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CONFLICT Are you good at it? Do you need to be?


In reality we all know what conflict is or at least we know what it means to us. For some it is a necessary evil, for others an important tool of control, manipulation and influence. For a few it's a source of adrenalin or sport and for most it's a regrettable situation that occurs when our interests, values, expectations, beliefs, needs, ideologies and goals are not aligned with our colleagues, family or friends.

Whatever your view of conflict is ........ for most people it is a negative construct and one to be avoided.


Why should businesses seek to understand conflict and in many cases seek to teach people to be better at it? The answer is that conflict is inevitable. It comes in many forms and if we accept that healthy or positive conflict can be a powerful business tool (some might call It negotiation) it can yield powerful results.

Managed well - conflict can increases awareness of problems and create a positive / "growth minsdset" as expounded by Carol Dwek in her best selling work on the psychology of success. Healthy conflict promotes bright ideas and creativity, better problem solving, improved productivity, personal growth and better relationships.


Unmanaged .... the challenge of conflict is that it can quickly turn from healthy debate and positive ideas exchange to argument, disagreement, personal attack and in extreme cases violence.


To truly engage with and harness the power of positive conflict there are a number of core 'pillars' that will inform and educate people as to how they can better approach and manage a conflict situation,

1. Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is a huge subject but to put it into some kind of context with conflict - it has been described as the ability to understand, use, and manage your own emotions in positive ways to relieve stress, communicate effectively, empathise with others, overcome challenges and defuse conflict.

By understanding your own emotional intelligence you can get better perspective on how a given situation is affecting both you and the other party and adapt your own behaviours to achieve a win-win.

2. Triggers

Triggers are the things that can 'set us off'. Common examples might include lazyness, lateness, sarcasm, lying, insincerity ... there are many. But triggers are a very personal thing and one person's trigger can be another persons preferred style for working or something that the perpetrator is unaware of. For example - When doing business I find it frustrating when a person engaging in business negotiation with me by email doesn't include a contact telephone number on their email signature. This is a minor thing but very time consuming and annoying when there is a time critical element to the negotiation. Being aware of both your own triggers and those of your clients, suppliers and colleagues can make a huge difference.

3. Attitude

Attitude plays a huge part in how any disagreement or conflict will develop or resolve. In fact as Zig Ziglar (American author and motivational speaker) once commented - "It's your attitide, not your aptitude that will determine your altitude". The key to attitude in conflict is that you have to want to resolve matters - even if you fundamentally disagree with some or all that is being discussed. You need to select the attitude that will allow reconciliation to occur which to use car analogy - means selecting neutral rather than 4th gear or reverse.

4. Trust

Trust is vital in every working relationship and especially in conflict. Trust leads to healthy working relationships, open and honest dialogue, enhanced co-operation, better problem solving and ironically - conflict builds trust. If we trust people to behave with integrity we are more open to hearing their views and considering oposing opinions and views in conflict.

5. Personal Impact

How well do you get your message across. Does your voice change when you're stressed? Do you get tongue tied, forget what your point is - lose your nerve? Learning to breathe, to mange your adrenalin, to focus on simple powerful messaging will greatly increase your performance in any conflict situation

6. Courage

Simply put ... "Courage is what it takes to to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen" Winston Churchill. With courage you can allow yourself to step backwards and to push forwards.

So when all is said and done - there is an art to effective and healthy conflict. See here if you want to know more

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