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Conflict is inevitable both at work and in personal life because different people often have different goals. There are many reasons for conflict situations to arise: competition for resources, differing management styles, conflicting perceptions, conflicting goals or roles, differing personal values or competing pressures. Conflict is not always bad; when we are able to resolve conflict successfully it often leads to increased understanding, greater group cohesion and better knowledge about ourselves.

Conflict happens when people’s concerns appear to be incompatible. How it’s handled can make the difference between a positive or negative outcome. When you find yourself in a conflict situation, first consider whether motivations are in search of truth or in pursuit of victory.

When what is at stake is truth, then, everyone wins. Because to be defeated by the truth is the one defeat that is also a victory. In such a case people discover, learn and grow from the conflict. The reverse is true when the motivation for the conflict is pursuit of victory. In this case winning is not really winning because in winning over your opponent you have diminished yourself; such a loss will never sustain itself and may eventually lead to further conflict.

Here are some useful tips to facilitate the peaceful end to conflict from scholar, author and rabbi, Lord Jonathan Henry Sacks:

  1. Respect different perspectives
  2. Listen actively to your opponent and try to understand the logic of his/her position.
  3. Never use force, physical or psychological. The only legitimate weapons are logic, argument, tradition and persuasion.
  4. Be open to the outcome. You may be right, but you must be prepared to be proved wrong.
  5. See disagreement not just as conflict but as collaborative activity in pursuit of honesty and truth.
  6. Accept it as a legitimate, even holy, part of life.
  7. Keep talking. For even though the participants may feel as if they are enemies to one another, there is opportunity for love at the end.

Sally Stanleigh

Sally Stanleigh is a senior partner in Business Improvement Architects and the Chief Operating Officer. Sally manages the operation and develops and implements communications, marketing and promotion programs. She is also responsible for spearheading and managing the company's corporate research projects. Sally has a background in marketing and communications and previously worked as a senior product manager with multi-national corporations such as Colgate-Palmolive and Phillip Morris before founding Business Improvement Architects with her husband and partner, Michael Stanleigh. On occasion, Sally is asked by clients for help with business planning. She facilitates the planning process as a consultant and helps clients with the development of their marketing plans and programs. She has also presented to professional groups on such topics as: customer feedback systems, employee motivation, development of incentive programs and trends. You may contact her at sstanleigh@bia.ca.