Creative Conflict

The term ‘conflict’ can be used to describe a wide range of circumstances from misunderstanding to undeclared war – where people are involved, some level of conflict is almost inevitable.

In the workplace the potential for loss of a desired position or perspective can cause fearful anxieties that are often the source of single-minded ruthlessness in the most difficult conflicts.

Conflict creates tension and, if mismanaged or left uncontained, can lead to unproductive relationships spawning destructive inertia that can cripple an organisation. But when managed well, the tension from conflict can be channelled creatively as the required energy for innovation.

Creative conflict aims to integrate different perspectives through ‘robust containment’ and allows for the possibility of the discovery and creation of a new, third position that is recognised by the conflicted because it has elements of both previous positions but speaks to something obvious, as if it had always been known. The loss of the previous positions can then be mourned in creative union.

So what are some of the elements that may assist with the process of creative conflict?

• Be present physically, emotionally and cognitively.
• Be tuned to the interpersonal relationship and not caught up in one’s self.
• Be aware of the impression conveyed by body language.
• Identify and acknowledge the points on which you agree to form the foundation for exploring the points on which you disagree?
• View your role as biographer to the story of the other to clarify their position to what is understandable to you both.
• Truly listen and be receptive to the expressed thoughts, feelings and desires of the other.
• Understand that emotional reaction is communication and is fertile ground for developing of relationship.
• Be willing to consciously and critically assess your assumptions.
• Be able to suspend judgment but be aware of its presence.

To establish a truly creative environment, the old and established patterns of thinking and seeing the world have to be demolished to facilitate a process that is robust enough to reap the substantial rewards of creative conflict.

For further reading please click here for the book review of 'Fierce Conversations'.

Gregg Kershaw
Analytical Psychotherapist
ID Executive Coach

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