Conflict has many forms. It can be a look without words, a smile without sincerity, words that are harsh or sent to confuse.
It can be seen in family dynamics, work meetings, on the football field and most often within ourselves. Variety is the spice of life they say, but with this variety comes difference of opinions, beliefs, values and behaviours.
These differences can bring new ideas and flavour to a situation, or as we often experience, they can lead to doubt, resistance and ultimately dysfunction. When it goes wrong the impact on work groups and teams can be huge. Time is spent wondering what the person really meant? How should we act to remain safe and stay true to ourselves? The impact on us as humans is emotional and physical. Knots in stomachs, headaches, feeling triggered, anger, guilt, shame, over analysis or sweeping it all under the carpet until a later date. Either way, when it goes wrong, the dynamics drain energy and time from an already depleted stock.
Conflict is ok. We all have people in our lives that we can challenge and have engaging debates with. Those conversations leave you feeling energized and alive and left with new perspectives and thoughts. They stay with you a while. The difference is we know these people and trust them and do not feel threatened by the variety they bring. We meet that variety with open arms and an open heart. We feel safe enough to open our hearts and minds. If we are working on a problem the discussion becomes interesting, dynamic and fast paced. The solutions seem achievable and the effort rewarding. If the discussion gets tense or heated, we can sit in that unease until we come back around, grounded in the strong foundations of the relationships.
In work and life, we all want to spend more time engaged and invigorated than tired and depleted. How as a team or group leader can we help?
- Acknowledge that conflict is a part of life and is everywhere.
- Take time to understand each other better, what we think and where we are coming from.
- Define team norms that make it clear conflict is welcomed and is key to the team’s success.
- Facilitate in conversations where trust is low to ensure parties are hearing the true essence of what is being said.
- Ensure direct and candid conversations happen 121 where levels of trust already exist.
- Acknowledge and reward meaningful collaboration, as well as all efforts to be open to ourselves and to others.
And what if the conflict is within ourselves? Well, that’s a whole other story😊