Conflict and disagreement are natural human occurrences.  Sometimes they escalate to the level of a “turf war”.  The consequences may not always be fatal in terms of physical life and death, but all too often they lead to the emotional death of a relationship.  Sometimes it’s a domestic fatality, and sometimes it’s a business fatality.  The real tragedy is that neither has to occur.

Generally this begins to happen because people either never really agreed on mutual outcomes or their expectations changed.  This is often the result of no real communication ever having taken place.  Recently, in a business meeting with a client, the General Manager could not resist the temptation to share his views with everyone.  During one of his “Hear me” moments, I interrupted long enough to remind him that listening is also part of the communication process.  After the meeting ended, he came to me and said “I have a communications problem, don’t I?” 

Listening is critical.  Just as important as listening to the words is listening to the intention.  Some of us do not like confrontation, so we often “hint” at what we mean; and then we get frustrated or angry with those not clever enough to read between the lines. 

If you happen to fall into that category, then my recommendation is that you start saying what you mean.  People do read between the lines; but usually what they read between them is what they want, not what you want.

Also keep in mind that some of us are quite literal.  If you say “a few” or “several”, we have no idea what that means.  As an example, I recently looked at some training material used by one of our clients.  Step Number 1 calls for “a warm, personal, friendly greeting” to each client.  Those are nice words; but what does that sound like when it’s done?  In my home town, a local merchant uses warm and friendly words; but they are delivered in such a sterile manner that I would almost rather not hear them at all.

If you are not listening or communicating clearly at work, there’s a high probability that you aren’t doing it at home either.  Regardless of your intention, the real meaning of your message is what the receiver thinks, not what you meant to say.  And, when your words are unduly harsh and intemperate, the net effect can be fatal.  It is possible to kill the spirit with a word, a phrase, or a look. 

Turf wars can be emotionally and physically exhausting.  I would like to say I’ve never gotten involved in one myself, but I can’t truthfully say that.  Your domestic and professional life will be much richer if you can stay out of the swamp.  But if you should find yourself in it, remember this adage:  It may take two people to create a lasting peace, but it only takes one to get it started.

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