Why we need Conflict
Dealing with conflict has people either run for cover or stand firmly entrenched in their view, bent on making their point meaning they are right (and others are wrong). Conflict has a bad ‘rap.’
Can conflict be good? Can conflict be impactful? I believe yes and lets explore how and why.
Our View on Conflict
I run Conflict Management workshops and one activity we do aims to reveal our heartset and mindset around conflict. Two simple questions:
How does conflict make you feel?
What is your understanding of conflict?
The results are revealing as to how people perceive and feel about conflict which in turn impacts on the way they deal with it. The answers range from:
Feel angry, frustrated, annoyed, hurt, put down amongst others
Breakdown in relationships, an argument, a disagreement resulting in broken relationships etc.
Why bother
If this is how we feel and think about conflict, the results will follow suit. Conflict is perceived as negative and draining. It is perceived as a waste of time and emotionally draining. People are left with the feeling of “Why bother?”
Here is the deal. This is the way we have been taught to deal with conflict. We either have an aggressive communication stance or a passive communication approach. Both of these don’t bring the results we seek. These are either win/lose or lose/win.
An Assertive communication style
What about seeking a win/win and what does this actually mean? Assertiveness can be defined as caring about others wants, needs, desires, views etc. and also caring about your own. The principle guiding this approach is:
‘Seek first to understand, then be understood – St Francis of Assisi.’
When we are assertive we want to share our view and know that we have to give others a chance to share theirs too. When we allow them the space to share why they see situations the way they do and the approach they want to take, we create safety.
Safety is crucial for managing conflict.
The world is filled with different beliefs and at the core of conflict is a clash in beliefs. A belief is a person’s ‘truth’ and when that meets a differing belief we defend it by either running away or arguing. The results we all know are never what we want.
Conflict, when managed properly, allows for truth, creativity, ideas and much more. We need conflict to create a difference that stimulates creativity and conversation. The problem arises when it is not managed properly and allowed to spiral. This is when we enter the space of relationship breakdown.
We need conflict
Conflict is necessary for growth and change. The changing world is becoming smaller and more competitive. Every decision we make or don’t make leads us down a road of success or failure. Conflict is an inherent part of teams and organisations and the decisions that need to be made.
If we want to be more successful as a team and an organisation, we need to learn how to manage conflict. We need to learn how to manage ourselves when faced with conflict. This takes shifting our heartset and mindset around conflict. This is why we need Team coaches.
If this article peaks your interest I am keen to have a conversation with you as to how I can work with you and your teams around understanding and managing conflict effectively. 

Stephen Light is a Leadership Expert & Executive Coach who uses Neuroscience as a platform for being more effective at understanding and changing self. He assist leaders in finding more effective ways of leading people through changes resulting in the objectives of teams being met.

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