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Why Leaning Into Conflict is Good

What comes to mind when you hear the word conflict?

Do you think of some dreadful series of meetings making a negative impact on all involved? The fact of the matter is that conflict, (in itself) is neither good or bad. Conflict becomes positive or negative by the emotions we attach to it.

Whenever people feel their opinions or values have been disrespected there will be conflict. To resolve the conflict the need to establish the difference between the facts and the perceptions cannot be overstated.

Once we understand that conflict can serve as an opportunity to resolve issues instead of complicating them, it will strengthen both individuals and teams. It’s considered a sign of maturity when individuals and teams are managing conflicts successfully.

Signs a Storm May Be Brewing at Sea

Recognizing some early warning signs of an impending storm while out at sea can mean the difference between survival and a shipwreck. Increasing winds, the appearance of dark clouds, and rising seas, are some indications that a storm is approaching.

When caught in a storm ships want to keep moving to avoid being pushed around by the wind. Ships keep their bow (front end) toward the waves to successfully cut through them. No one wants to be blindsided by a wave that could roll the ship and sink it.

Signs a Conflict May Be Brewing in Your Organization

I’m sure there are many warning signs a conflict may be already underway. Much of the time a series of unproductive team meetings is an indication of conflict because it’s where we communicate.

You can sense the frustration in the conversations, feel discontent, disappointment, disagreement, and sometimes anger. If the leader is slow to address the issues and get the team to talk about the two-ton elephant in the room, the talk of renewed job hunting or resignations may soon follow.

Good Leaders Do Something

Like keeping a ship’s bow (front end) toward the waves, Leaders must act decisively by leaning into the wave of conflict if they want to navigate through the storm successfully. Addressing conflict head-on takes courage but it’s this act of bravery that steers companies clear of disaster.

Jean Case writes, “Soldiers find extraordinary bravery in the heat of battle, everyday citizens perform acts of heroism during disasters, and people accomplish unimaginable feats when they’re running out of time. They might not be wholly aware of the risks or be able to calculate their impact. They just act.”(1)

Lean in and Learn…

I discover new things about myself with each challenge and conflict I address. My greatest takeaway from leaning into the conflict isn’t discovering who’s at fault but, learning something new about who I am. The greatest thing about leaning into conflict is who we become in the process.

Camille Styles lists five things she learned from Brené Brown about conflict resolution. I included an excerpt from her article and the link so you can read her remarks in their entirety.

Lesson #1 – Lean Into “Negative” Emotions

“But what we know now is that when we deny our emotion, it owns us. When we own our emotion, we can rebuild and find our way through the pain.”

Lesson #2 – Be Willing to Have the Tough Conversations

“People often silence themselves, or “agree to disagree” without fully exploring the actual nature of the disagreement, for the sake of protecting a relationship and maintaining connection. But when we avoid certain conversations, and never fully learn how the other person feels about all of the issues, we sometimes end up making assumptions that not only perpetuate but deepen misunderstandings, and that can generate resentment.”

Lesson #3 – Learn How to Really Listen

“I believe one of the most courageous things to say in an uncomfortable conversation is, “Tell me more.” Exactly when we want to turn away and change the topic…we also have the opportunity to ask what else we need to know to fully understand the other person’s perspective.”

Lesson #4 – Don’t Look to Others for My Own Self-Worth

“Stop scouring people’s faces for evidence that you’re not enough. You will always find it because you’ve made that your goal. True belonging and self-worth are not goods; we don’t negotiate their value with the world. The truth about who we are lives in our hearts.”

Lesson #5 – Have the Courage to Get Curious

“The ability to think past either/or situations is the foundation of critical thinking, but it requires courage. Getting curious and asking questions happens outside our bunkers of certainty. For most of us, even if the ‘with us or against us’ mandate sounds a little like oversimplified BS, it still feels easier and safer to pick a side.” (2)

(1) “Be Fearless” by Jean Case

(2) “5 Things I Learned About Conflict Resolution from Brené Brown” by Camille Styles

*** This article was authored by John Picarello, Chief Leadership Officer at Lions Pride Leadership Co.***

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