Yesterday I had to make a difficult phone call. There were a lot of reasons I didn’t want to make the call. It was the kind that addressed some one else’s performance. And dialing the phone was sure to lead to some conflict.

I promise I didn’t want to dial the phone. It was tempting to not take ownership of the problem. My day certainly would have been easier yesterday if I didn’t address the issue. I had a zillion other things I would have rather been doing at that time, many of them useful necessary things.

The thing is, I knew that not making the call, and not addressing the situation was going to likely lead to greater friction and conflict down the road. And the longer the situation goes unaddressed, the longer the everyone else has to deal with all the little mini-frictions along the way which drag down the entire organization. In the long run we would not see the level of success we could have as a team were the situation left alone.

A Little Conflict is Healthy

So many folks avoid conflict at all costs. They choose to go into avoidance mode by completely clamming up and closing off dialog if something happens or is said that they disagree with. Or maybe they simply try to avoid the other person all together. It could be they don’t return emails and phone calls. In this day of caller ID they may even dodge the calls in the first place by not answering them.

And the costs are high. The reality is the root of most conflict is something remarkably petty. If it is dealt with quickly and maturely most often it is seen by both sides as a silly misunderstanding. However, the longer it is left to fester the more any additional perceived hurts or failings of the offending party are magnified. A situation like this not only reduces the performance of both parties, but it also will likely lead to something small setting off a spectacular blow-up, which may appear to be completely disproportional with the offense at the moment. All that frustration has turned to anger and maybe even bitterness over time and it became an explosive mixture just waiting for a spark to set it off.

If you want to become successful you will have to learn both to deal with conflict in a healthy way and to tolerate a little bit of conflict in your life. Because the reality is conflict is not completely avoidable. Anyone who is successful at avoiding all conflict is not going to be very successful at much of anything else in their lives.

My wife and I attended a marriage conference once when we were still newlyweds and one of the speakers gave us a great definition of the word conflict. Are you ready?

Conflict is anytime you have two people.

That’s it. Because of the way humans are wired, no two of us are going to see everything exactly the same way. And when those differences rear their heads conflict will surely follow.

So we can either face the music and learn the skills required to successfully deal with conflict and achieve more overall success or we can run and hid from it, play the avoidance game, and continue to live at the same level as the discontented masses.


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