One of the challenges of living in community is learning how to maximize our strengths by understanding our differences.

Whether you’re looking to manage a team or create better relationships between your friends and family, you will have to overcome differences. Everyone is different.

We are like popcorn – popping in a machine. Each of us can be in the same environment, with the same conditions – but, just like popcorn kernels which will all pop at different times, we will all react uniquely based on who we are as individuals.

Due to these differences, communication is something we have to give a lot of attention to.  When we sit down with someone to make sure everyone is on the same page, we will have to understand our differences to be able to work well together and get more done.

Simply put, when we notice each other’s differences, and learn to appreciate those differences, we can better understand where others are coming from and maximize our strengths together.

Using Open Communication to Bridge Differences

Open communication is exactly what it sounds like: tackling an issue head on and openly discussing ways to resolve it. Nothing is accomplished by letting an issue fester because neither party wants to discuss it.

You’d be surprised how many conflicts can be resolved simply by sitting down with someone and engaging in open communication. The discussion shouldn’t be accusatory, threatening, or argumentative. Instead, it should be an opportunity for all people involved to calmly voice their opinions and be heard.

Tips for Resolving Differences with Open Communication

  • A face-to-face confrontation may not always be best. For instance, some people are most comfortable talking on the phone or chatting online.  Whichever method makes you feel most comfortable is how you should approach the conflict, so long as you are able to openly voice your concerns.
  • Do not make the person involved feel cornered or nervous.  This is an extremely important thing to remember if you are in a position of authority over them. You want to make sure that you’re looking to fix the problem and not to attack them.
  • Remember to focus on the problem and not the person. Take a moment and consider what you need to do. Make sure that you’re not accusing the person or putting them down. That’ll only close them off to everything you’re saying, so make sure to focus on the behavior or the problem without raising your voice.
  • Consider adopting an open door policy, both at home and at work. You’ll be able to effectively communicate with others if you show them that you’re willing to engage with them.  This is an important conflict resolution strategy because it will give you a lot more face-to-face time with them.  The more you foster an open door policy, the fewer conflicts you will have.
  • When mediating, remember that you need to be firm and fair. Listen to all sides and give each person a chance to speak uninterrupted.