A Well Managed Conflict

We were interviewed for the podcast, Support is Sexy with Elayne Fluker.  We talked about entrepreneurship, and the conversation led to conflict management and resolution.  Here are some excerpts from that conversation. 

Question: You’ve written two books on conflict resolution. Can you share tips with managers and business owners on handling conflict within their businesses whether it’s with their employees or other business associates? 

Barbara: We discuss the positive nature of conflict in The Essential Workplace Conflict Handbook. Conflict, if managed appropriately, can be a very creative process. It can bring ideas into the organization and get people thinking in different ways. You don’t always want to avoid conflict, unless it becomes destructive to the organization.  Well-managed conflict can be very positive in moving relationships and the organization along.

Question: What’s a way a well-managed conflict can move a relationship along?

Barbara: The key is listening to each other. Listening gets totally overlooked. People are prone to want to keep talking and get their ideas out. A well-managed conflict occurs when people put varying ideas out and the others listens without judgment and without trying to respond as quickly as possible. If you really listen to each other it may occur to you, “You know I never thought of it that way.” That revelation can then spark a very good discussion that may end up taking you and the situation in a totally different direction.  That’s one of the keys to maintaining good relationships. If you stop and say I’m going to hear what he or she is say and then use it without getting defensive or argumentative or judgmental, you can have some pretty amazing results. 

Question: How can we create an environment where people know that a well-managed conflict is something that’s encouraged.

Cornelia: Let your employees and business partners know you brought them into the relationship because you valued and want to hear their ideas. And show you really mean it.  In meetings, for example, say, “This is the idea we have,” and open the floor to other people who might offer a differing point of view or idea.  Then listen to what everyone else is saying – and give everybody the opportunity to state their opinions. 

Once all the ideas have been heard, start determining which are doable.  If you don’t think an idea is doable not right now, then let the person know, “It’s a good ideas but it’s going to take some resources we don’t have, so let’s table that for the future.” If you’re not able to act at all, let them know why. Opening the discussion to everybody and being able to implement some ideas will create an environment where people understand it’s fine to state your ideas. If it’s not going to work either now or in the future, people know they’ve been listened too and not shut down. When we talk about positive conflict people think it’s a contradiction, but positive conflict is recognizing that we all come to a decision or idea from a different point of view based on our background and experience. Everyone is open to other creative ideas. You may end up with a much better solution. 

Check back next week to read more excerpts from this discussion. 

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