How to see Conflict as an Opportunity

Who really needs conflict? It’s disruptive anyway you approach it. It robs you of time and a great deal of positive energy that you definitely need to have in the workplace to maintain harmonious relationships with other co-workers. Whether we like it or not, conflicts exist because everyone has a different way of looking at things and, therefore, opposing viewpoints clash.

Luckily, a conflict does not necessarily have to end up in a dead-end situation where there is no fruitful result. If properly managed, a conflict may be a healthy enabler of growth, professional and business development.  

Here are a few crucial steps to help you approach conflict through a lens of opportunity for learning, growing, improving communication and so on.

Understand Conflict

The first step begins with defining conflict and understanding your reactions in a conflict situation. So when you think of conflict, what is the first thing that comes to mind? What is your first response when you are involved in a conflict? What are possible sources of conflict? Self-awareness and knowing how you respond to conflict is the key to effective conflict resolution, communication and (re)connection with others. On top of this, effective leaders should be able to handle conflicts without losing track of their goals. Today’s complex world calls for a more diverse range of responses and greater skills for resolving conflict. This means that as a successful professional, you should not see conflict as a “battle to be won” but as a “battle to be won”. As an Indian proverb says “the best way to eliminate an enemy is to make him your friend”.

Approach conflict as an opportunity for growth

Conflict provides an opportunity for growth, especially as the workplace becomes more culturally and generationally diverse. Learning to see things from different points of view and respecting the unique differences in people surrounding you is a crucial step for self-development. Don’t just unproductively undervalue the intelligence and contribution of people you are not comfortable with. Every co-worker represents a unique opportunity for professional advancement and, therefore, it is worth capitalising on such meaningful interpersonal relationships.

Understand that conflict may lead to productive results and enhance communication

Conflict can be a warning sign that there is a communication problem between two or more parties in a department, or the company is at risk. As an outstanding leader, it is your duty to find out why people feel the way they do. Is it because they feel they don’t get the information they feel they need or is it because they don’t properly understand the decisions that directly affect them? When a conflict arises, encourage people to get out of their comfort zone and speak, ask for their input on issues that concern them, and listen with an open mind. Get their side of the story, listen to their feelings and emotions, interests and concerns, engage people in a meaningful dialogue and invite divergent ideas or experiences in the discussion. The point here is that this sort of productive conflict may help us explore new possibilities and generate an array of new ideas that can fuel up productivity, creativity and innovation.   

Be aware that conflict is part of meaningful relationships

It may sound weird, but for most effective leaders, no authentic relationship with a colleague, client or external partner was formed until they experienced a little tension with them. Truthful relationships are tested through adverse circumstances so you can better understand someone when a turbulent situation arises. Embrace conflict as an opportunity to explore your own leadership maturity in depth and know your limitations and boundaries when dealing with conflict.

See conflict as an opportunity for creative change and development

Last but not least, conflict can be a life force filled with tension and energy. We rarely come up with innovative ideas and new insights when we are feeling comfortable or settled with the status quo. Harness creative conflict as much as you can and get it to work for your company’s benefit. Realise that conflict is an agent of evolution and change and a sign telling us that we can no longer remain at the current level. Try to make the most of the generative energy of conflict to uncover better possibilities and foster creative change.

These are just a few ways to approach conflict as an opportunity. The main takeaways of this article are to recognise conflict as a springboard to improvement and an opportunity for growth. Instead of creating tension with people, learn to appreciate how each individual can influence you positively with his unique insights, knowledge, soft and hard skills that you might not possess.



Image source: Forbes