Conflict Competence

May 11th, 2013

Conflict is a natural part of life. Think how bored you would be if everyone thought and felt exactly the same things. Okay, I admit there are moments when I wish for that, too. But when I let my full brain kick in again I realize that we would have very little that’s new if we didn’t have conflict. Maybe it’s time to stop dreading it and start facing it with our best skills.

There are many great sources of information on the subject. And all of them advise us to start with ourselves. Understand what we are really feeling and what we want from a situation. Then acknowledge that the other person has genuine feelings and wants in the situation and they might be different from ours. These first two steps involve emotional intelligence.

Sometimes we are able to reach agreement even if it is to something different than our start point. Sometimes it is something better– something we would not have thought of without the other perspective.

And sometimes we part with our differences. I hope in that case we have a better understanding of the basis for each interest and can anticipate how we will proceed. For the latter situation, William Ury’s “The Power of a Positive No” is valuable.

I like “Becoming a Conflict Competent Leader,” by Runde and Flanagan, for the notion that in order to thrive an organization must become conflict competent.

Conflict at its best is the stuff of creativity. If we can remain curious in conflict situations, rather than entrenched, the inquiry process can lead us into new learning and surprising new paths.

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