How To Solve Problems Like A Boss (Without Sabotaging Your Own Needs)

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Conflict Resolution Strategies For How To Build Confidence & Self-Esteem While Problem Solving

Are you renowned among friends, family, and colleagues for your masterfulness at diplomacy and neutrality during conflict resolution?

Even if you're a natural at problem-solving, you might actually be hurting your self-esteem or negatively impacting your confidence because you're choosing harmony over communication.

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Do you excel at being consistently fair at settling interpersonal conflict, always considering all sides and perspectives and taking each and everyone’s feelings into account?

Great work — but here's something for you to think about: How often do you stand up for what’s fair and right for you and build your own self-esteem?

An unwavering commitment to diplomatic and peaceful interactions is valuable (especially in the workplace!), but it might be stopping you from standing up for yourself and being considerate of your own needs.

Being so focused on being fair to others can put you at risk of being unfair to yourself and overlooking or even neglecting your own personal right to respect and fair treatment.

You might be so concentrated on resolving conflict and bringing a group dynamic back to a peaceful working state that you lose sight of a very important member of the team: You.

Failing to stand up for yourself and be fair and respectful of your own needs in a team environment takes away your personal power and injures your self-respect. You really have to be in your own corner as much as you are in everyone else’s.

Standing up for yourself is essential in maintaining and increasing your self-respect, and vital in affirming your sense of empowerment. The best conflict resolution strategies won't undermine your own needs.

There’s a technique in Dialectical Behavior Therapy that gives you a specific formula to use in order to maintain or even enhance your self-respect levels, and its called the FAST skill.

This stands for:

  • (Be) Fair
  • (No) Apologies
  • Stick to your values
  • (Be) Truthful

In any situation, you must clarify your goals and know whether your priority is to A) simply get what you want, B) maintain/improve a relationship, or C) maintain/improve your self-respect.

This particular skill (FAST), is to be used when your main aim is to sustain or increase your self-respect.

This means that the FAST skill may feel a bit more “ruthless,” especially if you’re so used to a soft, mild approach when it comes to communicating with others during conflict situations. The FAST technique is not focused on nurturing relationships, it's about standing up for yourself.

Your aim is to feel proud of how you’ve communicated, both immediately after the conversation is finished, and long after the discussion has passed. It’s about getting things off your chest in an effective way so you’re not left regretting what you should’ve said but didn’t, months or even years later.

It’s about respecting your own feelings, needs, and wants while trying to achieve your goal in an interpersonal context.

Below is a sample scenario to implement and practice the FAST skill to help you understand the concept!

Here are the 4 steps you can use to implement "FAST" in order to maintain your self-esteem during interpersonal conflict:

You and a team of five colleagues have been working for six months toward a deadline in a team project where you have consistently pulled the weight for the whole team and contributed more than half of the overall work for the project.

You've also edited typos and grammatical errors in other team members' work without saying anything and have been committed to ensuring the content is of the highest quality.

David, one of the team members (who has not expressed any issues with the project or coordination of the project until this point), calls you up an hour before the project deadline and speaks in an aggressive and accusatory manner.

David mentions the following during the phone conversation:

  • You have been “cruel” to team member James, by expecting him to complete his self-assigned task
  • Points out examples of specific typos you made in the final project document that need to be fixed
  • Complains about needing to have spent a few hours on the project finalization at the very last minute

Up until this point you’ve been consistently fair and accommodating, but during the phone call, you're angered by how David is treating you and decide to communicate this directly to him in order to stand up for yourself and reclaim your self-respect.

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Let’s use the FAST skill now to respond to David:

1. (Be) Fair

This is not just about being fair to the other person, this is about being fair to yourself, too! This means not only validating the other person’s feelings and desires but validating your own with equal measure.

“David, I understand you may be stressed by the deadline, but I have been nothing but respectful to you and the rest of our team this entire project, and I'm not willing to accept how you’re speaking to me now.

I want to remind you that James volunteered himself for that task, and if either you or James had any issues with any of the project task-allocation, it was your responsibility to raise that immediately, not months later and an hour before the project deadline.”

2. (No) Apologies

Make sure you don’t make apologies for communicating with assertiveness. Apologizing when you haven’t actually done anything wrong reduces self-confidence, damages self-respect, and implies that you’re guilty of something when you’re not.

There is no shame in standing up for yourself and preserving or reclaiming your personal power.

"I've been fixing other team members' work, including yours, for the last six months without feeling the need to mention it to anyone. Pointing out minor typos of mine in the final document instead of just fixing them feels very petty and unsupportive to me."

3. Stick to your values

Silencing yourself and opting to not to speak up or speak out when your values are being challenged or when you’re upset means you're selling yourself out! Compromising your personal values, integrity, or beliefs in order to please others or gain/maintain their approval, or protect their feelings robs you of personal power.

Don’t be afraid to stand up for what you believe in or what you feel is ethically right for you, even if it goes against what others think or say or has the potential to offend others.

Express your views and values and feel proud of yourself for acting in alignment with what is truly important to you.

“For the last six months I've done half of all the work for this project, so you complaining to me that you needed to spend a few hours doing your allocated task is totally inappropriate and unfair this is an issue of your own time management choices and has nothing to do with me."

4. (Be) Truthful

Honesty and self-respect go hand in hand. When you don’t act in alignment with how you really think and feel, you lose respect for yourself and feel disempowered.

If someone has hurt your feelings or behaved in a way that challenges a core value of yours, continuing to act amiable and pleasant toward them to “keep the peace” or “not cause drama” is dishonest and inauthentic.

It comes as a huge cost to your self-respect because you’re essentially silencing yourself and dismissing your own feelings in order to preserve theirs. That’s not treating yourself with the same courtesy and fairness you’re affording others.

“I really think that waiting until the very end of the project to express your dissatisfaction is both cowardly and unhelpful, and you needed to speak up earlier. In the future, for the good of the project, please raise issues as they arise.”

Choosing to stand up for yourself can feel uneasy at first, especially if you worry about hurting other people's feelings or rocking the boat. But with time and practice, it will soon become a natural part of your communication routine.

You show people how to treat you by how you respond to what they say and do. It’s up to you to respond self-respect-effectively in order to stand up for yourself and be fair to your needs and wants. Remember, if you’re only being fair and diplomatic on the behalf of others, you're neglecting a very important person, who may be very strong and resilient, but is still in need of your support and protection: You.

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Miya Yamanouchi is an empowerment counselor with specialist sex & relationship training who is committed to assisting all members of the community to embrace their inner strength and live an inspired and vibrant life, irrespective of their perceived limitations.