What can Ted Lasso teach us about managing aggression and resolving conflict?
First, some may be asking; who is Ted Lasso? Well, if you haven’t seen the hit Netflix series of the same name then (as Molly Meldrum would put it) “do yourself a favour.” It’s the story of an American gridiron coach who goes to England to coach a Premier League soccer team. He fails, succeeds and fails again. I won’t ruin the plot. There’s lots of messages throughout the series that impact on professional and personal life.
So, what’s this got to do with managing aggressive clients and conflict resolution?
Conflict happens because of (among other things) there is miscommunication between two parties. Those in conflict typically don’t listen to each other; that is, they don’t practice active listening. Those in conflict also generally don’t do other essential important things in conflict resolution, like:
- Listen to understand, instead of listening to respond
- Show empathy to the other party
- Practice essential non-verbal communication
- Ask the right questions
- Build any type of rapport (which equals trust)
Being able to see another person’s side of the story is vital in being able to manage conflict. Whilst that’s generally called empathy (taking someone else’s perspective and understanding it) it’s important to manage conflict and also “de-escalate” someone. All an angry or aggressive persons sometimes wants to do it to have someone listen to them.
Let’s be clear though (as a professional) you don’t have to agree with the other party or their views about something – or in the case of a client or customer the aggressive/angry person – to effectively de-escalate. But being able to show understanding and practice effective conflict resolution skills (like those above) will go a long way towards managing others aggression and anger. Ultimately, these learnt skills can have a significant impact on conflict outcomes, worker physical and psychological health and overall professionalism. As an organisation, safeguarding the psychosocial health risks of staff is legislated and (it goes without saying) an important part of effective human resource management.
Ted Lasso, talking about people who used to belittle, underestimate and judge him never asked questions. They never tried to understand him. They never asked the right questions or tried to see things from his point.
They were never curious.
But don’t get curiosity mixed up with pandering, political correctness or sympathy. In a professional sense, there’s no need to “suck up” to anybody. They are very different things and not part of a professional communicator’s toolkit.
If you’re in conflict with another party, or you’re in a job where you have to manage emotions of others who may be aggressive or angry, maybe it’s time to be a bit curious. Maybe it’s time to try and understand so that you can better deal with them. You may be surprised at the outcome.
And as Ted says… be curious, not judgmental.