Conflict often carries a negative connotation in our minds, conjuring up images of arguments, tension, and discord. It’s no wonder we try to avoid it at all costs. What if conflict could actually be an opportunity for growth, understanding, and positive change? When approached with an open mind and curiosity, conflict can lead to valuable transformation personally, in teams and especially for businesses.
Conflict as a Catalyst for Change:
Conflict often results in change, how we experience that change (kicking and screaming, or gracefully) is up to us. This is true on both an individual and collective level. When disagreements arise, we are given the opportunity to look deeper at the underlying issues, unspoken concerns, and differing perspectives. This is gold! If we take the time to go deeper, to get curious instead of judgemental, we can create a ‘heroic’ environment – one where people feel heard, trust is built and transformation is possible.
When I started hiring people that didn’t think like me, it was challenging, and that’s when my business really took off. An environment with constructive differences is the place where amazing progress happens. Conflict provides the opportunity for each of us to challenge our assumptions, consider alternative viewpoints, and explore new possibilities. Whether we take that opportunity or ignore it (tucking conflicts behind platitudes) is up to us. It’s not easy to examine beliefs, values, and behaviors, and when we do, it’s the foundation for not only personal growth and development, but it fosters businesses that do well by doing good.
Conflict Promotes Understanding and Empathy:
Conflict occurs from the collision of different ideas, beliefs, and interests. If this were not a ‘bad’ thing in our culture, we’d see that this very collision is our opportunity to generate understanding and empathy. When we put down our need to be ‘right’, we can listen and consciously engage in open and respectful dialogue. This is the only way to gain insights into the perspectives of others, which also expands our own worldview.
I recently missed a chance to do this when I went into a discussion wanting my side of the story to be heard. Because I wasn’t listening, the other person wasn’t interested in hearing what I had to say either. We were stuck at a stalemate – both of us mired in our own issues and versions. Conflict provides the opportunity, we have to be willing to open up to experience it as such. If I had approached the conversation from the perspective of wanting to hear her different (and valid) viewpoint, I’d have learned more about her, been able to understand her perspctive and more than likely, she’d have felt the space to also listen to me. Diverse opinions do coexist when we allow them. It takes willingness on our part (active listening and empathetic communication) to shift a ‘collision of ideas’ to mutual understanding and stronger relationships.
Conflict Encourages Innovation and Creativity:
Innovation and creativity happens when we challenge the status quo and stop skirting conflict. When individuals or groups clash over differing approaches or strategies, it often leads to a deeper exploration of alternative solutions. Conflict forces us to think outside the box, seek innovative approaches, ask unusual questions, and consider unconventional perspectives.
I’m subleasing my dance studio this year and there have been several seemingly insurmountable challenges for the future sub-tenant. The most recent one was my landlord requiring something from her that she just couldn’t provide. It seemed like the deal was going to fall through until my agent came up with a brilliant solution that was way outside the box, finding something that worked for everyone. By embracing conflict as an opportunity for creative problem-solving, we tap into our collective intelligence and find fresh solutions that may not have been discovered otherwise.
Conflict can Strengthen Relationships:
We’ve all felt the strain that unskillful conflict can create in relationships. Approached differently, conflict actually creates the very foundation we need to grow and strengthen them instead – which, does, of course takes effort and practice. Effective strategies for shifting the ‘strain’ that conflict current creates to something positive are: active listening, suspension of judgment, willing negotiation, compromise and agreeing to have differing, co-existing opinions.
Building trust with the people in our lives is worth the short periods of discomfort we experience. More often than not, we bury the discomfort when we choose to simply smooth over or ignore conflict rather than addressing it. By stepping into the discomfort in a respectful and constructive manner, it creates healthier and more resilient relationships.
Stephanie, my podcast co-host and business partner, and I process the world very differently. Each time it comes up as a conflict, we either discuss it at that moment, or mentally tag it to revisit if it’s not an appropriate time. This has led to deeper and deeper appreciation for what the other brings to the table. I am so glad that she doesn’t think like me because I keep learning and growing in our partnership. Conflict can serve as a turning point, deepening connections and fostering a greater appreciation for one another’s differences.
Conflict for Personal Growth and Resilience:
Conflict pushes us to uplevel both personal growth and resilience. It challenges communication skills, emotional intelligence, and the ability to manage difficult situations. By navigating conflict differently, we deepen our relationship with ourselves and the world because it provides an opportunity to be present to our own fears, biases, and limitations. Important life skills such as problem-solving, adaptability, and emotional regulation also get built and refined.
One of my favorite things in the world is the beautiful plants (we call them weeds) that grow in the harshest environments. They pop up in sidewalk cracks, alleyways, sparse deserts and balconies. Nature embraces conflict and finds brilliant ways to thrive. As we learn to embrace conflict as a natural part of life, we become more resilient, adaptable, and open-minded as a byproduct – allowing us the strength of nature, to grow and blossom in any environment. Our world needs each of us in our full resilient, thriving beauty.
While conflict may initially seem daunting and undesirable, it holds immense potential. Conflict is our opportunity to question our assumptions, foster understanding, encourage innovation, strengthen relationships, and promote personal growth. By reframing conflict from the threat we fear it to be, we unlock its transformative power.
In case this is the first time we’re meeting, I’m Maren, an executive life coach, speaker, dancer, and serial entrepreneur empowering you to step into your purpose and live your most fulfilled life. To learn more about how we can work together, one-on-one, to uncover your unique gifts and get you dancing with life, click here. For corporate trainings or inquiries regarding speaking engagements, please complete this form.