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Can conflict be a good thing?

We all have different personalities, so naturally ideas and opinions vary among people. Sometimes this can create conflict. Conflict can be challenging, but it can also be of benefit, and we can learn from it.

Opportunities that can come from conflict:

  • It can shed light on issues, decisions or actions, and even problems that we did not know existed
  • The different experiences and views we all bring to the table can open up new ways of thinking. We can then gain a better understanding and acceptance of new ideas and each other, which can lead to improvements
  • Addressing and dealing with our own role in a conflict can teach us about ourselves and result in personal growth

Whether conflict is beneficial depends on how it is handled. If it is not sorted out quickly it may lead to a worsening of the situation and this can waste a lot of time and energy.

Here are a few things to think about:

  • Do I need to have this conflict, or can I just "let things lie", that is, intentionally avoid the conflict?
  • How can I deal with a problem in order to stop it from getting bigger?
  • How can I resolve a conflict early to prevent it from becoming more difficult and costly to fix later?
  • Are there opportunities for me to bring about some positive change through the new ideas and views arising from the conflict?
  • Are there solutions that meet the needs of everyone involved?

Most people have learnt destructive ways of handling conflict where they see conflict as win or lose. To be able to resolve conflict positively, it is important to focus on solutions that meet the needs of everyone involved.

  • Develop guidelines for how to respect each other during conflict.
    Those guidelines should include where the discussion should take place, how long the discussions will be, when to take a break, and how to speak respectfully to each other, etc. See also How can I deal with conflict?
  • Do not be afraid to seek help. See also Where can I get help?

To handle conflict better, it helps to practise communication and problem solving skills. You can read more about communication and problem solving skills in How can I deal with conflict?

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Last updated: 21 Dec 2020