Creating The Conflict – You or Them?

Conflict is a natural part of our existence and believe it or not, it is good thing. For many people that can be hard to believe. The reason is because of the emotional aspect, we as humans bring to the equation. It feels uncomfortable to be in conflict.

Let’s break down conflict for a moment.

Let’s use an example. You as the boss, want one of your employees to consistently fill out a spreadsheet reporting on the day’s performance. Although you have asked, it doesn’t happen.
There is a conflict. The conflict exists between what you thought was going to happen and what in fact did or didn’t happen. Now if there was a machine involved instead of a person, you would chalk it up to a mechanical issue, but you wouldn’t believe there was anything else behind it. There might be a little frustration, but you don’t think the machines are ganging up on you.

When it comes to people, as part of the equation, then the result can be quite different. The minute a person is involved, you start to question what the intent of the other person was. This is where it can get a little messy. You start making up stuff.

Thoughts like:

  • Does my employee not respect me?
  • Who do they think they are, not doing what I asked?
  • Maybe they are questioning my authority?
  • Maybe they shouldn’t be in that role?
  • Do they not get how important this is?
  • Maybe I didn’t give the right direction or I was unclear?
  • Etc.

In that moment, there is a conflict not only going on physically with the spreadsheet not being filled out, but there is a conflict in your own head, about the intend behind it and what you should do to resolve it.

This happens to everyone from time to time, whether it is employees, spouses, children, parents…any relationship. People are messy because we all have our own thoughts and ideas and because we can not read each other’s minds, then it leaves us questioning.

So, what is the answer?

This is a two-part solution. The second step is to recognize that you can not read someone else’s mind, so you will never know the answer until you are willing to ask the tough questions. Absolutely, any of the above could be true. The employee might not have understood the importance, or it could be that they have figured out how to do it a different way. They might even think you are totally unqualified to do your job, but until you ask the question you can not know. Tough questions are only tough, when you are afraid of what the answer will be, but in not knowing it is equally so. It is every bit as likely the employee simply forgot, but you will not know until you ask.

The first step is to recognize that if your emotion is running you, then it is also running the show. Your emotion is being driven by your comfortableness of being uncertain. Not by the situation itself. Embrace that being uncertain provides the opportunity to learn, because when you are certain, you stop listening to others.

Conflict in ideas, helps all of us come up with even better solutions, but when we let the emotion associated with the uncertainty you are creating in your own mind get in the way, then those solutions are stifled. The next time you believe you are in conflict, start by simply asking questions and put some of the emotion to the side.