We often try to avoid conflict in our lives. I’m as guilty of this as anyone. For some reason, conflict makes me uncomfortable. I start to get anxious, and I struggle to keep a level head. Because of this, when conflict starts to arise, I want to sweep it under the rug, or try to smooth things over.
I’m beginning to realize this “conflict avoidance” habit is a big problem in my life. Conflict can be uncomfortable, yes, but it is absolutely essential for a good life. Here are 2 key reasons why you probably need more conflict in your life.
Conflict Deepens Relationships
We often think about conflict as being a problem for relationships. When I counsel couples, for example, one of key things we work on is conflict resolution. Conflict CAN be destructive. But only if we let it get out of control or fail to work through it.
The reality is that we are individual people with our own wants, needs, and perspectives. We engage in relationships with other people who have their own wants, needs, and perspectives. When our viewpoints are different from those of another person, we experience conflict. Conflict is a normal part of everyday life.
When we don’t experience conflict, or work to avoid it, we might think everything is fine. But what is actually happening is people are stuffing their opinions or viewpoints. This makes it more difficult to actually get to know the person, because they are hiding a part of themselves from you. If you can enter into conflict in a productive way, the relationship has a chance to grow and deepen.
Conflict Leads to Better Solutions
Also, if you are part of a team or organization and work through conflict effectively, you are more likely to land on a better solution than if you have team members restrict their views or opinions. You are only one person. You can’t see all the obstacles or opportunities in front of you. If people are scared of conflict or hold back when they disagree, you might move forward in a direction that isn’t good.
This tendency to hold back opinions and avoid conflict is called groupthink. Everyone goes along with a powerful leader or the majority, even if they disagree. This can lead to disastrous consequences for a business or organization.
If you want to land on the best possible solution, actually encourage conflict. Get people to speak their minds, even if it is contrary to your viewpoint or the majority opinion. Invite people into conflict, and hash it out. In the context of a trusting relationship, conflict is nothing more than working together to find the best possible solution.
How do you think about conflict? Are you okay with it, or do you avoid it like the plague? How has the habit of avoiding conflict caused problems in your personal relationships or team?