Career Advice on Resolving Conflict

Natalie Costanze-Chavez writes an occasional column called for the Denver Post.  I kept one of her columns from a couple years ago.  I found it in my clippings file last week.  I think it contains some great career advice about civil discourse, something lacking in our society these days.

“We have to find a way to talk to each other without being so afraid of differences that we turn rude and hostile – especially at this point in our history.  Luckily there are a lot of you out there who are OK with disagreement.  The willingness to respectfully disagree is what will save us – in the short run and the long run.”

I echo Natalie’s thoughts in Tweet 133 in my career advice book Success Tweets.  “Resolve conflict positively.  Treat conflict as an opportunity to strengthen – not destroy – the relationships you’ve worked hard to build.”

Sure, we can disagree with one another, but we should always try to resolve our differences positively.  There is no need to demean other people for their ideas.

Successful, interpersonally competent people use conflict as an opportunity to explore new and different ways of solving problems.  Digging in your heels and arguing your point even louder is not the way to resolve conflict. 

Listening to the other person, exploring your differences, and looking for places in which you agree is the way to build a constructive solution to a seemingly insolvable problem.

Getting to Yes is one of my favorite books.  I have given away many copies to friends and success coach clients over the years.  The authors, Roger Fisher and William Ury, make a great point in this book – when you are in a conflict situation, focus on where you agree with the other person, and build a mutually satisfying solution.

Mssrs. Fisher and Ury point out the folly of positional bargaining – quid pro quo.  Typically, this type of thinking leads to a negotiated solution in which both parties are unhappy, as they both have had to give up part of their positions. 

On the other hand, beginning from a place where you both agree – however small, allows you to shed the shackles of your position, look at the conflict from a new perspective and build a solution that is superior to either beginning position.

However, you have to be civil to operate in this manner.  Deosaran Bisnath makes some great points about civility.  He is writing to citizens of Trinidad and Tobago, but I think that his message is one that we should all read and take to heart.

“Civility refers to respect, manners, and common courtesy. The loss of civility in our nation arises because children – and adults – are not taught these basic social skills…We cannot, and should not accept this.

“Where do we start? With each of us – in our behavior, speech, lifestyle, and comportment, we must practice and demonstrate civility. Of course, we can’t legislate civility; nor can we institute civility by decree.  No, we do not wish for the social engineering of civility.  However, it is imperative that we demand acceptable levels of civility from our families, relatives, friends, associates, colleagues, and ourselves – Mahatma Gandhi exhorts us to be the change we  wish to see in the world…We must encourage and foster an environment of decency and civility in our homes, work- and play places.  Instead of aggression and hostility, we must conduct civil debates and discussions.”

The common sense career success coach point here is clear.  Civility – especially in the face of disagreement is the basis of building and maintaining strong relationships.  As the saying goes, “conflict is inevitable, violence is not.”  I’m writing here not about physical violence, but the emotional violence that we so often inflict on others with whom we do not agree.  You must be civil to follow the advice in Tweet 133 in Success Tweets, “Resolve conflict positively.  Treat conflict as an opportunity to strengthen – not destroy – the relationships you’ve worked hard to build.” Civil discourse is the key to building and maintaining the strong, vibrant relationships that are essential for your career success.  The next time you find yourself in disagreement with someone, take the time to understand his or her point of view, and then respond civilly.

That’s my career advice regarding civil conversation and relationships.  What’s yours?  Please leave a comment telling us about times when you’ve seen civility triumph over anger.  I appreciate and value all of your comments.  As always, thanks for reading my daily musings on life and career success.


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