A Perspective On Conflict

A Little Conflict Can Be A Good Thing

In my experience, very few people really like conflict. Now, I am sure you can think of a person or two that seems to, because they always seem to create it, but even if you were to ask them, they likely wouldn’t tell you that conflict isn’t high on their list of likes.

At the same time, conflict is important. Innovation is born out of conflict. If Elon Musk wasn’t in conflict with NASA, there would never be SpaceX. If your children never had conflict with you, they would likely live at home forever. If you never had a level of conflict at work, you would likely be doing the same job you were doing at sixteen. Conflict and dissatisfaction encourages each of us to leave the known and try new things.

It doesn’t matter if you are in sales, a manager, a business owner, project management, or even being a parent, there are going to be times when you are faced with some conflict. I know some of you will deal with it head on, but a disproportion number of you will likely try to ignore it and hope it goes away, but is that really helping the situation in the long run?

According to a report, by CCP Global Human Capital called, “Workplace Conflict and How Business Can Harness It To Thrive”, 70 percent of employees believe managing conflict is a crucially important leadership skill. Moreover, 54 percent of employees believe managers could handle differences more effectively by dealing with underlying tensions immediately when they occur.

So, why do so many people avoid conflict?

I believe there are a couple of reasons. The first is we are afraid to risk our relationships. All of us like to be liked, at least to some degree, and we work hard to work with the people around us and to earn their respect. The idea of conflict implies a difference of opinion, of values, of perspective and it can be scary to bring to light these differences, because it brings into question the relationship.

The second reason is because they struggle to see a way of bringing up an issue and be able to resolve it constructively and peacefully. We doubt our own abilities to be in control of the conversation and the reaction and assume the worst case, as a result. In essence we build up the conflict in our minds, even before we get to the point where we are having the conversation.

So how do you get better at dealing with conflict?

  1. Change Your Perspective – Rather than coming at a situation as someone is right and someone is wrong, approach it from the perspective of wanting to understand, share and come up with a solution that works for everyone. Thinking that the parties are on two separate sides, remind everyone that you are all on the same side, looking for a good solution.
  2. Imagine The Best Case – Rather than imagining the worst case, why not imagine the best. There is no need to get worked up, even before the other person has had a chance to say anything. By anticipating the worst, you are likely inviting it. You will already be on the defensive even before you get started. Get yourself prepared to see things through smoothly.
  3. Handle Issues in A Timely Manner – When issues are allowed to go on too long unchecked, then everyone gets frustrated and this an heighten everyone’s emotions. One of the reasons people don’t deal with conflict is because they are trying to avoid people not liking them, but in not dealing with it when it is their responsibility, they end up with people not liking and respecting them anyway.
  4. Use a Little Humor – There is nothing better in sticky situations but to throw in a little humor, when it is appropriate. Of course, you don’t want to start laughing when you are handing out discipline, but at the same, if tempers seem to be getting a little elevated in the shop, singing at the top of your lungs, can really lighten the mood.

Finally, don’t let yourself shy away from conflict. Sure, you might avoid it for today, but make a promise and commit to getting up first thing tomorrow and having that conversation. The more you avoid conflict the harder it is to handle. This is a skill that needs to be developed, so make sure you do it. I promise it will get easier, and you are worth, standing up for.

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