Your People Are Our Business

Thirsty Thursdays: Conflict is a Catalyst

Conflict as a Catalyst

When two people agree on everything, one of them is unnecessary.  

Nothing new happens without some type of spark.  That spark can be from an obstacle to be overcome, a puzzle to be solved, a challenge to be answered, or a disagreement to be resolved.  Those all represent conflict in various forms but, for some reason we're conditioned to avoid it.  First, that's just impossible.  Ignoring conflict and failing to address the cause only postpones the need for resolution and can make it more difficult, often increasing the volatility of the situation.  More importantly, avoidance robs you of an opportunity to learn, grow and advance.

Maybe you're not good at handling conflict.  Perhaps no one took the time to give you ideas about how to help others through their disagreement.  We're also conditioned to believe that emotions are bad.  Far from it.  Or, what if you're unskilled at recognizing your shortcomings when in a conflict?  Maybe you exhibit attitudes or behaviors that are damaging.

Let's talk about three techniques that can help us all gain the advantage and rewards of effectively managing conflict.


It's NOT about you.  When dealing with people in conflict a foundational principle is validating each person's point of view.  It's easy to understand how individuals with different opinions each believe strongly that their position is correct, or best.

To practice validation means you have to be a good listener.  As you hear each person speak pay attention to the pain points they express.  Through the natural flow of the conversation they will reveal what points are important for them.

When you hear these points restate them out loud to validate their position.  This makes sure you understand correctly, lets the other party hear the issue through someone else's voice they are not in conflict with, and gives the speaker the validation that they are being heard.  In every disagreement all people really want is to be heard.

Don't listen to the rash of advice today that emotions are unnecessary, or even counter productive.  It's plain wrong.

When people get emotional they are demonstrating something that is often missing from employees today...passion!  That passion can be excitement and ethusiasm towards the subject or project.  It can also be negativity and frustration.  In both cases individuals show they have a vested interest and desire to interact around the topic.

I think we can all agree that dissatisfaction expressed through watercooler talks, in underground "bitch" sessions or through silent vetoes are so harmful to organizations.  Learning to identify and effectively channel and manage emotions allows us to take the genuine interest of staff and utilize it towards new ideas, innovation and solving organizational challenges.

This one is all about you.  Have you been coached in how to be aware of your physical responses to conflict?

In conflict, there are very specific, physical responses our bodies demonstrate which are based in our natural "fight or flight" instincts.  These include an increased heartrate, increased respiration, muscle tension, and increased stress, among others. 

The key is we each have to recognize this in ourselves.  There are then two key strategies we can employ to make us more constructive in conflict situations.

  1. Recognize the physical signs in ourselves so we know we're headed into dangerous territory
  2. Deploy the Validation and Emotion strategies so we can ensure we participate constrictively in the conflict

Resolution Strengthens Relationships


Resolution to conflict makes us all stronger, our organizations better and the relationships we share with one another increasingly resilient.  

But as we are all subject to stress, bad days, a crazy schedule and more obligations in our lives its hard to always be self-aware and navigate conflict effectively.  For those times when conflict goes bad whether its our fault, the other person's fault or both, here are some points to keep in mind to fix, forget, and forge ahead...

  1. Keep a healthy perspective - if it's not really a big deal, don't make it a big deal
  2. Don't let the disagreement ruin the relationship - people don't walk around looking for a fight; if you can't resolve it the first time try again
  3. Fight Fair - when you disagree don't add fuel to the fire by fighting dirty
  4. Give a Free Pass - sometimes you just have to let the other person get a pass on their bad behaviors for the moment
  5. Adopt coping skills that are effective for you - when we get angry we all need a constructive way to handle it
  6. Use logic and stick to facts - unless you're dealing with a totally unreasonable person, most people can't dispute points of fact
  7. Back the Truck Up! - When progress has been made but disagreement returns, go back to the last point you agreed upon
  8. Apologize - Face it we've all had times when we were the one who was out of bounds.  Own it and apologize.  It will move you forward.

Conflict is a wonderful experience if managed well.  If you know your triggers, are self-aware and can sense when you're uncomfortable, have some good strategies to help steer yourself away from danger and can be a model of conflict resolution to others you will be completely amazed how much you'll actually embrace conflict and all the growth and rewards it can bring to you, your business and your family.  

Thirsty Thursdays are about our collective thirst for learning and knowledge.  It’s not about Beer:30 [although HR4ALL is all for that, too!]  We hope this weekly nugget of knowledge opens your mind and gives you a reason to pause and think differently.    Have a great weekend everyone! 

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