This article was written to provide you with the information of what healthy conflict is, what it looks like and when you know you are ready to engage in it.
When you hear the word conflict, what comes to mind? Is it unresolved frustration, a yelling match, or maybe even a fist fight? Push that out of the way, because these are not conflicts, these are fights. There won’t be any resolution, and we at BIG believe it’s important to be the BIG-ger person in any of these situations and not engage in fight behaviours. Now that the misunderstanding between fights and conflict has been addressed let’s get down to business and talk about what conflict actually is.
What is a healthy conflict?
Conflict is simply two people with different boundaries coming together to find resolution or understanding. Let that sink in for a second, people with different boundaries: the rules they govern their lives by, coming together, to find resolution or understanding. There is a lot of intent and understanding that needs to happen for a healthy conflict to occur. Understanding of self-first and then the other.
Now this may seem to be getting a little too personal so let’s put it in the perspective of a business. The boundaries of a business would be any rules set by the business, maybe that’s a dress code, or the deadlines set by the business or it’s a rule at your place of work to have an inclusive culture. These are the rules that govern your businesses “life”, Why it’s important to first understand what the boundaries are is because it will help deem whether or not a conflict should even occur. The alternatives being there’s a difference in opinion, and a conflict isn’t necessary, or you have an issue larger than a conflict and that’s when you can talk to your friendly neighbourhood Human Resources.
Now in the case of the rules your business chooses to govern, if an employee or fellow leader is in breach of these, it’s important to engage in the conflict. Ignoring a conflict, isn’t resolution. Because if conflicts aren’t addressed, they can grow into issues, and even fights.
Resolution and Understanding
Okay so you now know what boundaries are in reference to a business and are probably thinking of an issue you want to charge into or have been avoiding. Well let’s be careful and think this one through. What is your intention with heading into this conflict? Are you going to tell them how it is? Show them who’s right and wrong? If that’s your mindset, you are setting yourself up for a fight, not a conflict.
You need to approach each and every conflict with the intent of a shared resolution or understanding. Is there a discussion to be had and an idea shared, or maybe it’s a learning moment for yourself or the other individual? Rather than a I am right and you are wrong scenario, it’s about how we both feel we are right. How do two opposing streams come together or flow beside each other without causing waves. Conflict is also a great opportunity to see if people really are having an issue, or if there has just been a misunderstanding and assumptions are being made.
A vital thing to remember when approaching a conflict for resolution is, stick with the one conflict you have! Walk into that conflict, and only that conflict until resolution or understanding has occurred. Don’t run off into the other 3 things that have been bothering you and definitely don’t bring up something unrelated from the past. Conflict is designed to bring about a new resolution or understanding towards one specific thing. Not a few things.
The Conflict Self Check List
So conflict isn’t as straight forward and it doesn’t have to be as messy as you may have thought. Here are some simple questions you can ask yourself to get the most productive results from your conflicts.
- Am I in a calm state of mind, or are my emotions heightened at this point in time?
- Am I looking for a shared resolution or understanding?
- Do I have all the information required to address this one conflict?
- Do I understand my boundaries (rules I live by) and am I able to articulately express them?
- Can I stay with the individual topic of the conflict until a resolution or understanding has been met?
If you can walk through these 5 questions and answer yes, then YOU are ready to enter that conflict. Keep in mind that a conflict is between you and someone else. They may not be able to answer YES to all of these questions. The best you can do is check yourself. We hope there is a mutual respect between you and the other party member, if that is the case ask them to check themselves as well. Conflicts may need to happen when all 5 don’t check out, this is understandable, but the more you can check off the better your chances are of a shared resolution or understanding. These questions can also be a great reminder list to keep in the meeting space if there is a specific boardroom or office where conflicts are discussed.
There you have it, conflict, not fighting! Walk through the 5 questions, prepare, and set yourself and the other party up for the best chance at a new resolution or understanding!
Are you conflicted with how simple this resolution-based approach is, well don’t worry we will be unpacking the topic of conflict in many ways here at BIG, expect to see additional articles, videos and even coaches in the near future.
Download this resource How to Approach Conflict.