Most reactions to the word “conflict” are bad. People assume it is expensive, emotionally damaging, and time-consuming. Negative conflict is exactly that. Yet conflict is inevitable as long as we are human. We have different experiences, perspectives, values, needs, and resources. Disputes can arise over any number of issues.
In fact, positive conflict is essential. Picture a business or a not-for-profit organization that is completely filled with people who never voice a disagreement. Any idea proposed could be adopted as is, without critical review. No modifications would be made if no one spoke up about ways to make improvements. The benefit of our different experiences, perspectives, values, needs, and resources would be lost.
The challenge is in finding ways to keep conflict positive. Partly it’s the atmosphere we foster. Constructive criticism needs to be encouraged even as destructive criticism is discouraged. We can follow our mothers’ advice to disagree without being disagreeable. And we can decide to learn from each other and work towards a shared goal.