Don’t Clash Over Conflict
The mere mention of the word conflict can elicit stomach pain, angst and even heartache. For most people, it certainly is no fun to be in conflict with someone, which is why so many avoid it. Interestingly, leaders in organizations who avoid conflict may be doing harm to an individual or team.
I worked with someone who never wanted to deliver “bad news”; she had passive-aggressive ways of asking questions that never got to the heart of the matter. Then, when the situation became too much to handle, she asked HR to step in and manage it. Of course, this completely took her subordinate by surprise. As a result, their relationship became more fragmented with confusion and distrust. When I asked her why she didn’t speak directly to the employee at the beginning of the issues, her comment was, “I didn’t want to hurt that person or make them feel badly.” Which goes to another adage – what we fear most often will come true if we don’t face it.
What fascinates me about conflict is that it can often begin in a small way: an irritation or simply a difference of opinion. When I get into my straighten-things-up mode at home, I will often “help” my husband with his things. Early into our marriage he wouldn’t say a thing; then, one day he simply said, “Worry about your stuff and I’ll worry about mine.” Well, the ancient fight-or-flight gene reared its head in me, and I just couldn’t help but respond because he wasn’t worrying about his things (in my opinion). And so, it began…conflict.
Yet, rather than an outbreak of fisticuffs, we had a healthy debate. We asked each other questions and were truly interested in listening to what the other person was sharing. We offered our perspectives freely and didn’t take comments too personally. We talked about the impact of our behaviors on one another, not only the behaviors themselves. That was the biggie for me. I learned that that my mess that went untended, along with my “helping” with his junk drawer, sent a signal that the only issue in the house was him – which was far from what I believed. In fact, it turns out I was avoiding a different kind of conflict – me and my never-ending, paper-riddled office!
This Week: Where are you avoiding conflict? At work? At home? First, really think about the situation and yourself: How you are contributing to the discomfort? Is there something deeper than the situation itself? If you don’t address it, how will you react to this person in the future? If you decide to share your concerns, approach it with a caring heart. Listen to absorb everything the other person is saying versus listening to respond with a comeback or counter-comment. Reinforce at the beginning of your conversation that both of you have the right to your viewpoints, even when they differ. Be open to the idea that your perspective is not the only one and may, in fact, be altered when you know more. You might be amazed at the growth in your connection.
In Next Week’s Post: Abundance vs scarcity
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