I’m guessing you think I am crazy, but it’s true. We all could use more conflict in our lives. But not just any conflict – productive conflict. But what is productive conflict, why do we need more of it and how can you use it? I am so glad you asked!
Productive conflict occurs when two people who disagree get to state their case, have a discussion about the points on which they disagree, develop a solution and implement it. No screaming, no hurt feelings, no gossip, no misunderstandings and no drama.
Why we need more conflict
Everyone I know hates conflict. There is nothing fun about it. It is uncomfortable and wrought with emotional landmines and risk. So most of us avoid it like the plague. We dance around a problem, hint at what we want, stew when it doesn’t happen and then explode. We expect other people to just know what we want, understand that the only right way to handle the situation is how we want it done and do it. It never works that way but that is what we want.
The reason we need more conflict is to keep the explosions and hurt feelings from happening. If a situation is discussed and addressed as soon as it is a problem it will be over before it gets ugly. So we need more tiny conflicts and less huge ones.
How to Use Productive Conflict
It is important to realize that most people have no idea how to have and manage a productive conflict conversation. After reading this post, you will likely know more about it than anyone you know. So you are going to have to be responsible for making it happen. Here are the steps:
- Notice that there is a problem that needs to be addressed. We are so skilled at avoiding conflict you might not even be aware you are doing it. When something is bugging you, don’t ignore it.
- Set aside time to have a conversation. Don’t try to have a productive conflict conversation in the hall outside the bathroom or at the water cooler. Schedule real time to talk.
- Tell the other person your concern using “I” based statements. Catch yourself anytime you start to say “you”. Can you reword it into an “I” statement so you own your power?
- Ask them to share their side of the situation. LISTEN!
- Restate your understanding – “If I understand correctly you are saying…” “Your main concern is…”
- Discuss common ground and solutions
Conflict is never fun. But coming up with a solution and avoiding a major confrontation is very rewarding. You will also get a reputation for being a great team player and knowing how to be a leader if you are able to use productive conflict successfully and avoid the grudge matches that can so easily undermine your ability to succeed.
Do you have an example of a simple issue that turned into a huge problem because it wasn’t handled right away? We would love to hear about it!
Did you miss last week? Catch up on our discussion about school’s responsibility to deal with frenemies here.