Cooperating in spite of (or thanks to) conflict
At a time when irrational conflict is breaking out everywhere, learn how to defuse toxic binary clashes. That way, you’ll be able to channel positive energy towards constructing collective solutions that ensure that everyone’s a winner.
Globalization, deregulation, climate change, the health crisis – just four of the upheavals that are fueling rising concerns and the need for certainty. The collective capacity to consider a problem from different angles is diminishing: Ambivalence and shades of meaning are becoming less tolerated, debate is increasingly polarized and tensions are on the rise. What’s more, the pandemic has dented our emotional energy and cognitive space, both of which are vital for dealing with the fresh outbreak in conflicts linked to returning to face-to-face work.1 Your employees are expressing new desires that don’t correspond to the new rules of your organization, and your teams are experiencing tensions related to their diversity. To come out on top of these bad conflicts, channel the positive potential of differences to serve collaborative efforts.
Amanda Ripley, (Simon & Schuster, 2021).
Choose good conflict over bad
A world without conflict is an illusion – and would even be dangerous. “Good” conflict is vital. It transcends disagreements and enables you to reach a common solution. “Bad conflict,” on the other hand, is a negative spiral that fuels tension and antagonism. When you’re trapped in a bad conflict, your behavior goes off the rails: Your brain reacts by emitting a spike in cortisol, the stress hormone. You’re more and more confident that you have “the” truth, you’re disturbed emotionally and you become angry with your opponents and intolerant of difference. Your confirmation bias becomes inflamed with any new information that corroborates what you already believe. You lend selfish intentions only to others, without trying to understand their perspective. In reaction, your interlocutors go on the defensive, speak less and simplify their thinking, which exacerbates misunderstandings. Bad conflict is like a magnet: It attracts and stultifies, slowly contaminating your entire mental space, defining your existence and becoming an end in itself.
Cultivate your listening skills
Constructive conflict is based on attentive listening so you can identify the implications of a disagreement. Take time to let the other person speak: You probably tend to interrupt too quickly.2 Be explicit when communicating your intentions and wishes. The illusion of communication gives you the impression that others are reading you openly, but your motivations are obvious only to you.3 Once everyone has the sense that they’ve been listened to and understood, they will feel empowered to look for solutions and find options they didn’t consider before.
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