, it’s typical for them to be rather strong with regard to empathy and compassion for others. The introvert in the room may be the one who can make space for the perspectives of others and, in fact, help try to slow things down. Introverts also tend to speak mindfully, so they can often apply creative problem-solving insights, especially related to interpersonal issues.
Accept Yourself Regardless of the Outcome
Whatever happens, know that you tried something new and advocated on behalf of something that mattered to you. Maybe you felt awkward or emotionally overwhelmed, but that doesn’t mean you failed. Speaking up and dealing with conflict in the workplace is hard so if you managed to overcome your anxiety and urges to retreat, you’ve already succeeded.
Learning how to handle conflict at work when it goes against your strengths and instincts is challenging. Get support from neutral and experienced professionals who can diffuse rather than ignite the tension at the office. Contact Pollack Peacebuilding Systems today to get the right solutions for you and your team.