Word-Of-the-Week #714: Conflict

April 12, 2018 by  

Conflicta clash of opposing feelings or needs.

Does conflict make you feel uncomfortable? How does it make you feel if someone doesn’t share your same opinion? How willing are you to speak up if you disagree with someone?

Thanks for the conflict! Recognizing—and appreciating—when a co-worker fights fair” is this week’s topic from the Chicago Tribune article by Deborah Grayson Riegel. She writes, “If your company employs more than one person, workplace conflict is inevitable. 

And even if you’re a sole proprietor, you’re going to have challenges with clients, vendors, industry colleagues and others. Unless you only surround yourself with people who think, speak and work exactly like you (and how boring would that be?), you are going to come up against people who challenge your ideas and who challenge you. 

That’s a good thing. Disagreements can lead to diversity of thinking, improvements in products and services and greater productivity. Disagreements also can lead to better working relationships, but only if everyone involved fights fair. 

Let’s assume you already do; you communicate directly and thoughtfully, you are considerate in your language and tone, you engage others in a dialogue rather than a monologue, and you are focused on achieving a good outcome and a healthy relationship. Good for you! But how do you get your colleague to do the same?

How can you work better with someone who may be working against you? By acknowledging and thanking him or her for demonstrating agreeable disagreement behaviors whenever they occur. 

Here are three healthy conflict behaviors to look for so that you can say “thank you” when you see them.  

  1. Telling you directly

In the words of Napoleon Bonaparte, “The people to fear are not those who disagree with you, but those who disagree with you and are too cowardly to let you know.” 

As uncomfortable as it feels to hear negative feedback or be confronted directly, it is significantly more uncomfortable (and less productive) to have a colleague who is secretly seething, holding a grudge, acting passive-aggressively toward you or telling everyone but you that she has a problem with you. 

When a colleague tells you directly that she is frustrated with you, seeing a situation differently from you or otherwise feeling disgruntled, consider it a gift. If you know, you can do something about it (or make an informed decision not to do anything about it). If you don’t know, you’re in the dark. 

Try saying this: “Thank you so much for telling me directly that you (didn’t like my decision/felt disrespected by me in the meeting/wished I had consulted with you). I appreciate you trusting me enough to share that feedback. Would you like to discuss it further?” 

The other two ideas follow next week. This week’s focus is on dealing with conflict. Do you communicate thoughtfully and directly if you’re in disagreement? Does it make you feel uncomfortable to hear negative feedback or be confronted directly? How would it feel to acknowledge and thank someone for demonstrating agreeable disagreement behavior?

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