Conflict. For some it is a four letter word. For others, it is the welcome and necessary opposite pole to harmony. Here are some of the truths about conflict that I have observed over my years facilitating teams through decisions.
Conflict vs. Separate Realities
Conflict is the outcome of separate realities that have been developed through incomplete or distorted information. Conflict arises when listening and understanding stop. When understood for what it is, conflict can be managed and can produce extraordinary innovation and productivity.
Separate realities are an illusion created by incomplete or distorted information. Separate realities lead to conflict.
Separate realities arise when each person develops their own thoughts and opinions on a matter which are limited to only the information they have at their disposal. If that information differs from what the other person has, then we begin to develop separate realities from one another.
Distortion occurs when we think of something, apply an assumption to it based on our past experiences, and then believe that assumption to be absolute truth in the current situation. Distortion is most often something we do involuntarily. It is one of the greatest flaws in our human make-up.
Iron Out the Wrinkles of Conflict
Without conversation and listening, it is impossible to fill in the gaps. Conversation and listening are what allow missing information to surface, and distorted beliefs to be ironed out.
Conflict is therefore the human mechanism for signaling a case of separate realities. It can be viewed as a trigger for listening and understanding, rather than a state of human emotion to be feared and repressed.
Conflict unresolved or avoided leads to resentment and frustration. Conflict that is allowed to surface, and that is complemented with active and effective listening, leads to periods of harmony and progress.
When we start to see conflict as a mode for resolving our human limitations of distortion and separate realities, we can start to use conflict to enable higher levels of performance and innovation.