I’m convinced positive conflict makes better teams. It’s been said that public speaking is most people’s greatest fear. I would venture that a more profound fear would be conflict, along with our inability to successfully navigate challenging situations with skill and grace. Yet, all great relationships require productive, passionate conflict to grow – marriage, parenthood, friendship, teams, and business. Healthy open dialog over ideas and issues is a timesaver – if not, you revisit issues.
Conflict is a force that unconsciously motivates or paralyzes us. We avoid conflict by lying, blame-shifting, and creating excuses. Yet, conflict is a powerful force that isn’t only negative but has the potential to generate movement, deepen relationships, and spark creative thinking, growth, and innovation.
Conflict can be uncomfortable and awkward. Bringing a negative word or critique to someone is a painful process for both parties. But a leader who leads from the head and the heart is not afraid of it. They don’t invite it or create it unnecessarily. Still, a strong leader has the skills to navigate the encounter and knows how to leverage conflict to grow the individual and improve the work environment.
Conflict is feared and avoided because it’s scary when it becomes mean and messy. As a change leadership speaker, I’m aware that differing perspectives, differing ideals, or alternative methods don’t have to create conflict, but when they do, how the collision is handled makes the difference. Listening and considering, to the point of understanding, should be the communication goal of anyone within a conflict.
Peace comes from understanding the other side’s perspective clearly. Strong communication doesn’t always mean using the right words or illustrations to convince someone of your point of view but listening well enough to understand the opposing side. Out of habit, when conflict arises, people erect a wall of self-preservation, protecting them from uncomfortable feelings that occur with disagreement. Practicing listening to understand will improve communication skills in the office and in life.
Dealing with conflict, rather than avoiding it, creates personal growth. Avoiding it allows us to stay where we are and doesn’t spur us on to change. We like our safe comfort zones, and conflict forces us out of them. Comfort, or the fear of being uncomfortable, is a more powerful force than we realize. The human mind and our wired survival system constantly evaluate our surroundings to avoid pain and seek comfort. The stress of conflict is scary for many, and loss of control or loss of something held dear poses an even more significant threat and a bigger wall of protection. Practicing an open stance, listening, considering thoughtfully, and asking probing questions within conflict allows us to exit from our comfort zones and build better habits and lines of communication.
I’ll cover the final two points in my next blog. If you want to know how to create a healthy, productive environment, contact me today at Tom Flick Communications.