“The purpose of disagreement is not victory or defeat, it is progress.” – Teal Swan
Disagreements and differences are inevitable and they often spark a conflict. We all have different opinions and ideas that often lead to serious disagreements in a discussion be it in work places or in our personal lives. You won’t always agree with the beliefs or ideas of others and everyone won’t always agree with yours. We tend to and want to take sides. We all are different in the way we view the world which is influenced by our values, upbringing and background.
Sometimes these disagreements and differences impact people’s behaviour towards each other and ends up in a conflict. For instance, in work places conflict might arise due to competition or due to value clashes and personality differences, or due to perceived unfair treatment. Conflict can cause lot of stress and strain relationships both personally and professionally if not managed well. If left unresolved, it can have various negative effects such as low morale, choosing sides, quitting and violent outbursts. But it also serves as an opportunity for our transformation and personal growth if handled constructively.
Conflict by definition, is a disagreement or difference of perspective among individual or groups characterised by bitterness, tension, emotion, and hostility. But voicing your differences is important for creativity and innovation. Challenging status quo, challenging what is acceptable, and challenging the norms usually leads to innovations. New ideas emerge in work places when there are different opinions.
However, care should be taken for those differences should not move further down as major conflict. What initially starts as discomfort or differences between individuals or teams in discussions or conversations, slowly simmers on, if not managed well, creates perceptions, prejudice, wrong intentions and interpretation in the minds of one of the sides or both sides at times. This further not resolved, turns into a conflict.
How differences become Conflicts?
•Differences as and when they are voiced, if not agreed upon, flares the focus away from the issue to direct itself on the people who are creating opinions. This leaves a bad taste in the other side and things begin to get misunderstood.
•Misunderstandings if not resolved at this stage, leads to feelings of distrust, disagreement, lack of communication, blame game etc., and creates a stressful environment of tension.
•Tension gets build between both sides and thus further leads to louder gossips, back-biting, strong opinions against people, and creates strong divisions. This turns into a conflict.
•Conflict further strains trust, relationship, conversation, working together. Individuals at this stage attach their egos to their already diverging opinions and if that opinion is not accepted, they feel that this means a loss of credibility or loss or rejection and the whole situation may turn destructive.
Some more reasons for conflict
• Unwillingness to resolve the disagreements.
• Avoidance of conflict because of dislike of differences or contradiction or fear of disagreement.
• Being close-minded, not open to contrary views.
• One-mindedness prevents us from seeing what is true of value.
• Goal of defeating or destroying the other.
• Receiving only positive support and reinforcement of our beliefs or engaging only with like-minded.
• Inability to tolerate the ambiguity, ambivalence or tension that can arise in a disagreement.
Dealing with disagreements constructively will help you to recognise that the opposite, contradictory or ‘other’ point of view may have some validity. You should make an attempt to identify and understand disagreements and should be able to resolve them be it personal or professional lest they create stressed environment and might hinder your productivity.
The problem is that while conflict provides opportunity for change, we often miss it because conflict always touches our deepest emotions. So, we tend to become defensive in such situations. Our reaction to conflict makes us miss the opportunity which it provides for a change.
“A sense and normal society is one in which people habitually disagree.” – Carl Jung.
How to manage conflicts constructively
We know that conflict is a natural phenomenon because of clashes of thoughts and ideas. If managed well, conflict can be a constructive tool and can emerge as more meaningful and can be helpful to the people involved to understand the situation and to better themselves. By embracing it when it naturally comes our way helps a variety of opinions to surface which can be more useful and innovative. Here are certain ways to manage when disagreements or differences turn into conflicts.
Try and establish a dialogue for negotiation. When facing conflict you can become hostage to your inner fears and doubts, but it doesn’t have to be so. With self-awareness, you can overcome your doubts and change the way you perceive and behave in a situation. Try to see that as an opportunity, not as an obstacle. Talking, establishing a dialogue with the person you are in conflict and negotiating creates genuine and productive transactions focused on the common goal. Talk and listen without hostility or aggression. To resolve, it is more productive to persuade than to force.
Know the root cause
Be aware of the root cause of the disagreement. It is important to not only understand your own perception, but also you need to be aware of the other side’s. Often a disagreement starts from people having different set of goals, interests, or values. To address the conflict you are facing, ask yourself whether it stems from an interest or a need. An interest is more superficial and a need runs deeper like identity, security or respect. Most of the times, the behaviour of people involved in conflict is driven by needs. When you really know the root cause of the conflict, you can respond to that—in order to resolve the conflict.
Establish ways of working
Encourage open differences. This makes everyone aware of how to put up with differences respectfully. Understanding the others mindset helps you to resolve the conflict. If one wants to win, and if that one person is willing to make the other person lose, then the conflict remains unresolved. Leverage your different view points unconditionally and in positive regard. Try to find a common ground for mutual respect and cooperation. Collaborate with the other side and work towards a true solution to the conflict.
Develop willingness to resolve
The unwillingness to resolve does not help you to manage conflict effectively. You need to figure out whether you are stuck up, or is your ego attached to the unwillingness to resolve? Practice being empathetic in those situations. Be kind to the other side and make the right concessions. This gives an opportunity for the other side to respond accordingly. Develop the ability to listen and then respond. And once a concession has been made by the other side as well, reciprocate by moving the dialogue forward.
Focus on the combined desired outcome
When the conflict reaches a crisis stage, it is better to focus on the desired outcome of the resolution. It is better to reveal the big picture that you need to focus on. If the individuals involved in the conflict have different outcomes in mind, first inclining these outcome into one common outcome is important for the conflict to be resolved. If you are not able to arrive at common grounds because of your past misunderstandings, it is better to pare the past and move forward.
Finally, Maintain a positive relationship by respecting and staying aware of other person’s perspective. Emotions such as anger and frustration disrupts thoughtful actions. Even when you don’t agree with a specific point or a behaviour, demonstrate your acceptance of them as a person. Try to separate the person from the problem and focus on real issues and common goals. View it as an opportunity to work through the conflict for a mutually beneficial outcome.
Disagreements and diverse points of view often stimulate creativity and bring about change. But if you find these differences ending up in conflicts, embrace them and resolve them effectively by using above approaches and remember to,
•Communicate to the other person your own perspective, and reflect back your understanding of theirs.
•Help other side to maintain feelings of acceptance, value and worth through conflict, and help them to stay focused on the goal of a mutually acceptable outcome.
•Consider big picture and think beyond current conflict to the long-term relationships and goals involved. A broader perspective may reveal new options and make other issues seem less important.
•Focus on the problem and not the person and approach the conflict without taking it, or making it personal.
“The quality of our lives depends not on whether or not we have conflicts, but on how we respond to them.” – Tom Crum
3 thoughts on “How to handle conflicts productively”
Some good pointers to keep in mind.
Very constructive article. Never knew that conflicts could be resolved with “win win” for both sides. Always thought that it was a cliche. December is going to be my month of “curated conflicts”,to try & get the best out of my co-workers.
Happy Blogging – SS Cascades