Conflict is not a dirty word

Can you hear the song by Skyhooks in the background; ‘Ego, is not a dirty word’.  Careful.  You’ll be showing your age 😉 Well conflict is not a dirty word either.

When I ask people whether they enjoy conflict or not it’s never a resounding yes.  The thing about conflict is that it is a necessary part of life.  It’s how we create new ideas, plans, how we re-think our approach and our views.  Otherwise we are all just echo chambers following each other like a bunch of sheep.  Sounds like a bunch of robots to me.  You see the thing is;

Conflict is good.

Combat is not.

Nice goes nowhere.

Conflict when it’s healthy is disagreement done respectfully. It embraces a specific dispute. It might not agree but it will stay curious.  It has the courage to share perspectives and the willingness to listen to others. It is passionate and creates good controversy. It seeks feedback, tolerates other perspectives and takes responsibility.  Healthy conflict is sexy.  Or am I taking that too far?

It’s when we turn conflict into our need to win that it’s unhealthy.  We make it a war or a win lose situation.  A combat. Or we might try out a few passive aggressive eye rolls or throw in some subtle ghosting.

Or we hide under a rock in the hope it will go away. We play nice with each other and pull out the passive agreement card.  Where we say yes but have no intention of doing anything.  We just don’t want to talk about it.

Both are unhelpful.  Both don’t foster teams, relationships or even friendships that work as one.

I love Dr Maria Sirota’s take on the difference between nice and kind.  Dr Sirota says; ‘At the root of extreme niceness, however, are feelings of inadequacy and the need to get approval and validation from others. Overly-nice people try to please so that they can feel good about themselves’.  Ouch!

A study conducted by leadership training company Vital Smarts tells us that we tend to shy away from conflict:

  • 72% do not speak up when a colleague is not pulling their weight
  • 68% do not speak up when disrespect exists
  • 57% do not speak up when colleagues do not comply with processes

Our personal relationship to conflict is where we need to start.  Not making others change to suit us.  It starts with YOU. Once you understand how you view conflict and deal with it you are starting well.  Yet many of us send someone to a course in the hope that learning some tools will transform them.  Nup.

If you want to know how to create the conditions for healthy conflict in teams then register for my FREE Webinar on 12th November.