For good ideas and true innovation, you need human interaction, conflict, argument, and debate. Margaret Heffernan
I am, right this minute, in the middle of a very serious conflict with a major authority of another country. I am frustrated and perplexed. It consumes most of every hour (waking or sleeping) so I decided to write on it. (Sorry I can’t offer details—it would require pages.)
So, on to the complexity of conflict…
Can’t We All Just Get Along?
Wouldn’t it be nice if “we could all just get along?” At first glance it would seem like bliss to live without conflict, but wisdom tells me that life without conflict is not only unreasonable. It is impossible. And even more important… it is unhealthy.
We are each SO different in the ways in which we view reality and the world at large, including our relationships, beliefs, politics, and opinions regarding organizational values. These differences inevitably lead to some form of conflict. Most often the conflict just remains hidden in our inner selves, resulting in resentments and tacitly impacting our relationships negatively.
We tend to avoid conflict almost at any cost. We hide, ignore, or placate—simply to elude an argument. And in doing so, we also lose the opportunity to strengthen our relationships and enhance our partnerships. When disagreements are put on the table and discussed or debated or argued over a few important results occur.
Process for Dealing with Conflict
First, open discussion opens the door for clarity and understanding about how another feels regarding whatever it is you may disagree. Clarity and understanding are the first steps to resolution. If possible it is most helpful to listen to the other person’s point view completely before you begin arguing—which is almost inevitable.
Arguing does not have to be hostile, although it often is. I think it is most important to attempt to stay out of emotion and stick with fact. (When the argument is about emotions even then it is helpful to speak of the actions that lead to the emotional state of feelings.) Admittedly this can or probably will not come without pain. Yet it is necessary.
The sooner the better. I have learned that “pain early” is much easier than “pain late.” In other words, don’t allow potential conflict to fester and become an even bigger problem than it was at first. Waiting to confront issues only allows your imagination to fabricate the motivations and intentions of the other party. And after further discussion you typically discover that your imagination has been incorrect.
What Do You Need?
As a consultant, I have made a living resolving organizational conflict. Now I am forced to use my methods in negotiating my own organizational conflict. If you can answer one simple question your conflict will most likely disappear (until the next one).
All you have to do is simply ask the question, “What do you need?” or “What do you need from me?” That simple question, when asked honestly, can induce dialogue and helpful debate. Your response may be I can do “A” and “C” but I cannot do “B.” And then more discussion ensues.
When both parties are willing to work toward resolution and are willing to let go when possible you will find that conflict is reduced significantly and partnership is possible.
Conflict is Normal
Resolution is a Choice
Photo courtesy of ffikretow at istockphoto