What is conflict?

When we think of conflict, we often think of the negative side of it. The arguments, struggles and in the worse scenarios - all out war. But conflict doesn't have to be that way. In fact, we are all in conflict everyday, with ourselves and with others. 

The dictionary even describes it as a serious disagreement or argument – dispute, quarrel, squabble., or when describing the verb to conflict - If beliefs, needs, or facts, etc. conflict, they are very different and cannot easily exists together or both be true. So you might instantly thinking...

Stress – power – war – pain – control – winning- losing – anxious – fight – aggression

When working within a group, there is bound to be conflict. But disagreement doesn’t need to be negative. According to renowned author and speaker Patrick Lencioni, “Conflict is the pursuit of truth.” Conflicts are a natural part of life, both in our personal lives and in the workplace.

Workplace conflicts occur because team members don’t always agree or know how to work together. Members may differ in the way they manage their tasks, their work styles or personalities. In order for a team to work together effectively, members need to appreciate and understand each others differences rather than make assumptions and judgements about the other persons intentions.

The ability to resolve team conflicts is crucial to the success of any organisation.

“When there is trust, conflict becomes nothing but the pursuit of truth, an attempt to find the best possible answer.” ~ Patrick Lencioni

So when a leader creates an environment of healthy, safe conflict, instead of mean spirited conflict you get:

Challenge, ideas, debates, energy, passion, truth.

Conflict is neither good or bad. It is simply a difference in ideas, opinions, thoughts and beliefs. And since all humans are unique, with differing experience and beliefs, conflict is inevitable.

Once you change the way you view conflict, and then recognise when you are in conflict, you can choose how to respond and what behaviours are appropriate to create positive conflict over negative conflict.

How does conflict work for you?

Think about a team that you are part of right now. When conflict arises, what behaviours, feelings, words, body language or enviroment arises?

Think of a metaphor to describe it?


It's like a firework -  explosion of colour and vibrancy.

It's like a war zone, with people taking side and always collateral damage

It's like your parents arguing and everyone else hides out of the way

Now think about the impact on the relationships and the team performance as a result of the conflict - does it move things forward or hold things up?

Conflict is inevitable, even if it doesn't present itself visibly  -  will we look at different forms of conflict in the next chapter. When someone asks you to do something you don't want to do, you are in conflict. If you hold a view about the best way to approach a problem and someone else might present a different approach - you are in conflict. 

How you choose to respond and behave can mean you debate and explore new ideas, negotiate, compromise or co-create a better solution - or you can argue. 

Conflict arises because we all see our life through a lens. Your perspective is impacted by:

Values • Position • Experience • Fears • Passions • Beliefs • Role • Friendships • Alliances 

Negative conflict arises where two or more opposing ideas collide and neither party is willing to back down. It is stemmed in judgement, being right, competition, ego and control. When you hold the power it is easier to win the conflict, but that doesn’t mean that damage hasn’t been made to the relationship.

Note About Conflict

On a piece of paper, finish the following sentence.  

When I think of conflict, I think of... 

Now reflect on what you have written down.
How this impact your approach to conflict in your relationships? 

Top Tips to Consider Throughout This Course

  1. Conflict is inevitable and unavoidable  
  2. Conflict can be productive  
  3. You are in control of your response to conflict  
  4. Not just people create conflict, it can also be created due to culture, atmosphere and so  
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