Monday, September 07, 2009

Fear of Conflict

Have you ever held back from saying something that is on your mind because you were afraid of how the other person might react? If the answer is yes, you have a fear of conflict.

Fear of conflict is a subconscious thought that holds back our growth both in personal and professional relationships. At home, we develop the feeling that we are not being respected by sensing lack of compromise or being taken advantage of. Professionally, it is bad for business to fear conversations that may result in conflict and results in reducing productive output. Patrick Lencioni, author of The Five Dysfunctions of a Team writes fear of conflict as being the number two dysfunction holding back organizations and relationships. “Developing the ability and willingness to engage in healthy conflict requires acknowledging that conflict is productive and that many teams have a tendency to avoid it.”

When we stop expressing our true feelings, opinions, needs and wants, it ultimately creates a lack of understanding which in turn will eventually result in conflict. Our fears will simply manifest themselves in the very thing we wish to avoid. Try and prevent getting to this point because the resulting conflict is more likely to be more negative where discussions have guarded comments and back-channel personal attacks.

Without expressing what we feel, we keep ourselves from ever reaching a ‘level playing field’ with another person where discussions can take place that lead to productive ideological conflict that results in solutions and growth. To have these ‘level’ discussions we must be open about our true feelings, to disagree, have the other person respect that and vice versa. Fear is something we develop over years of our lives and many times based on no rationalities. If recognized we can overcome it. Once this fear is dealt with, issues can be discussed and resolved more quickly allowing us to emerge with no residual feelings or collateral damage. Progress is made and relationships and organizations can then take on the more important or next task that takes them to their goals.

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