They say a healthy amount of conflict can actually be good for you and your team. It encourages debate, leads to a synergy between differing views, and also helps in creative problem-solving

The question is: What is a ‘healthy amount’ of conflict? If you’re anything like me, even the talk of conflict might make your knees tremble. There’s nothing healthy about it, to my mind.

People who are uncomfortable with the idea of conflict do everything they can to avoid it. Conflict avoidance is when people don’t want to confront the issue at hand; so they find ways to not bring up a contentious subject. Or they change the subject if it does come up. They postpone dealing with the conflict in the hope that they won’t have to deal with it at all. 

It would be naive to rely on this strategy forever though. Especially at a workplace where it is important that you learn to deal with conflict and use it effectively. Conflict allows differences to be valued and encourages people to engage with each other respectfully. It helps individuals and teams to develop trust and perform better. So are you ready to take the plunge? 

Some reminders that help me stay on track:

1. Conflict is inevitable: Wherever you go, whoever you work with, differences are bound to occur. Try not to personalize it and avoid the blame game.

2. It may not even be that bad: We always tend to imagine the worst. Most conflicts, if treated right, can in fact be healthy for your team and yourself. When you are not defensive, you can see things in a more creative manner. 

3. Silence is not an option: As tempting as it may seem to not do anything about conflict, know that not reacting won’t make it go away. In fact, it may boil over.

4. Talking is the best option: At first, talking may seem awkward, uncomfortable or even scary. However, you’ll see that it helps you understand the other person’s point of view. You may even end up resolving the conflict altogether and deepen your relationship. 

5. Keep a conflict journal: If you’ve never thought about conflict and how you respond to it, it’s a good idea to start journaling. Ask yourself some questions and write down your thoughts: Is there a pattern to your conflicts? Are they predominantly with the same type of people? What does that tell you about your personality? If any of these were resolved, how did it happen? In cases where things went south, what could you have done differently?

6. Pick your battles wisely: Dealing with conflict takes effort and energy. It’s okay for you to not want to pick up every single one. If it is not worth your attention, let it pass and make sure it doesn’t affect you or the other person too much. 

Now that most of us are working from home, you may be even more tempted to give in to your conflict-avoidance tendencies. After all, you’re not facing colleagues upfront, right? 

But if you want to become better at dealing with conflict, it’s a good time to start now. Pick up the phone and clear the air with the colleague you had a tiff with. It’s not as hard as you think it is.

Manisha Koppala is Associate Specialist, Curriculum, at Harappa Education. The literature graduate from Ashoka University loves a cup of good coffee and happens to be a free-hugs dispenser.


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