Facing Conflict Head-On

On the other side of conflict there is resolution.
Show me a movie that doesn’t have a conflict that gets resolved. If you reflect on every movie you’ve ever seen, it follows that same arc and narrative.

  • Setting the Stage: You are introduced to a certain conflict.
  • Rising Action: You learn more about the conflict.
  • Confrontation: A significant event in which the conflict is at its greatest point of tension.
  • Falling Action: This might include a decision point that starts to relieve the tension and you might even be able to envision a resolution.
  • Resolution: This completes the story arc and resolves the conflict.

In real life, why do we try to avoid this narrative?
Conflict happens. We fear it. We don’t want to hurt people’s feelings. We may even anticipate retaliation. We change our behavior because we don’t want to address the very thing that is the source of that conflict.

We avoid people involved in the conflict. Think about it. Have you ever walked out of your office and looked down the hall and caught a glimpse of someone with whom you had tension? What did you do? Many of you probably immediately backpedaled and ducked into your office. In your gut and your heart, you know you have to deal with it, but your brain is telling you: “Nope, I’m not ready yet.”

There are so many factors at play that your brain keeps going back to. This could be a power dynamic as the person might be your supervisor. Or it could be you that just don’t enjoy interacting with the person.

“I don’t like that man. I must get to know him better.” – Abraham Lincoln

How should you approach conflict?
The key is to jump right in with intention. There is no intimacy without conflict. It’s all about getting beyond the conflict to build the relationship.

The first step is to bring the tension to light and make both parties aware of what is happening. How you approach is really about what works best for you and the particular relationship. To help you along, here are some options I find extremely helpful.

  • You might approach someone and say, “Has anybody ever shared with you that you do this?” as the person may even respond with the fact that people have said that to them before. It gives them an opportunity to be introspective on what you have professionally brought to their attention.
  • Ask, “Is our relationship at a place where I can share something with you that is really important?” What’s critical here is that you’re asking for permission to take the conversation in a certain direction. And then if they say yes to that, you can express your feelings about the particular conflict.

Think about core values.
The biggest thing to consider with conflict is whether your core values are aligned with those of the individuals with whom you are clashing. If they aren’t, it’s about identifying those gaps and figuring out how to address them to resolve the conflict overall.

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