Conflict Doesn't Have To Suck

Conflict itself isn’t bad.

I know, I know. I can practically see your eyes rolling.  No one will be surprised to hear that conflict isn’t inherently negative, but hang in there.   

As we’re flung together, with our limited understandings of one another, we have little control over the social system of which we are a part (depressing, I know.  But keep reading, it gets better!).   I would argue that  we only truly have control over our reactions - the direction we bounce off of one another. So why don’t we see THAT as the cause of the negativity we typically blame on conflict?

The short answer is because that would absolutely suck.  No one wants to admit that they’re the cause of their own misery, of course.  That said, we do have a choice. A lot of them, in fact, if you consider that each interaction allows you to make fresh decisions.  And that should fill us with hope.  Like, Obama-era HOPE. (seriously, we’re getting to the good part. Stay with me).

All the research points to the fact that we cannot control, or even really shape, the beliefs and opinions of others, which is probably a good thing.   Our only option, then, is to shape ourselves. Not the experiences we bring with us, but how we respond to them. This might just be the difference between workplaces and groups  that embrace “disruption,” and those that discourage it.  Disruption, for those not married to a tech nerd,  is the notion that a question or idea can shake up the status-quo enough to short circuit the “way we’ve always done things.”

So, how do we support disruption if we can only control our own reactions?  I encourage clients to be curious about EVERYTHING.  In order to be curious, you have to be willing to admit you don’t know everything, which can feel crappy, but pays dividends.  Nurture in yourself  a genuine sense of openness, model it for others, and reward it when you see it.  If you can commit to trying that for one whole month, I bet you’ll see the difference and make it your full time gig.



Kate Negrón