Resolving Conflict Through The Power of Curiosity


What are the first three words that come to mind when you think of workplace conflict? Maybe the word messy came to mind. Perhaps you thought of the word uncomfortable. Or maybe the word normal. As you think about this question and words pop into your mind it will probably become quite clear that conflict is really a combination of the good, the bad and the ugly.

Most of us have strong reactions to conflict. And rightfully so. But the truth is, conflict can be a productive thing! In fact, conflict can be a source of strength, momentum, and creativity. Are you curious to know how? Well, I’ll tell you. The secret to conflict is to become curious! A wise person once said the conflict and curiosity cannot coexist.

Think about it. What do you do when you get curious about something? You educate yourself. You ask questions. You gather information. These are the exact things you need to do when it comes to resolving conflict.

Picture you and I are sitting in a room across from one another. Right in the middle of us is a large rock. This rock represents conflict. Curiosity means I stand up from my chair and walk around the rock until I can see it from your perspective. Curiosity means I’m willing to learn.
Here is a great way to think about conflict. Take out a piece of paper and write the following phrase on it: fear and curiosity cannot coexist. Now write the exact same thing with your opposite hand.

Does writing with your opposite hand feel like any of the words I asked you to think of earlier about conflict? Taking the steps to resolve conflict is like writing with your opposite hand. The only way to get better at it is to practice. Many people are afraid of conflict and therefore they avoid it. Don’t avoid it. Let me say that again. Don’t avoid conflict.

Conflict happens because people care. We are all different and we all have different expectations. At the end of the day though we have to rely on each other. So focus on a common goal rather than on individual positions. Get up and walk around the rock. See what’s on the other side. Then figure out what it is you are both trying to accomplish. Set a common goal and work towards it together and watch the rock roll away. Keep in mind that conflict occurs within the context of relationships. The stronger the relationship the stronger the foundation for resolving conflict. Working consistently to build strong relationships of trust and mutual respect will equip you to better resolve conflict.

As you work towards a common goal please keep one word in mind: HONOR. Honor your commitments, honor the relationship you have with the other person, and honor the overall goal you have agreed to.

Remember, your character is on display during a conflict situation. This is a great opportunity to demonstrate integrity, respect, and care for other people.

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