Mike Davies Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Conflict can be the catalyst for progress, growth, and innovation

It may not feel like it at times, but conflict can be a hugely important factor in successful organisations and effective teams. The notion that not all conflict is negative or unhelpful is an important one. Without conflicting ideas, opinions, and motives the world and our organisations would stagnate and become stale.

Creating an environment where people feel empowered to challenge and share their opinions is a crucial step towards creating the psychological safety that is needed in order for conflict to be seen as a positive contribution rather than a nuisance factor. This may not be easy, but it is certainly productive as it will foster open dialogue and trust amongst people, which in turn can lead to the richness of ideas and diversity of opinion that help to solve problems, make effective decisions, and create innovation.


Managing negative conflict

‘Peace is not absence of conflict, it is the ability to handle conflict by peaceful means.’

Ronald Regan


The first step on the road to handling negative conflict and difficult conversations in a productive way is to understand the cause of the issue. Here are some examples of common causes of conflict;


  • Clashes in behaviour and communication styles

  • Conflicting priorities and motives

  • Confusion and misunderstanding

  • Stressful, pressurised situations.


Raising self-awareness is a great way to help people to manage and moderate these interpersonal conflict-causers. Personality assessments are a proven way of identifying communication styles, motives, and coping mechanisms when under stress, which then pave way for effective feedback and coaching conversations.


Turning difficult conversations into effective conversations

Start with the intention…..

Before engaging in, or encouraging others to engage in a difficult conversation it is crucial to establish what the intended outcome is, and what the motive behind that is.

If the motive doesn’t come from a positive place, then the outcome is unlikely to be a productive one. Begin with a positive, productive intention.


Align the impact with the intention…..

This is where planning and preparation become even more important. Often, conflict can be caused due to ‘tone of voice’ or ‘selection of language’ issue, which wasn’t helpful. For the conversation to be effective, the person initiating it will need to be able to put their positive intention across without causing offense and creating defensive behaviour.

This isn’t easy, it takes time, planning, and practice. It is a skill that can be refined though. Finding a suitable way to prepare and practice managing difficult conversations can be the key to resolving conflict.