Conflict at work isn’t pretty, but it’s a natural by-product of people working together toward a common goal. Whether the goal is the solution to a problem, a way to make a project work, or simply a way to make things run more smoothly, it’s not uncommon for committed, intelligent people to arrive at opposing points of view.
Some of us have learned, though, that conflicts like these can often be turned into powerful springboards for creative thinking and solutions that likely would never have been found any other way. Not that we go seeking conflicts, mind you.
It doesn’t matter how many opposing ideas there are in play as long as each of their proponents performs the following five steps:
- 1. Stop arguing for a few moments.
- 2. Take a breath and remind yourself that this is a dispute between people with shared goals and an equal commitment to finding the best solution. (If either of these really isn’t true, these steps are less likely to help.)
- 3. Take a moment to understand why your opponent thinks their idea can work (even if you still don’t think it works as well as yours). It’s not important to mentally list reasons it won’t; the other person is probably already aware of their proposal’s downsides.
- 4. Come back to the table and mutually agree to set aside both of your proposals.
- 5. Look together for a new idea that’s better than either of your proposals. You’ll likely be surprised how often there’s something new and absolutely brilliant out there to discover. It’s as if the conflict has been a palate cleanser that frees up everyone’s creative thinking.
Odds are you and your coworkers have all the creative-thinking capability you need to not only resolve your current conflict but also invent a solution that leaves everyone excited and equally committed to its implementation. And next time a conflict arises, instead of shuddering in fear, you’ll be eager to see where it leads you.