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10 GOOD REASONS TO
EMBRACE CONFLICT

by Fiona White,
last updated 02/02/2012

January 2012 - A recent study by Massey University suggested that conflict is commonplace in franchise relationships but that it is not always well-managed by franchisors. Here are 10 reasons why conflict need not always have negative outcomes.

1. Conflict is a catalyst for change and improvement. For a company to be successful, it must constantly evolve; if it does not, it will quickly lose share of the market. We, too, are also constantly learning and adapting. Conflict helps us to do this by highlighting our weaknesses and the lessons still to be learnt. 

2. Conflict is the sign that someone is frustrated because their needs are not being met. You can probably very quickly draw on an experience of what it feels like when someone is not listening to you. The key is to highlight that need, and find out why the other person is struggling to meet it.

3. Conflict is an opportunity to understand more about the people involved, and what their needs are. Have you ever been turned down for a job or position that you really wanted? This leaves you with a choice of thinking negatively: ‘Stuff them, didn’t want the job anyway!,' or of pro-actively asking what they were looking for that you were not able to provide, and  what you might do to achieve that for when the next opportunity arises.

4. Conflict can result in the emergence of amazing ideas. You have probably all heard the saying ‘Necessity is the mother of invention.'  Well, as we saw in numbers 2 and 3, conflict involves the expression of needs, and if we can just tap into these and brainstorm how to meet them, we could invent all kinds of new and wonderful tools (The catalyst for Mark Zuckerberg creating Facebook was his girlfriend dumping him – the project was an outlet for his energy, he had free time on his hands, and the desires to impress and to stay in touch). 

5. Conflict provides us with an opportunity to re-evaluate our own situation. Have you ever looked back on an argument, a job termination, or the ending of a relationship and realised it was a turning point in your life?  It forced you to look at your own goals and direction, and gave you the freedom to evolve or reinvent yourself (as George Clooney demonstrated in the movie Up in the Air).

6. Conflict can encourage us to reconnect with the community around us. Many indigenous cultures around the world use the wider community to settle disputes, calling upon the family, the village, or a group of elders to mediate the conflict.  We often turn to our friends, colleagues, or family for support and advice; but we may also seek out professional support in the form of mediators, conflict coaches, facilitators, counsellors, and so on.

7. Conflict in one part of our lives may temporarily cause us to close off our hearts to all that is good around us.  For example, if you are experiencing a destructive conflict situation at work, the feelings of hurt, frustration, and vulnerability usually spill over into your home life, your social life, and your interactions with everyone (at the supermarket, on the roads). It is wise to seek support in resolving the source of the conflict before those around you suffer too much.

8. Conflict is not something that we are all experts at.  Most people think they should be able to manage their own conflicts without help or support from outside – we have been led to believe that to ask for help is a sign of weakness.  This is an odd notion as we freely ask a mechanic to help when our car breaks down or needs a service, and we all accept our limitations when our computer freezes. Sometimes it is vital to bring in a third person to enable us to see our conflicts in a different light, to provide perspective. They can also teach us new skills and strategies, or help us to reconnect with those that we had forgotten.

9. Conflicts that occurred in our families, growing up, and the ways that they were dealt with, greatly influence our own approaches in the workplace and the home.  For example, if you feel that your boss is treating you like a child, it may be worth asking your colleagues if they feel the same. If not, it would be worth looking at what specific behaviours of your boss tend to trigger that feeling, and whether that relates back to how your own parents behaved.

10. Conflict resolution does not need to be expensive. There are many things that you can do that cost nothing, such as listening to the other person, trying to see things from their perspective, and clearly expressing your own needs.   Inviting people you trust to facilitate or mediate, or seeking help from non-profit organisations are also free. Calling in professional conflict resolution practitioners at the earliest opportunity will not only save you time, money, and reputation, but should also hopefully strengthen the relationship that was being destroyed by conflict.

Fiona White is a mediator and conflict coach at Mediation Matters in Auckland. With over 20 years professional experience in education, management, commerce, industry, recruitment and customer care in the UK, France and New Zealand, she has a great understanding of the costs and benefits of conflict.  Fiona is based in Auckland, where she has her own Mediation and Conflict Coaching practice - Mediation Matters - and holds a clinic one day a week at the local Citizens Advice Bureau.

This article is copyright ©2012 Fiona White and Mediation Matters


Read the Massey study here.

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