Conflict is a natural part of the human condition. What we do with it sometimes requires something beyond ourselves.

The problem with how we approach conflict is that too often it is dressed in negative

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thought. When we only see conflict as an unnatural part of our existence, and one which only occurs in an emotionally unsettling situation, then the outcome will always appear as negative and even ‘bad’. But the reality of conflict is that it is present around us at all times because we all represent different sets of preferences and desires.

Even on items on which we agree, there is always room for difference on the details.

It can be personal, emotional, even unsettling; but it does not have to be unhealthy. Good people can succumb to bad behaviour, so in community we need to be vigilant in how we handle our differences. You have read on this blog before about a great little book called Doing Good Better! In dealing with boards and committees, especially in faith based organizations, the authors suggest different behaviours for handling conflict and agreement. Which one do you practice?

  1. Competing – This is a model based on ‘winning’ and requires the ‘opponent’ to submit to one’s wishes. “Individualistic and decisive…” are ways this behaviour exposes itself in conflict.
  2. Accommodating – This behaviour does not like conflict, so chooses to find the simplest resolve regardless of whether it is the best resolve or not. “They want to be well liked by everyone.”
  3. Avoiding – “Directors who are avoiding are clearly uncomfortable with any differing point of view.” They are less interested in finding the best solution, so they pull back when things get heated.
  4. Compromising – This can be a helpful behaviour for discovering resolve through healthy discussion, but it can break down. “…it pulls the discussion toward the lowest common denominator.” Not necessarily the best long-term outcome.
  5. Collaborating – This behaviour is the most controlled and can result in the healthiest conversation toward resolve. It means taking in all ideas, regardless of how diametrically opposed or emotionally stated, and creates a place of debate and eventual consensus. While all models should bring about consensus, this behaviour may take longer, “…but the results are usually better and more enduring.”

Do you agree? Or are you stuck in conflict behaviour that is simply unagreeable? I would love to hear from you, and as always, can be part of a discussion with you and your team to bring healthy resolve!


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