We act as though conflict is a bad thing. We are taught that we must resolve all conflict. The goal that is implied is peace- no disruptions.
I disagree. I think conflict is good, even necessary if you are to be innovative and creative. To be innovative and creative means you have to question all that is and try to create what doesn’t exist. In and of itself, this means you will disrupt the lives of people that like to have things stay consistent without much change.
So, if you don’t have any conflict, then most likely your team is filled with yes people and you are stretching your imaginations to the limit. Now having said that I want to make sure we all have the same definition of conflict.
Conflict, to me is about duality. It is about the differences between things that give us new insights and possibilities. I believe conflict should be a building block, not a stumbling block.
The majority of people handle conflict poorly. This stems from three fundamental beliefs that block you in handling conflict.
- In conflict you must get the person to see and , best case scenario, agree with your side in order to resolve the conflict.
- You must get the person to understand where they are wrong and you are right.
- All conflict needs to be resolved so we are at peace as a team.
Taking these one at a time I will show you how this belief freezes your mind and blocks you from dealing effectively with conflict.
Belief #1: You need to get the person to see and agree with your side in order to resolve the conflict.
Why? It causes you to do things that derail the conflict.
1. This approach causes your brain to immediately move to making a laundry list of all the reasons they should agree with you. It is a faulty premise and leads your brain to defense thinking.
2. As you list all your reasons their brain moves immediately to defending their side and finding the holes in your argument.
3. They may never be able to see or understand your side because they have not experienced it. They say the Indians couldn’t see the Mayflower as it approached because their brain couldn’t even conceive of a ship that big. Therefore, the Pilgrims were able to land without the Indians being any the wiser. Trying to argue your side when someone can’t even see it is likely trying to share the Mayflower when a person can’t see it. Save your breath.
4. As you try to get them to see your side, all of your energy and focus is on YOU, not them. Not a good way to magnetically get them to connect with you.
In order to shatter this belief you have to see conflict not as opposing but as enlightening. It is a way to expand your thinking, not contract it. It is a way for both you and another party to create and build what was not there before.
Belief #2: You must get the person to understand where they are wrong and you are right.
When you believe you need to get the person to see where you are right and they are wrong you are making two critical assumptions that shut down your ability to listen.
1. You are assuming there is a right or a wrong. This means you will only listen for data and facts that fit what you see as right or wrong. Much of the valid data you need for critical thinking will be lost for you as your brain won’t even be able to “hear” or “see” it.
2. You are better or have better information than the other person, and therefore you have the right perspective. Think back to the Allegory of the Cave by Plato. The person looking at the shadows saw the “truth” of the shadows on the wall. The person looking at the wall couldn’t even begin to “hear” about what was casting the shadow because to them, the shadow was the truth. Which person are you- the person seeing the shadow or the person seeing the real object?
You want to be able to take in as much information as possible so you can see the possibilities in the conflict rather than the improbabilities.
In order to shatter this belief you have to get rid of the belief that there is a right or wrong AND that you need the other person to validate your position.
Instead of focusing on the “but or however” start focusing on the “And”.
Belief #3: All Conflict Needs to Be Resolved
World Peace. It is the number one answer beauty contestants give when asked what they want in the world.
In corporations you hear people saying they want peace in the office. For most people that means, no conflict. So we all play to get rid of conflict or to resolve it so all people are happy.
The third belief that is a fallacy in conflict is that you need to have all conflict resolved.
Not all conflict is resolvable nor should it be. Having differences is healthy. In order to be creative you often need to be pushed so hard that what you did before no longer is acceptable to do.
I believe our economy is actually helping businesses reinvent and become better simply because what worked in the past no longer does work.
Have you ever wondered why your “divorced” friends look the best they ever have? Why suddenly do they lose the weight, join a gym, and buy new clothes? As they shed their old life, they shed the old way of doing things and start a new path.
So conflict doesn’t need to be resolved. It does need to be handled. It does need to be addressed. And, yes, at times it needs someone to just say, “this is how it will be.”