Updated: May 25
Is there something that you feel really strongly about. Something where another person has, or is likely to have a different opinion? Something that you've felt you had to back down for fear of having an argument?
Often we feel we must back down or avoid a situation or conversation for fear of the response that we will get, the emotion that we'll feel when say something, or the potential conflict or argument we might experience as result.
In the last month I have been asked whether I can develop conflict avoidance leadership training for three different clients. This has coincided with my going to a networking event where the speaker (who was a very good divorce lawyer) taught us 'how to argue well.' My natural approach is to explore conflict avoidance with the presupposition that the best way to get the best of an argument is to avoid it (Dale Carnegie) doing this through rapport and various techniques that I know and find useful. However this isn't always possible. Sometime conflict comes to us and we find ourselves unintentionally in a space of conflict, unprepared and feeling unable to deal with it.
The theory of 'how to argue well' flips on its head that we shouldn't always avoid conflict because sometimes things to need to be said for the good of everyone concerned. For the good of you and those around you, sometimes things need to be addressed. The trick here is to knowingly and with personal responsibility, step into the conflict space - this is the start of how to argue well, move through and past conflict. Once in the conflict space we must manage our state and emotions with the goal in mind. Emotions worsen a conflict situation and can inflame a situation to turn it into a full blown explosion. Managing the emotion and is one of the key elements to arguing well. Manage yourself to move through and manage the conflict. And that is where the challenge is. It's uncomfortable.
It occurred to me as I listened to this concept that this is what I do every day. I help people ride that uncomfortable wave by managing themselves and their behaviour. During Executive coaching, conflict amongst peers and teams is a common subject that comes up. And the key strategy leaders develop is how to lead their peers and teams through and past conflict towards an outcome that serves everyone. In essence, arguing well.
So, yes - learn how to avoid conflict and manage it. Be an expert at that - that's always my preference. Also know there is a way to argue well so you move through conflict. And it starts with you because we all have the resources within us to be able to do that. Sometimes it's just about learning how to harness those resources.