Conflict. We see it every day at our jobs, whether it’s between high level managers, two employees on the same team, or two janitors arguing over a mop bucket.  Observing interactions between employees discussing an issue yields a wealth of information, especially in regards the language that is used to resolve these issues. In the book “The Art of War” by Sun Tzu, several approaches are presented to address conflict in expedient and effective manner.  I feel that sharing this knowledge is important, so I’ll elaborate on a few of the suggestions offered by Sun Tzu.

Protracted campaigns

A piece of information to keep in mind-in my opinion the most important-is the following: “When the army engages in protracted campaigns the resources of the state will not suffice.”  No one likes to be involved in a conflict that drags itself out with no end in sight, no matter how big or small it may be. Constantly talking about a problem drains you mentally and emotionally.  The same amount of energy that you may have had when going into the discussion will be significantly depleted and you may not have anything else to add to the conversation. Whenever there is a problem, don’t spend so much time on what was said between two parties, but focus on the question of “What can we do to solve this issue?”

Fight downhill, do not ascend to attack

During conflict, there needs to be attention paid to not only how we are saying things, but also what we are saying. How often do we hear statements that begin with the word “you” instead of “I”? Using the word “you” more often than not puts us on the defensive and when fingers are pointed at us, we feel compelled to point the finger of blame back at the other person. We say things we don’t mean, and we continue the vicious circle of blame and no one ends up receiving what they need. “I” statements allow people to be empowered and express their needs and feel confident in knowing that they are being heard.

Building a strong rapport

Another piece of knowledge that we should be mindful of is how we treat people. The book notes, “When one treats people with benevolence, justice, and righteousness, and reposes confidence in them, the army will be united in mind and all will be happy to serve their leaders.”  Treating people with respect is the foundation for building a solid team in which each employee feels as though their superior (1) cares about their well being, (2) is committed to solving any problems that arise, and (3) is fair in their decision making and is not prone to showing any bias.

In our interpersonal and work relationships, we all seek for conflict to be addressed quickly, in a mature manner.  Essentially, we all yearn to resolve the conflicts with just enough respect intact to remind us why we chose to be a part of the team in the first place.

by Brian Buffett

Brian Buffett is a graduate of Berea College with a degree in Business Administration, concentrating in Marketing. Brian is passionate about public service and is employed by the U.S Department of Veterans Affairs.