From Conflict to Collaboration

Conflict is about differences while collaboration is about working together. Conflict is about opposites and collaboration is about being on the same side. Conflict is about two or more directions. Collaboration is about oneness and unity. Conflict easily assumes something is better and stronger and the other is worse or weaker. In conflict, there tends to be a right and a wrong or good and bad. In collaboration, two rights create something that is better together and they are two strengths that both become stronger. Collaboration is working together using all available information, knowledge, skills and resources to create the intended result.

In any situation where there is a conflict, you have a choice between remaining in a mode of conflict or creating an approach of collaboration. Let me state this strongly, you and I always have that choice. So why do we choose conflict and battling? (Often, because of our devastating human characteristic of the “need to be right.”)

The Big Book of HR, in chapter twenty-eight, has many great insights regarding moving from conflict to collaboration. Here is one small quote that I want to focus on: “Conflict is often growth that is trying to happen.” It would be very wise of us to memorize that statement. (Maybe even write it on our foreheads.) So, when we find ourselves about to enter the arena of conflict we can consider these two things: First, we can remember and recognize that in the midst of conflict, we have an opportunity for growth. Second, we can choose to move into the garden of growth and learning of collaboration versus the bloody battleground of conflict.

I’m also using five options of dealing with conflict from the book yet, adding my own twist about each of the options. Here they are:

  • Compete: We can do battle and have a declared winner and loser.
  • Accommodate: One person gives in to avoid the conflict and both sides lose out on growth.
  • Avoid: Both sides avoid the conflict and little or nothing gets done.
  • Collaborate: Everyone wins and everyone benefits from the best possible results.
  • Compromise: The result of compromise is cooperation which is good, yet both sides have sacrificed something of value and the result is usually something less than the best possible outcome.

What conflicts have you been a part of recently? What are the conflicts that you are avoiding right now? I could give you a list of my own regarding both questions. The critical question right now is, knowing what you now know about the choice between conflict and collaboration, why would you not choose collaboration? Are there benefits for you in doing battle? Did you not know you had a choice? 

With collaboration there are benefits of learning, growth and enjoyment. There is also accomplishment, pride and many more surprising outcomes. Conflicts typically become problems which take a lot of time, effort and resources. Collaboration decreases or even eliminates problems.

Bernie Linnartz

This article first appeared on May 12, 2016, in the Taos News.

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