Conflict is a part of life – both personally and professionally.
I believe we are all facing conflict through conflicting emotions, conflicting goals, conflicting values, or belief systems. Clients often come to me with challenges they are facing with their directs, peers or leaders and are curious about how to best handle it.
First, I don’t know that there is a “best” way to handle it. You can find an argument to meet it head-on and fight for your point of view or argument to avoid it and try to smooth things over. However, recognizing that conflict is very much a part of our day-to-day world, here are a few things to keep in mind.
What is conflict? It’s a struggle and a clash of interests, opinions, or principles. It is a disagreement where there is a perceived threat to one’s positions, interests or needs. It’s natural and unavoidable and can be used as a catalyst for creativity and change. Some of the deepest conversations come from a space of “conflict.” It’s not a situation of a winner and loser – instead, work through the conflict (or embrace it) from a perspective of win-win.
To make the most of conflict, first, you need to understand where the conflict is coming from. Most often, conflict is driven by one of three areas:
Lack of understanding – the parties involved in the conflict really do not understand each other.
Conflicting values – often, this is seen as a disagreement on the relative importance of the facts to consider when making a decision and
Personal history – if a previous conflict has gone unresolved, there is a greater opportunity for conflict to arise more quickly.
So – understand where the conflict is coming from. This is done by being a listener…. not necessarily speaking…. Allow the person you are in conflict with to feel heard. If both parties’ concerns are out in the open, you can seek common ground and build trust by carefully and openly considering and respecting the other parties’ beliefs.
Even if the resolution does not make everyone happy, the act of truly listening and respecting other points of view will allow forward movement.
Remember, when faced with conflict – the best possible outcome is to reach a point of productive conflict where forward-moving strategies can be agreed upon.
Understand the source of the conflict and step into the conversation by
Withholding judgment (no one is entirely right or entirely wrong)
Be curious (look for underlying needs and interests, ask questions)
Look for win-win solutions (respect the needs and interests of others.
Consider, instead of embracing conflict from a knee-jerk reaction and trying to prove you are right, utilizing conflict to initiate deeper forward-thinking conversations to influence win-win scenarios.
Want to learn more? Reach out and we'll be happy to connect you with Laurie and her team.