Apparently 46% of people would rather find another job than face a troubling situation at work*. This tells me the trouble with conflict is not that we have conflict but that we hate conflict and will go to great lengths to avoid it.
It’s understandable that we have an aversion to conflict. It’s a hard-wired threat response from the brain. It’s also possible that we’ve had bad experiences in the past, poor role models, no support, a lack of skill in dealing with conflict, situations blowing up and becoming worse. But avoiding conflict or trying to get rid of it, is as useless as keeping multiple beach balls under the water’s surface at same time. Whatever you do, they will keep popping back up.
Often what disturbs us is designed to develop us. And conflict does just that. (Just to be clear I’m not talking about bullying or inappropriate conflict. I’m referring to basic differences of opinions, personality clashes, tensions or competing goals around ideas or between people.) Healthy conflict provides the doorway to deepening relationships, breaking new ground, and appreciating new perspectives.
Margaret Wheatley once said that, “conflict is a necessary part of interdependency”. We as a society, as a workforce, as families, are all interdependent. That’s human nature. So rather than focus on getting rid of conflict, let’s turn our attention to handling ourselves within a conflict. Let’s make sure we don't miss the gold buried in another perspective, that differing opinion, negative feedback or that harsh remark.
If we let it, conflict can provide a unique platform for personal and professional growth. The question then, is ‘are we ready to let it?’
You may enjoy this TED talk for inspiration on embracing differing opinions and engaging in constructive conflict: Margaret Heffernan: Dare to Disagree
If you need support to handle challenging conversations at work or improve your working relationships with different personalities call me today to discuss a suitable coaching program.