Conflict: What it’s NOT

Video Transcript:

Hi, this is Lona with Revela, and today, I want to talk about conflict. Specifically what conflict is not. In most organizations, conflict is not arguing and shouting. And we really need to stop thinking about conflict this way because when we do, we avoid it.

Approximately 95% of workers avoid conflict according to the book Crucial Conversations.  And being nice is killing our organizations. Think about how many ideas go unspoken, how much information is not shared or silos that are created when people stay silent. And yet, the tension doesn’t go away when we avoid conflict. In fact, it usually escalates and the resentment continues to build. Think about how much energy is wasted in your company from people avoiding conflict. Energy that could be used for far more productive things.

By not leaning into conflict when it becomes uncomfortable, we risk stalling our team members and our organizations. We need to begin to think about conflict as way to debate and ensure that all voices and perspectives are heard. Unfortunately, our own confirmation bias can sometimes get in the way of us seeking out those different perspectives. Confirmation bias is when we search out and process information in a way that supports our existing beliefs. And it can actually cause us to believe that we are smarter and more objective that we really are; thinking and believing that our ideas are the best ideas; and our way of doing things is the most efficient way to do them.

In a team this looks like group think. In an organization, this can cause a company to head down a strategic path that could jeopardize the overall health of the organization because we’re not testing alternative assumptions. Instead try these strategies to create conflict with the intent to increase debate and discussion to come up with better ideas; and to propel our organizations to grow and develop:

  • First, embrace disagreement and debate. Don’t run from it and certainly don’t shut it down when it starts to get uncomfortable.
  • Second, seek out those who have a different personality style than you do. Chances are they look at problems differently than you do as well.
  • Then, you have to check your ego. Purposefully seek out people who are smarter than you. You don’t have to have all of the answers or prove that you are the smartest person in the room.
  • Recognize that we all have blind spots. Assume that you have something to learn and that you still have plenty of room for growth. Just because you aren’t getting feedback from people doesn’t mean that people don’t have feedback for you.
  • Finally, check your emotions. And really pay attention to the emotions of those around you. And then adjust accordingly.

Last leave the door open for future conversations. Speaking up is a learned skill. People won’t be perfect at it in the beginning. Give people opportunity to practice confronting issues speaking up even when it’s not a popular idea. Always thank people for demonstrating courage when they do.

Do you have some areas in your company that could use a little conflict? What are you going to do?

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