Winston Vaughan, MD, founder and director of the California Sinus Centers in the San Francisco Bay area, believes conflict resolution is crucial when dealing with work or personal relationships.
Explore this issue:August 2015
“Sometimes, as surgeons, we are trained as ‘cut the tumor out’ kind of people, and sometimes you just have to squeeze the pimple instead—you can’t overreact,” said Dr. Vaughan, who directly supervises 11 employees and oversees eight different locations. “Think about chilling out, negotiating, instead of going into nuclear mode and overreacting. That is the last thing you want to do. You want to reserve that for when there are nuclear weapons involved.”
Navigating and resolving conflicts involves using finesse, being open to others’ perspectives, and wanting to resolve an issue rather than to be right. Knowing how to navigate conflicts effectively can smooth situations among colleagues, peers, patients and their families, and others, and can build or maintain your role as a leader.
Dr. Vaughan cites a mnemonic known as CHANGE to help stay on top of tricky situations and navigate conflict:
- Chill out
- Getting together
He learned about the mnemonic in a self-growth workshop through the Personal Success Institute (PSI), a personal development organization, and says he uses it often when working with staff members, when “I get into a situation where there’s conflict around me or an ‘issue.’”
Chilling out is listening when others want to express themselves. “You are hearing what they are saying, but you are not immersing yourself in their emotional connection,” he said. “You are hearing but not listening intensely. Quite often, that’s all you have to do. Then you can all move on.”
Handling is more assertive. By telling someone, “I can see why you’re saying that,” you’re becoming someone who is more actively involved in the conflict, said Dr. Vaughan.
Avoidance is recognizing that this is a situation you don’t want to get involved in, and you are going to stay inactive. In the office setting, it can mean letting two medical assistants, or two peers, or two vendors, work out their conflict without your participation. Often, Dr. Vaughan will say, “You guys can figure that one out without me. I trust you to, and do it today, thanks.” With this method, “they can learn from their wonderful experience without my being involved,” said Dr. Vaughan. “In a marriage, it can be saying, ‘I’m just going to avoid the coffee cup that is still in the sink.’ It’s just not worth it.”