Bending our Minds Around Conflict

Conflict has a bad rap. The word has been coined to reflect disagreements, arguments, and even war. Some of us fear it. Others avoid it. Yet, some crave it.

What if I told you conflict is a desirable tool, crucial in all successful relationships? There are even tools to support our effective engagement in utilizing conflict as a means by which to deepen our trust, productivity, and outcomes.

As a leader I have to recognize BIG red flags in any effective group coming together with a purpose:

·       Everyone agrees with me.

·       New thoughts, ideas, and plans are received with nods of approval and little conversation.

·       People either meet my gaze with a smile – every time – or avoid eye contact all together.

If I am part of a group pushing for improvement, sustainability, and security I need there to be disagreement, dissent, and down right conflict. Otherwise, someone is missing from the conversation.

Conflict, it turns out, is about relationships.

Think about it.

In order to engage in conflict, a conversation is required. Two people in conflict come together and exchange ideas, feelings, thoughts, and arguments. As long as you’re arguing with me, you’re engaged. As long as you’re engaged, we are in relationship.

When I possess effective conflict tools, I can navigate with you, so we reach a solution.

In reaching a solution, together, the professional relationship we have deepens. We better understand one another, respect each other, and know that our voices can be mutually heard.  Quite honestly, as a leader, I want those I lead to engage with me in conflict. It is what allows our group to meet our goals and objectives most effectively.

Thoughtful conflict maintains respect, utilizes tools, and pushes the process by disagreeing with ideas not people. Finding the tools that allow that to be the expectation is crucial in classrooms, playgrounds, businesses, and boardrooms.

How do you find those tools? There are a lot of conflict resolution tools. I would encourage, instead, the consideration of conflict solution tools.

What’s the difference?

Resolution, by definition, is a firm decision to do or not to do something; the quality of being determined or resolute.

Solution, by definition, is to find an answer to, explanation for, or means of effectively dealing with (a problem or mystery).

Can you see the nuance of difference? Seeking to find a firm decision versus an answer, explanation, or effective means of management.

Each has an impact on the relationship.

In resolution, there are typically five resolution styles:

·       Tug of war – one side wins, the other loses.

·       Giving in – one side yields to the other.

·       Impose – one side demands compliance

·       Avoidance – one side pretends nothing’s wrong

·       Compromise – both sides lose something in order to stop the conflict.

In solution, it is possible to come to a win-win.

The best tool for that win-win outcome is part of The Theory of Constraints for Education; The Conflict Cloud. We have adapted “The Cloud” as a primary conflict solution tool that allows us to reach a win-win every time. It works with children, adolescents, and adults. It’s simple to learn and requires practice to master.

Reaching a win-win is about remembering what we know about behavior.

1.      All behavior meets a need.

2.      As long as the need is met, it won’t change.

3.      In order to change behavior, it can’t just stop. It has to be replaced.

Conflict is driven by a need.

Discovering the need on both sides results in discovering that a solution exists that can meet those needs without compromising either need. By framing conflict through the need, we change the conversation and, most often, find out the full story. We can look at assumptions, missing players in the conversation, bigger outcomes, and branches of impact that may previously have been overlooked.

Suddenly, the conversation honors the relationship and a solution is born.

Solutions reach beyond resolution, beyond the “my way” “your way” of typical conflicts. It gets to the bones, to the humanity of what is going on, exploring values and ideas with a place for people to be heard.

Yes, it requires time. I can guarantee, however, that time invested in solution will consume less time than the mending of relationships often required with resolution.

Interested to learn more about The Cloud and how your classroom, school, organization, or board can utilize it? I’d LOVE a conversation.

And let me hear your thoughts in the comments below!

Until next time,

Leah Kyaio, Founder/CEO
With Respect LLC