Hide, Run Away, Maybe Not: Part II


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It may seem strange to say that conflict is not all bad; but when it is considering that conflict is unavoidable in any circumstances, then how we deal with conflict becomes of upmost importance.

It may seem strange to say that conflict is not all bad; but when it is considering that conflict is unavoidable in any circumstances, then how we deal with conflict becomes of upmost importance.


In a country where growth pains are evident, then conflict will be to. In an organization, whether struggling or not, conflict will be there. It has to be understood, not suppressed, not killed, not eradicated, but better understood. The misconceptions about conflict are as follows:


Misconception 1: Conflict, if left alone, will take care of itself.


That would be wonderful; and after all, we would just need to wait a couple days while things calm down, but these things are probably still there. Sometimes anger has as much to do with rights. For instance, people believe they have a right to be angry. It is a form of entitlement. They are entitled to be angry, and their jaws are set tight for a fight. No matter what is said; no matter who says what; they want a fight, and that is all there is. Their fists are up; and if you are in the line of fire, you get it with both barrels. Listening to others might be very therapeutic for them; but more than likely, you will spoil their day if you don’t dance with them with your fists up too. Their job is to vent, and yours is to take it. Sorry, guys, sometimes your listening is all you can do because no matter what you say it will not matter anyway. Your paraphrasing of their concerns in the priorities that they give you at least gives you a checklist.


Just hold on and let them roll. Reflections stated that conflict can have a life of its own and acts like rising dough. Just take it easy. Don’t be fast to respond. Take your time. Let them know you are thinking through the circumstances. Hopefully, you can ensure them that your really are on their side and agree with them about their feelings without compromising the facts. You can agree with them that the situation is difficult even though you have not even given them an answer, yet.


“Oh, my, that sounds terrible. No wonder you feel that way. Tell me more.” The more they talk, the more they get their “troubles talk” out of the way.


They might just say when they get through venting, “You know, I am so glad we had this talk,” and you may have not said a thing.


When I absolutely knew the answer to problem, I might not tell them outright but would try to consider many different ways to resolve the issues, like checking off the yes and no boxes. Sometimes, I knew I just couldn’t help when it was all done, but I listened anyway, tried to consider, then spent time showing I cared by trying to at least listen. That is not deceptive because many times the spending time to listen is really what all they wanted anyway. They wanted to be cared for. Who knows, you may have been the only person all day who listened. You can’t tell what is going on in their lives. It is one of those Socrates Epekias times where you can never tell what happened to them that day—consider the circumstances. Maybe, the dog died; the car broke down; they stubbed their big toe; or their hot water heater broke, and they had to take a cold shower. You can never tell.


I had a customer who came in very upset about a technical problem. She started out the conversation saying, “I just came from the doctor. I have cancer!” She would talk about the technical problem, then repeat that she had cancer over and over again, at least ten times. Normally, the technical problem would have been handled with a little more ease, but the emotions she was having after discovering she had cancer were putting everything into an emotional tail spin. You can never tell what’s going on in an individual’s life.


So, when you handle the conflict, keep the positive up front. Send them good sound bytes and smiles that help them have a positive expectation that at least makes them feel better while you work through the difficulty.


Misconception #2: Confronting an issue or a person is always unpleasant.


To confront someone is normally a matter of putting issues out for discussion. After all, it is about getting the issues out for everyone to chat about. Notice “chat about,” not “argue about,” “discuss about,” not “fight about.” If issues are not discussed, then how can things be changed?


Misconception #3: The presence of conflict in an organization is a sign of poor management.


It might be that the absence of conflict would be a sign of poor management. There has to be conflict in order for issues and growth in an organization to positively evolve unless everyone is a turtle. It might be a good practice for managers to purposely bring up ethical and situational dilemmas in order to stimulate sparky conversations. Goleman would love the statement in Reflections that stated, “A good manager has ‘soft set of hands’ during conflict.” 


Misconception # 4: Conflict is a sign of low concern for the organization.


There is absolutely nothing wrong with passion. When people care about issues, there will be differences. Conflict helps bring the issues to the top like cream rising.


Misconception #5: Anger is always negative and destructive


After a squabble with my son one day and the following loud exchange of words, Hunter said, “Dad, I really have not had an opportunity to express myself and how frustrated I am about things, but I feel better now.” So, when at the lower stages of conflict, anger can be cathartic, helping the parties more clearly identify the issues and values involved (Reflections).


Material adapted from Reflections and David Pollitt’s book


Better Organizational Communication and Training.




The following will be discussed in the next Article:


Five Emotional Don’ts During Conflict


1. “Don’t get in a power struggle.


2. Don’t detach from the conflict.


3. Don’t let conflict establish your agenda.


4. Don’t awefulize.


5. Don’t be fooled by projection” (Reflections).




David Pollitt is the author or Better Organizational Communication and Training as well as Preparing Excellence for the Excellent (a published curriculum design project for the University of Bahr el Ghazal). All of ten of his books are available for downloads from smashwords.com


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