When conflicts arise, we must understand three ways to help diffuse them: 1) slow down our thinking so we can make rational decisions, 2) separate our needs from our wants, and 3) choose the right method to handle the given conflict. Once we have diffused the conflict, our next step is to actualize our understandings and goals.
When things get heated, we can find it difficult to maintain composure and employ these learned methods. Fortunately, the VOMP model, created by Crosby Kerr Minno Consulting, is a proven method to help curve our natural reactions and to enable us to react calmly and professionally. VOMP is defined as follows:
- Ventilation: When resolving a conflict, it is essential that each party hears the other person’s side of the story. In this stage, you need to communicate both your thoughts and your feelings about the situation, and you must listen carefully to the other person as he or she explains his or her own thoughts and feelings. You don’t have to agree, you just have to understand the other person.
- Ownership: Everyone contributes a piece to a conflict. This step involves “owning”—that is, accepting responsibility for—your piece of the problem. In this step, you need to humbly admit to whatever you have contributed to the situation. In doing so, it is also important not to take on more than your fair share.
- Moccasins: This step comes from the old phrase “walk a mile in the other person’s moccasins.” In this step, both parties need to express their understanding of, and empathy for, the other person’s experience and point of view. Understanding doesn’t necessarily mean agreement, and empathy does not mean sympathy. This step lets the other person know that, given what they have told you in the ventilation step and what they have taken ownership of, you now have a better understanding of the situation as they see it. This is where you express their feelings, and they express yours.
- Plan: This is where you strive for a solution. How are you going to ensure that things going forward will be different? In this phase, you should discuss what each party needs and wants, and what each of you is willing to do.
The first three steps of the VOMP model improve morale because we know we’ve been heard and understood; the fourth step, Plan, puts our work back on track once we have reached an understanding. Though this process may seem simple enough, it is important to note that like most key aspects of leadership, the VOMP process is a skill that will grow and develop through practice, commitment, and motivation. This process can guide us through addressing unhealthy conflicts. It also can help to ease tension and release new energy and creativity into our business as we seek mutually beneficial solutions. The result is streamlined processes, new markets, and increased revenue.
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