Conflict is great; there is nothing like it to liven up a dull day or to get your juices flowing. Without conflict, there would be no gripping works of literature, no tear-jerking romances, no edge-of-your-seat thrillers. There would be no exchange of divergent ideas, no chance to broaden your perspective, no opportunity to forgive or apologize, no room to grow, no colorful language. Not only is conflict unavoidable, it is desirable. “Good conflict” may sound like an oxymoron, but in fact, conflict can often bring about positive change.
Have you ever felt like you were talking to a brick wall? Or gotten into a screaming match? If you answered yes, then rest assured – you are indeed human! You have officially experienced “bad conflict”, and you know first-hand there is nothing to be gained from it but a headache and lingering bad feelings.
I remember being in preschool; it was fierce. I always begged to go early because I wanted to get there before her. A little girl in my class and I fought intensely over a farm set with a barn and animal figures. We both loved playing with it – but certainly not together. Whoever got to it first, won. And the loser cried. The teacher tried using a timer; she tried taking the toy away.
Hockey fans know that having the home ice advantage is important. Statistically, home teams tend to perform better than the away teams. When we’re in trouble, the principal doesn’t come see us on the playground, we go to the principal’s office. The home court advantage (or corner office advantage ) is not physical, it’s psychological, and it can work against you. In resolving conflict, it is important that a neutral place is chosen for meeting When one party feels, or is made to feel, threatened or stifled, it can make a bad situation even worse because people do not share information well when they feel threatened.
Lance Armstrong is a hero to millions, many of whom couldn’t care less about cycling. What they care about is the human being on the bike: his courage, his strength, his battle with cancer, and his philanthropy. They care about this guy who got sick and didn’t let it stop him. Or they did until doping allegations got too loud. The USADA wants to strip Armstrong of all seven of his Tour de France titles and ban him from cycling for life. We could focus on any number of issues here, but to me, this speaks loudly of the desire on one party’s side to drag out adversarial processes. This is a problem we face all the time in conflict resolution.