The 10 Benefits of Conflict
Are you conflict allergic? Conflict is avoided by most because it creates an intense amount of uncertainty, discomfort and anxiety. Conflict activates our fight-or-flight self-protection mechanism, causing many of us to feel clammy and adrenalized. Some of us start shaking, voices tend to raise and more-often-than-not things are said out of reaction which are not meant. Feelings get hurt and at times relationships destroyed. It is no wonder many of us want to avoid conflict at all cost. However, the most innovative solutions often arise out of conflict. The workplace is a dynamic environment always in need of growth, change, solutions, transitions and upgrading. Conflict will be regular part of our everyday work life. The more we expose ourselves to conflict the better we become at handling it, and the more successful we become as business people.
1. Opens our eyes to new ideas.
As thoughts are expressed back and forth we allow someone else to fine-tune the truth we are communicating, as our perspective becomes further shaped against theirs. Conflict is incredibly useful as a creative, fine-tuning instrument to our own ideas. In hearing another person’s perception it helps to mold and clarify our own; either making us more clear and committed to our original position, or the conflict will open our eyes to new perspectives on our ideas. Conflict is an effective vehicle for the generation of new solutions, gaining trust and developing deeper agreements; all of which are great for networking, bonding and the establishing successful connections.
Related: 7 Steps for Keeping Conflict Healthy
2. Opportunity to verbalize needs.
Most people do not get what they want because they do not say what they want. Conflict provides an opportunity to verbalize our needs to get them met. Who we are and what we stand for in the workplace largely determines our levels of success. If the “wake” behind our boat is too big no one else has room to get by, and if it is too small we get run over. There is a balance we must forge where we can take a stand on issues without being too aggressive and also without being a complete pushover. Conflict, confrontation and/or speaking up makes us more resilient and less fearful when asking for what is needed.
3. Teaches flexibility.
If we are in conflict we are not only going to have others adjusting to us and our perspectives, but we will also be adjusting to others and their perspectives. Humility and openness are two admirable qualities to come from conflict. We have to discipline ourselves to not always have to be right. If we need to be right we make another wrong, and we come to be viewed as disagreeable, controlling, fragile and egotistical; none of which are qualities of a good leader. They are the makings of a spoiled brat. Additions and subtractions must be made to any new idea in business in an effort to make it the best it can be. Each contract we have with customers and/or our team will always be born from the conflict natural to any successful negotiation. The more open and flexible we can be, the better a reputation we develop for being fair and intelligent.
4. Teaches us to listen.
The key to any successful conflict resolution is the ability to listen. Most are so focused on litigation they have zero ability to listen; their only desire is to win. Successful relationships and/or negotiations cannot be forged with defensive, dominating people. Listening takes patience and the discipline to control our impulses to speak. It takes being able to put ourselves and our thoughts to the side so we can fully take another perspective in. To truly listen to someone, listening must be active, not passive. When we listen we thrive amongst the elite in the business world. Listening gives us access to the information we need to make smart and lucrative decisions.
5. Teaches us patterns of behavior.
As we engage in conflict we learn about how others work, their style of communication, and their points of view. Knowing patterns helps us to be more effective in our relationships as they provide some level of predictability. Predictability is effective when strategizing in negotiations. When we listen, we get to know how people think and we gain insight into how they operate. This knowledge helps us define and work within their patterns, allowing us to respect limits and to predict where and when we can push without being offensive and still get the deal done. Knowing patterns makes us more prepared and confident when dealing with any type of uncertainty or disagreement.
6. Leads to solutions.
When structures or agreements that are in place are no longer working, something new has to come into play. Change is hard. It creates discomfort and we naturally want to hang on to what once worked even when it’s clearly outdated and in need of upgrading. To be successful all things need to be in the process being “in development.” For our businesses to grow the entire foundation of our businesses must be consistently analyzed, discussed, negotiated and fine-tuned. Conflict is the backdoor to reinvention and innovation.
7. Practice communication skills.
Communication is a skill that requires self-control, patience and intelligence. It requires that we be real and authentic. If we back down from conflict we end up being disingenuous. We end up not communicating our perspective out of some form of fear. Conflict is hard for everyone, yet the more we engage in conflict the better a communicator we become. This is not to say we should go out and create conflict, but the intention is not to be afraid to participate in conflict when it arises. Deal with it and be open to the element of surprise.
8. Helps us to set limits.
People need to know where we start and they stop. Conflict is the perfect place to set limits and make new agreements which fall in line with the respect and integrity of all involved. Without respect and mutuality successful connections cannot develop or flourish. As we communicate needs and boundaries we allow others to learn a great deal about us and how we work. We also learn a lot about ourselves, making us that much more successful. Conflict teaches us when to back off and when to activate for ourselves by asking someone else to back off.
9. Practice emotional control.
We do not have to be so emotional all the time. If we want to be taken seriously we must approach conflict seriously. We must learn to remain calm and to use the least amount of words to get our point across, all the while remaining firm and flexible when setting our way. Perseverance and self-control are the keys to successful conflict resolutions. When we are in control of ourselves people can better relate to us, count on us and trust our intentions.
10. Allows us to differentiate ourselves.
We can learn a great deal about who we are through the differences we have with other people. This is called differentiation. Differentiation is our capacity to tell our truth and perspective as clearly as we see it, all the while remaining engaged with those who believe differently from us. Conflict provides us the opportunity to put a true representation of ourselves out in the world. Speaking the truth about ourselves in the midst of disagreement is the foundation of emotional health and successful communication. When we speak the truth about who we are and what we believe, everyone in the conversation will absorb and respond to our information. This allows others to adjust. These adjustments are the successes to come from conflict. The ultimate goal of conflict is resolution.
Sherrie Campbell is a psychologist in Yorba Linda, Calif., with two decades of clinical training and experience in providing counseling and psychotherapy services. She is the author of Loving Yourself: The Mastery of Being Your Own Person. Her new book, Success Equations: A Path to an Emotionally Wealthy Life, is available for pre-order.