To Conflict or Not to Conflict

Ever since I was very little I was taught to avoid conflict at all costs. I was tamed out of conflict in my friendships, my parents shushed me when my very intense personality overflowed and I educated myself to smile the polite way even when all of my insides were crying out Revolution!

Turns out, tuning out of conflict is the quickest way to bottling up resentment, becoming disheartened and losing commitment.  Who knew?  The first time I read this was many, many years ago when I read The Five Dysfunctions of Teams by Patrick Lencioni and I remember it daily when I listen to his At the Table podcast.

So, conflict is healthy? Well … it is the only actual way we grow as conflict gets us out of our comfort zone. But the fine print reads quite clearly – no conflict is beneficial in the absence of mutual trust. 

The conclusion is simple – definitely do conflict but watch who you conflict with. 🙂

How to do conflict well  

Conflict stirs things up – and this is why it is good and bad, all at the same time.  It is uncomfortable and it brings up lots of emotions and ideas that we may like better under the rug. At the same time, as Brene Brown says, if you are not uncomfortable, you’re not learning.

So, here we go – four tips to help handle conflict well:

1. Choose to do conflict when you are able to – it is fairer to postpone a discussion than handle things in the worst way just because this is when the conversation was scheduled.

2. Remember your anchor – breathing. I have heard it said that life is what happens between an inspiration and an expiration. So true! To the best of your abilities, try to breathe in and out before you respond. It is the best way to reset.

3. Listen to understand and not to respond – take notes

4. When you do respond, use “I statements”.  Instead of saying “you don’t understand anything I am saying to you”, say “when I hear you make these statements, I feel misunderstood.”

Good luck in your healthy conflicts!

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