When Conflict Builds Relationships

Conflict. Does the mere thought of it fill you with dread, that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach? Or does it fire you up as you think of all the great points you’ll score? Either way, if you think about the last time you faced conflict by avoiding it or going in guns a-blazin’, you’ll likely realize that neither you nor your adversary gained much from the encounter. There’s a better way to handle conflict so that it becomes a catalyst for building relationships instead of tearing them down.

For many of us, conflict arises because of assumptions we make about others. For example, I once gave an assignment to a team member, who balked. Other team members had similar assignments, so my default position would be to assume she wasn’t committed enough. Then a back and forth would have ensued, with me insisting on the assignment and her pushing back. But instead, I found out what was going on for her and learned that she had more on her plate than the others. As a result, we agreed on a modified assignment that respected both of our needs.

Other times, conflict comes from genuine disagreement. Different priorities. Different values. Different perspectives. In these cases, focusing on the result you’re trying to achieve can help you get past the emotional reaction of the disagreement. In any conflict, if we both lock into our positions, it’s easy to blame the other for not making progress. And once you do that, good luck trying to get any productivity or cooperation out of someone you’ve made the bad guy.

Dealing effectively with conflict requires us to look at the situation differently. First, we need to look within, at ourselves and our assumptions. Second, we can focus on what we are trying to achieve, rather than on what others are doing or not doing. Taking this perspective can shift our energy from blaming and tearing down relationships to focusing on results and building up relationships. Better results, less stress.