Conflict is Not a Dirty Word

Conflict is Not a Dirty Word 150 150 Frumi Rachel Barr

The very word conflict creates the image of someone yelling and screaming or of the silent cold shoulder approach. The actual definition of conflict is to “come into collision or disagreement; be contradictory, at variance, or in opposition; to clash.” Very few people look forward to conflict and welcome it.

I’d like to offer another perspective. The very nature of organizations creates conflict by virtue of silos where managers are protective of their people and people compete for resources. If we never disagreed and went along with all suggestions – wouldn’t that create havoc in our businesses and our relationships? When should we “mine” for conflict and encourage people to speak their minds?

Imagine yourself sitting in a team meeting. We are discussing the “one thing” we should do to grow our business or reposition ourselves over the next twelve months. Someone throws out an idea and everybody winces. Now what? The idea can immediately be abandoned or a heated discussion with ideas building on ideas can ensue. Chances are that as the meeting comes to a close the conflict would result in a series of alternatives to consider. Isn’t this a better outcome?

Conflict or “good conflict” as I choose to call it, is an opportunity to stretch to the next level. Whether in a business setting or in a personal relationship a disagreement can lead to a deeper understanding of one another, and even if it does involve some risk, it may be very worthwhile to speak the truth as you see it.

One way to make conflict more palatable is to set up some parameters before beginning. Let others know that the purpose for the difficult discussion is to get to the next level. Encourage everyone to speak respectfully to each other. Beginning with the phrase “the truth for me is” is very helpful in setting up the listening as it softens the approach so someone will in fact listen.

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