Conflict: An Unwelcome Guest at the Table?

“The most wonderful” time of the year is upon us!  Food! Gifts! Carols! Conflict?  Families that work together will soon gather ‘round holiday tables. Requests like “Please pass the turkey” inevitably get sandwiched between the latest company news.  When this happens, productive, healthy conversation can ensue—or not. Conflict may arise, and the issue seems that it can’t be tabled until work resumes. Conflict may seem like an unwelcome party crasher.  But that doesn’t have to be the case.

Confrontation or Conflict?

Before further discussing conflict, it is important to note the difference between confrontation and conflict.  Confrontation can merely be passionate and emotional debate.  Confrontation is quite healthy, and generally yields a positive outcome.  However, confrontation can quickly escalate to conflict.  When conflict arises, all bets are off on the outcome.

So what if confrontation becomes conflict?  Know that a lot of good can come from your “conversation,” if four simple—but critical– rules of communication are followed.

  • Be honest and truthful.  Furthermore, mean what you say, say what you mean, and say what needs to be said.
  • Keep current and “on topic.”  There is no point dredging up the past.  It’s over.
  • Attack the problem, not people.  “Play fair” with no name calling.511lQZyLSkL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_[1]
  • Act, don’t react.  Delay your reactions, if possible.  Emotion can undermine your credibility and be counterproductive.

When you pack up for the long holiday weekends ahead, be sure to put these books in your suitcase:  Crucial Conversations: Tips for Talking When the Stakes are High by Kerry Patterson  The Advantage:  Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business by Patrick M. Lencioni, and The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, A Leadership Fable, also by Patrick Lencioni.   All three books highlight the importance of constructive communication (aka conflict) to healthy organizations.

Your organization actually needs you to put healthy conflict on the table (preferably in the board room vs. the dining room.)   Take the time to voice constructive criticism.  Learn to be comfortable with uncomfortable conversations. Understand that conflict can help you set priorities.  Conflict, when handled correctly, ultimately leads to clarity—and to a healthier organization.

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  • Bill Gaffney

    and don’t say it meanly.