Did you know that how you argue and what you argue about can actually improve or deteriorate how much you achieve from your potential? It’s true. Certain types of disagreements or discussions can help you achieve more while others will only tear you down. But how can you tell if a heated conversation is working for or against you? The key is to recognize the type of conflict you are having and to use that knowledge to your advantage.
Relationship conflict – Try not to become too caught up in the term “relationship”. In this context we are not talking about a romantic relationship. Instead the term is used to mean interpersonal interaction between people. This type of conflict revolves around who someone is as a person. Arguments will include things meant to tear down or damage the other person’s character. You might hear words like “stupid”, “dumb”, “doesn’t think”, “cares only about herself”, “isn’t interested in the good of the team”, “back-stabbing” or other nasty opinions. These character judgments may include examples that “prove” what is being said is true.
Relationship conflict accomplishes absolutely nothing. It creates a defensive response, hurt feelings and resentment. There is no upside to these types of arguments. There is no way for anyone to win and everyone will lose. Worse, relationship conflict masks the real problem, burying it to fight another day, a lose-lose situation. Relationship conflict diminishes team and individual performance in both physical and mental activities.
Informational differences – In contrast, informational differences, also called cognitive conflict, are about the actual topics and issues at hand. The conversation can be about how something is accomplished, a situation that took place and the feelings that resulted or any number of real things. Cognitive conflict is productive. You will not hear accusations about someone’s character or declarations as to why someone else is behaving in a certain way. Disagreements of this type involve the sharing of information. There are lots of “I” statements: “I felt this way”, “I observed this behavior”, “I had this reaction”.
Informational differences move people towards resolution. As information about the real problem is shared, understanding grows and win-win solutions can be discovered. Cognitive conflict improves performance in both physical and mental activities.
Have productive conflict – It has been shown that individuals who trust each other have less relationship conflict. Having good communication improves trust. And therefore good communication will improve individual and team performance.
To be more successful in all of your endeavors, reduce relationship conflict by eliminating character attacks and discuss informational differences by sharing where you stand and how you feel about something using “I” statements. If you can own your own thoughts and feelings while listening to the thoughts and feelings of others your potential will take you far.
Have you experienced relationship conflict that ended badly? Share it with us. Doc Robyn is always happy to provide feedback on how unhealthy conflict can be turned into productive conflict.
Last week we talked about how worrying can kill your performance.
Tags :Champion Performance Development, cognitive conflict, communication, conflict, demographic differences, Doc Robyn, effective communication, good leadership, improve performance, informational differences, office politics, relationship conflict, Robyn Odegaard, team drama