In a perfect world there would be nothing but sunshine, lollipops and rainbows, and we would all get along all the time. Truly Utopia, but then again, you know how those kinds of places work out. They usually end up as authentic as the blockbuster movies we love to see.
Back in the real world people disagree, get frustrated and even fight. Conflict is a normal and natural part of every meaningful life. So why are so many of us afraid of confrontation? Maybe it's because we never learned healthy ways to have Constructive Conflict.
Constructive Conflict is like any other life skill; at one time or another, we are all going to need to know how it's done. So here are five tips for building Constructive Conflict skills.
Understanding that conflict is like exercise, if done in a healthy way, conflict is an opportunity to grow stronger. Constructive conflict need not be feared, it takes work, maybe even sweat, but if you learn the right way to do it, you will become a little stronger, wiser and even more empowered.
Constructive Conflict is about describing not demeaning. In the heat of the moment we can get so afraid we shut down, or so angry we lash out. Neither choice can help resolve the problem. Deep breaths, calm voices and zero tolerance for name-calling or hurtful words.
Constructive Conflict remembers that we are all trying to solve the same problem. It's not you and I against each other; it is you and I against the problem. No matter what the argument is about, constructive conflict focuses on the problem, not the person.
Listening is the key to empathy. I may not agree with what you are saying, but I must be able to listen actively and repeat your perspective back to you. If I can step into your shoes even for a moment, we are closer to an understanding.
Plan, check-in and adjust. Brainstorm solution ideas and notice how much you can agree on. Compromise is a cause for celebration and a plan to solve the problem is a great 1st step. Test-drive your plan and check-in to see if it's working, then make the necessary adjustments to keep everyone moving forward.
Conflict can be intimidating, just like starting a new fitness routine, but if you learn to handle it in a healthy way, you will have the skills to live a healthier life.