How do you feel about conflict? Most of us try to avoid it. But there is ample evidence that conflict can be beneficial – it encourages new thinking, causes everyone to ask questions, and it strengthens relationships. We’re going to look at some benefits to workplace conflict, and you will notice a prominent theme for all of them. Let’s take a look:

Problem-solving skills – Conflict is an excellent breeding ground for increased ability to solve problems. Let’s say a business owner is ready to launch a new product, but his/her Virtual Assistant is about to miss an important deadline preparing some promotional material. The reflex most of us have is to blame and focus on the shortcomings of the person. A much better approach is to search for solutions to the problem. Instead of saying, “You said you would finish this by today,” try “The project really needs to be finished today. What do we need to do to make that happen?” The first statement makes the problem about the person, the second statement shifts the focus to the problem and a search for solutions.

Focused discussions – Working through conflict can make people more productive, according to “With each individual being part of the effort to resolve conflict and reach agreement, members of a work group can become more productive. Instead of spending time dwelling on the fact that a lack of agreement exists, taking steps to find a resolution gets co-workers focused on actions that can lead to greater productivity.” In the example above, once the business owner and the VA take care of the immediate issue of the project getting completed, they can take some time to examine their working partnership and see if they can make modifications to make it easier to complete projects by the established deadlines.

Researched solutions – Different opinions are encouraged, but the opinions are arrived at through the study of data and facts. People are encouraged to collect data that will illuminate the process or the problem. Similar to the discussion of the missed deadline above, spending time and effort on finding solutions instead of the skills or character of people will enhance your ability to do the study and research that will produce solutions that don’t focus on others’ shortcomings.

It’s pretty obvious what the common theme is – it’s not personal, so do not make it personal. The main reason people strive to avoid conflict, whether they admit it or not, is that pretty much all of us have a tendency to make it personal. We perceive criticism as a personal attack, and when we have feedback to offer, we can slip into the mode of going after the person instead of the problem.

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