While I don't shy away from conflict, I choose not to engage in conflict that is not constructive. I've learned over the years that unless both parties are using conflict to arrive at a common end that benefits everyone involved, it will frustrate both parties and lead to unintended disruptions and distractions. Sometimes the most powerful and profitable thing you can do is just to walk away.
But when conflict is necessary, how do you engage it and build stronger relationships? Let me suggest these five principles:
Separate the idea from the person. Never let it get personal. Keep the conflict centered on the ideas being discussed. Respect the other person.
Realize you both may be right. The hardest choices are never between right or wrong but between better and best. What’s vital is keeping the focus on the desired outcome.
Recognize the value of diverse thinking. Celebrate the fact that more than one perspective exists. The world would be a boring place if that were not the case.
Reorient your energy around finding a solution. Conflict is only useful if it leads to something meaningful and material. Conflict isn’t an end; it’s a means to an end.
Resist the urge to let emotions get the best of you. The second you introduce emotions into the equation, you are in dangerous territory. You will likely say or do things that you’ll regret later. Keep the focus on the conversation and look for points of agreement that will lead to an agreeable conclusion.
Conflict is not a zero-sum game. There doesn’t have to be a winner and a loser. And someone doesn’t have to come out on top at the expense of another.
The truth is these principles can work in your marriage, parenting, friendships, as well as your professional life. You don’t stop being human just because you aren’t working. Conflict is rooted in our individuality which is something we should celebrate.