Conflict has a negative connotation for most of us, but not all conflict is negative. Positive conflict is an opportunity to improve communication, clarify what you mean and advance relationships.
I once heard a guest speaker explain that people don't really care about you unless they find opportunity to judge you. If you do something wrong, people will notice and may complain. Thus we often find that there is conflict surrounding us just waiting for people to pounce.
It's true you can think of all relationships as riddled with conflict or you can think of all communication as opportunity to improve.
Sometimes in a motivational speech about conflict, I get participants to stand face to face with a partner and push against each other's hands. The they are pushed, the harder they must push back. This simple speech activity shows simply and succinctly that resistance only brings about more resistance.
If you start a conversation with the intention of conflict, the likelihood of a backlash is almost inevitable. Instead, frame a conversation with the intention of creating understanding and building on the relationship. When you feel someone pushing back, think of the exercise above and try a new approach.
A good way to do this is by Anchoring. Here you start the conversation in a positive way. For example you could say, Thank you for speaking so frankly to help me understand. I'm sure we can work this out. It also helps to soften the message, for instance say I feel rather than you should.
Don't tie your self worth or self esteem to someone else's response. Your goal is not to validate yourself or be right; your goal is to aim for understanding. Continue to focus on the points you agree with and you create a positive platform to build on.
Often, our first interaction is a negative and grumpy REACTION, so it may be a genuine shift in reality for the other person to be greeted in positive and respectful way!
I once heard a guest speaker give these four phrases to be used to combat any conflict:
- Tell me more
- Why would you say that?
- Why would you do that?
- Why do you ask?
I have used this guest speaker's advice and I do find that it opens up the opportunity for dialogue and understanding.