When you experience conflict in your dental practice, it’s normal to focus on how to resolve the situation; however in your quest to restore balance to the team, you sometimes miss out on important information. Consider the words of G.K. Chesterton: “It isn’t that they can’t see the solution. It is that they can’t see the problem.”
Too many times conflict is challenging to resolve or issues continue to reoccur because we fail to see the problem. We often think we know what is wrong only to rush toward a solution that misses the mark. Here is an alternative approach: seek first to understand, not to solve.
The next time you experience conflict in your dental practice, spend the appropriate amount of time understanding what is behind the conflict. Start with what is said. For example, if a team member tells you, “You let too many emergencies into our schedule and it ruins the day,” consider what is really behind those words. The problem may be related to overall challenges with scheduling, inadequate cross training, or unclear expectations. By asking questions, you can learn the full scope of the problem.
The other advantage of seeking first to understand is you let people know they are important enough to be heard. In fact, by taking time to listen and ask questions, you can actually calm people down who were otherwise letting emotions get the best of them. Consider how you feel when someone seeks to understand what you are saying. And once you understand the problem, you can work with all parties involved to find a specific solution.
Remember, conflict resolution starts with conflict diagnosis, and you cannot diagnose the situation without fully understanding the problem. Put extra effort into understanding the root cause of the issue and you will become more effective at building stronger teams.