Fight Club: Seven Rules for Constructive Conflict

We're all members of different groups, tribes and communities -- professional and personal. The more diverse a community, the richer the set of perspectives and the more resilient it is against blind-spots.

However, with diversity comes differences in backgrounds and cognitive training. And for the benefit of that diversity to be felt, we must allow for conflict to act as a clearing mechanism.

It is important though, that the conflict is constructive as opposed to arguments that degenerate into personal attacks. As a result, some guard-rails may be useful. Here are some:

  1. We accept that conflict is natural and can be positive if approached correctly. However, when conflict arises, our responsibility for our own actions and our beliefs should be greater than our need to assign blame.

  • We recognise that not all conflict has to be about 'winning' or point-scoring. The purpose of constructive conflict is to suspend judgement and to ensure that we preserve the dignity of the other person. We will consciously give dignity in conflict.
  • We will actively seek to listen to what the other person is saying - not just think about my rebuttal for as soon as he/she is done.
  • We will isolate the person from the issue of disagreement. Just because you disagree with me doesn't mean that I will question your integrity and motivation.
  • We will compartmentalize issues of disagreement. We will not carry over grudges from one subject to another. If you disagree with me on one topic, I shouldn't set about disagreeing with you on another topic - just to retaliate.
  • We will avoid label-based prejudice, and sweeping generalisation about groups of people.
  • Finally, we will look for the opportunity in conflict - the opportunity to go beyond resolution to a higher solution than what existed before.
  • What do you think? Let's not fall out over this.