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Learning from Conflict

Being involved in conflict situations provides each of us with profound learning opportunities.  We might not see that in the moment, but some distance and perspective allow us to process our past difficult situation and find that nugget.  Sometimes its hard learning that can rock our world!  Although I’m usually a witness to conflict situations I have had my own learnings and wanted to share my top 5 highlights:

  1. Values are at the Root

Our values are important to us and when we are triggered and react strongly its due to someone, or something knocking against our beliefs, principles or ethics.  This is a good signal for us to dig deeper and understand why we are so upset.  If we are clear about our values, and curious enough to learn about others’, behaviours will make more sense and we can respond appropriately in difficult situations.

  1. Avoiding is not the Answer

I’ve just come across a Ted Talk by CrisMarie Campbell & Susan Clarke during TEDx Whitefish and the title pretty much sums it up “Conflict – Use It, Don’t Defuse It”.  Conflict can be an opportunity we can use to our advantage.  Whether its becoming curious to learn more about the other’s viewpoint or being vulnerable in sharing ours, the outcome can be beneficial to all involved.

  1. Strengthening working relationships

A concern I hear over and over from people who are reluctant to take part in a facilitated discussion with a co-worker, etc. is ‘what if it makes it worse?’ I can’t predict the outcome of any conversation, but in my experience a common comment after is “I feel like a weight has be lifted off my shoulders.”  I’ve also encountered countless occasions where people feel that the conversation has strengthened a working relationship with a colleague or superior.

  1. Building insight

Conflict helps us understand ourselves better and how others may perceive us.  Awareness of ourselves transforms our ability to choose to ‘respond’ rather than ‘react’.  We are empowered through our choices. It leads us to take ownership of our thoughts and feelings and actions instead of seeing them as being ’caused’ by another person or by a situation or experience.

  1. Stay in the messy

This is a hard one because it is so uncomfortable and creates some psychological and at times, physical squirming.  Difficult conversations take time, are messy and suck a lot of emotional energy.  Human nature calls to us to find a solution as soon as a problem presents itself.   This does not give us the opportunity to dig deeper and find out what is really going on.  A quick solution is often a band-aid causing the issue to resurface again and again.  So stay in the messy and build some understanding before moving on to solutions.

I’ve deliberately made my list short because I want to hear from each of you.  In conjunction with October’s Conflict Resolution Day I have launched a contest for those brave enough to share.  Please add your learning from conflict below in the comments.  Providing a quick outline of your experience (no identifying information please) will give us some context before you share your take-aways.  As a further incentive, all of those who indicate their name will be added to a draw for a $50 gift card from Starbucks.  Draw will be completed at the end of the day on October 18, 2018 – Conflict Resolution Day!

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