Managing Conflict

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When we talk about conflict, for many people what comes to their mind is disagreement, arguement, stress, and difficult. If instead we viewed conflict as essential for healthy and productive workplaces and relationships, then we can harness the positive side of conflict.

Conflict is often associated with change – something is changing and all of a sudden our defenses go up as we try to understand the change – it’s natural and we can rest easy knowing that as we get used to the change – we’ll calm back down again.

We can have conflict at a relatively shallow level – for example we could disagree on the best way to approach an assignment or situation. On the other hand we could have a conflict that runs deeper because we have a difference of values. That type of conflict is more difficult to resolve.

Most people either have an aggressive conflict style (they like conflict and like to battle others). Or they have a passive conflict style and try to avoid others.What we want to move towards is a more constructive view of conflict – it begins with accepting that the other person is entitled to a different viewpoint – so instead of getting upset and judgemental, get curious. “That’s interesting behaviour!” Or “I wonder why that person is getting so bent out of shape.”

Use questions to reveal the true issues – “You seem upset, what’s happening?” Then you can then begin to find common ground.

I teach conflict management workshops for leaders and staff – visit me at