When we hear the word conflict, it is natural to think of its negative connotation. It is typical to think of conflict the way Merriam-Webster describes it, as “a struggle for power, property, etc., or a strong disagreement between people, groups, etc., that results in often angry argument.” Seldom do we think that conflict is actually good in order for a conversation or idea to progress.
How boring would it be to live in a world where there wasn’t some voice of conflict? It might be better for us to see conflict as “a difference that prevents agreement: disagreement between ideas, feelings, etc.” (also from Merriam Webster dictionary).
The Millennial Pastor, author of the blog post Christians need to disagree with each other, stated, “I am always surprised by people who get uncomfortable or upset with disagreement. We have all seen those moments, we have all witnessed a disagreement change the dynamic of a conversation.
And no, I am not talking about conflict, but genuine disagreement. Imagine, three or four people having a conversation and a particular opinion or point of view is brought forward by one or two. Then someone says, “I disagree.” And the disagreement isn’t about conflict, but a difference of perspective. One opinion is put on the table, only to be followed by a contrary opinion. No fighting, no conflict, just two opposing opinions existing in the same space.
These disagreement moments make us uncomfortable. Often, we just don’t know how to move forward. Living in the tension of opposing opinions feels uncomfortable.”
During a recent all Employee Conference at BYU-Idaho, Brent Bean discussed the subject of Asking Questions of Authority Without Questioning Authority. During his presentation he discussed how natural it is for human beings to become married to a position so much that when we challenge someone else, it is hard to have a healthy disagreement.
He also discussed that when one person goes into a debate or disagreement and the motivation is power, the people involved end up more separated and attached to their own personal views than ever before.
In order to have an effective conflict, it was suggested that those involved should set the standard of:
- Focus on truth (this eliminates he said, she said)
- Focus on discovery of truth (this can happen without blame, believe it or not, as part of a fact-gathering process). There is such a thing as coming up with good questions in order to figure out what the other side wants without it turning into a debate.
- Separating the person from the problem
He presented this great quote: “When we are debating an issue, loyalty means giving me your honest opinion, whether you think I’ll like it or not. Disagreement, at this stage, stimulates me. But once a decision has been made, the debate ends. From that point on, loyalty means executing the decision as if it were your own.” Colin Powell
On the same token, it was also said, “Rarely can a response make something better. True connection is what is important,” and I would add, it keeps the conflict emotion-free.
Conflict does not have to be seen as a bad thing. Learning how to communicate effectively by asking the right questions and trying to understand where the other person is coming from, is a better approach for everyone. These goals can really drive and add value to the conversation. If at the end of the day you and the person you are debating with still disagree about something, realize that it everything is going to ok.