Conflict-avoidant? Get over it!

Cartoon of male swimmer escaping from a sharkLast year, I was part of a family Thing.

You probably know the sort of Thing I mean.

Words were spoken that shouldn’t have been, and other words weren’t spoken that should have been.

Then the situation devolved into a Bigger Thing because it wasn’t raised as a Thing until weeks later – by email.

One of the participants is, according to her own assessment, afraid of conflict, and therefore avoids it like the proverbial plague. (Or a man-eating shark; pick your preferred analogy.)

I get that. I’m not especially fond of conflict myself.

But I’ve learned that if I allow my fear to keep me from facing what’s happening, if the situation is frustrating or upsetting enough it will inevitably come out later, and almost certainly in a more destructive way.

And for me, if I can’t trust someone to raise an issue in the moment – no matter how difficult it may be for either or both of us – then I can’t trust that person at all.

How is this relevant for you as a leader?

You already know the answer, right?

Don’t avoid conflict with your team, your peers, or your manager.

If you’re fearful of conflict, educate yourself on negotiation, mediation, and conflict transformation techniques. Practice. Role play with someone you trust. Get a coach.

Do something. Because, whether with your team, your peers, your manager, or your family and friends, conflict un-addressed will undermine trust and undermine – perhaps break – the relationship.