Good Manners = Good Conflict Management

May 07, 2009

This week I was at a typical stand-with-a-glass-in-hand cocktail reception, standing in a group with a glass in my hand. I noticed two women very near me in the crowded room. One of the two had an interesting looking book in her arm. I tried to see the title. The woman glanced at me, and looked uncomfortable before moving away. 

I quickly apologized: "I’m sorry, I was trying to see your book; it looks really interesting."

The woman seemed very relieved: "I  thought you were angry that we were standing too close."

Had I unconsciously looked angry? Or maybe my curious look comes across as angry to those who don’t know me? I hadn’t meant to be rude nor intended to make the woman and her companion feel uncomfortable, yet their assumption about me was that I had done both.

Simple good manners and an early apology let them know my intention had been benign and we wound up having a fascinating conversation about our favorite books. These strangers who had been prepared to believe I was judging them, and were judging me, wound up making the evening far more pleasant by including me in their conversation. 

There are many opinions about –˜political correctness’ and –˜thought police’ telling us what is the right thing to say rather than being able to say anything we want. They may have a good point, that we should be able to just live our lives without being judged by others. Sometimes though, just basic good manners can correct the potential for conflicting interactions.

Filed Under: Conflict Competence      

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