Avoid these six common conflict triggers — land mines which, if set off, simply make people stop listening to you.
- Competence: questioning someone’s intelligence or skills. Asking in a passive-aggressive way why someone is late with a project, or inquiring as to whether they actually performed a very basic task, are examples of this. It can come off as incredibly presumptuous to challenge the years, or even decades, of work experience someone has brought to the table by suggesting they’re not as good as they think they are.
- Inclusion: Careful about excluding someone from a meeting they believe they should be attending or overlooking them completely as a source of information on a project they feel they have a stake in. Butz phrased this in her webinar as “implying they’re not a good companion.”
- Autonomy: exerting unwanted control over someone. People may hear a threat to their autonomy when you suggest that you step in to correct a situation, or you imply they need help when they haven’t asked for it. It’s also easy to trigger someone by imposing even a single new rule on their set of procedures.
- Status: disrespecting another’s “tangle or intangible assets”—meaning their power, title, potential or even their attractiveness. Wondering aloud how they got their job, or whether they’re responsible enough to stay at their pay grade, are devastating triggers that can quickly result in an explosive argument.
- Reliability: Don’t hint that the person you’re talking to is not as trustworthy as you once believed. It’s just a different form of attacking their competence.
- Morality: What they hear when you question their ethics or moral judgment on even a minor issue is, “Are you even a good person?”