Turning Conflict into an Opportunity

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If there’s one thing that will crop up time and again throughout the course of your life, it’s conflict. Whether it’s with classmates, friends, family or, later on, colleagues and managers, when conflict rears its ugly head, it can go one of two ways: disaster or opportunity.
When you were younger, adults would step in to resolve conflict on your behalf. As a toddler, when playmates snatched toys, an adult would swoop in quickly to avert a tantrum. At school, teachers would spot conflict from a mile away and intervene to smooth things over. Unfortunately, as we get older we can’t always rely on someone else to save the day.
But if you know how to anticipate and deal with conflict or disagreements effectively, these experiences can actually help you to grow.
So, with the New Year 2016 just around the corner, why not commit to turning conflict into an opportunity for personal growth?

Realise that conflict and disagreement are part of life

Often, when faced with people who challenge us, we take it personally. If we clash with someone at school or in the workplace, we begin to question ourselves; we wonder whether we’re doing something wrong in the way we
communicate or work. We might even question our values, priorities or beliefs. When we recognise that these differences are simply part of life, we stop the dangerous cycle of self-blame and resistance to conflict.

Face it
Although removing ourselves from a heated situation is obviously the right thing to do in the short-term, that doesn’t mean we should run away from conflict and never look back. Ignoring differences and failing to resolve them just spells awkwardness and discomfort in the long-run. Always go back and make a fair attempt to fix things.

Listen
Before we mention talking it over, we need to mention something far more important: listening. Here’s where the real opportunity for growth comes in. When it comes to differences of opinions, there really is no right or wrong answer – you have to listen to all sides of the story. Genuinely listening requires you to make eye contact, maintain open body language, and keep your emotions in check. The great thing about our diverse world is that we all have different experiences and we all have something worthwhile to share. Listen, and you might just learn something.

Deal with the issue
When it comes to working through your differences, make sure you focus on the issue at hand. For example, if you’ve experienced conflict whilst working on a team project, don’t start bringing up issues that you had in the canteen or out on the astroturf. Keep it relevant. Be honest and stick to the facts.

Mind your language
The way you phrase something can really have an impact on how it comes across. So drop the accusative tone.
Instead of saying: “You didn’t do the research you needed to,” say “I feel the research you produced could have been more useful.”
Ask open-ended questions. Instead of: “Did you do what we asked?” say “Was there something we asked you to do that you weren’t clear on?”

And remember…
In the teamwork example above, the person we’ve had the disagreement with might be able to offer us some wisdom. Perhaps the research produced wasn’t as you expected because your teammate has a different perspective. Perhaps he/she has an idea they were too shy to share at first. Don’t assume the worst. Keep an open mind, listen, and see if you can find the learning opportunity in the conflict.
Do you have any top tips for conflict resolution? Let us know!