For good ideas and true innovation, you need human interaction, conflict, argument, debate.–Margaret Heffernan

Managing workplace conflict continues to be a struggle for many of us. “Conflict. It’s an inevitable—and crucial—part of every business. Handled well, the clash of ideas, claims, interests and preferences can be a positive force, exposing the weaknesses of positions and leading to creativity, innovative problem-solving and growth” –Shelley Levitt

So how do we get started? The first step is possessing “Conflict Intelligence” – that means knowing the varying conflict modes and understanding and applying the appropriate style based on the situation.

Authors Peter Coleman and Robert Ferguson share that “conflict intelligence” requires keen social smarts. Similar to Patrick Lencioni’s concepts from Five Behaviors Of A Cohesive Team, it starts with trust.

Build trust. Great teams sometimes argue passionately, but doing it respectfully is a must.

Establish a goodwill bank account. Conflicts take place within the context of relationships. When people feel warmly toward each other, they can weather the tension of disagreement without permanently hurting their relationship.

Be adaptable. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to conflict. There is also a need to understand the differing modes of conflict and when they are best used. For more information refer to Thomas-Kilmann’s TKI model of styles: Competing (assertive, uncooperative), Avoiding (unassertive, uncooperative), Accommodating (unassertive, cooperative), Collaborating (assertive, cooperative), Compromising (middle ground between competing and accommodating). Each style has a time and place.

Repair post-conflict bruises. The residual hurt feelings and anger that can set in after a heated dispute need to be addressed. “Let’s talk about what happened” is a good opener for individuals and teams alike.

Court outside views. Even the people who are savviest about conflict resolution need some new perspective from time to time—from friends, former colleagues, mentors, even one-time competitors. Obtain fresh, unbiased opinions.

Conflict is going to happen.  Plan for it and don’t idly sit back and watch it; rather address it in a timely manner before tensions and ill-will escalate!

The Law of win/win says: Let’s not do it your way or my way; let’s do it the best way.
— Greg Anderson